Cheyenne Bennett 9-4-14 “Storm Warnings” Essay Mrs. Harvey 4 th hour Storm Warnings The poem “Storm Warnings” by Adrienne Rich compares a literal storm with the metaphorical storm of emotional turmoil through the use of metaphors and symbolism. The reader can clearly understand the meaning of the poem Rich wishes to convey. By looking at the poem literally, the readers can see the author speaks of a literal storm. The glass instrument spoken of in lines 1-2 is a dropping barometer conveys to the reader that while there may be a storm brewing inside of the speaker, there was a literal storm outside. The “gray unrest” and “boughs straining” (lines 4 and 7) provide images that help the reader to visualize the storm brewing outside. The literal meaning of the poem relates to the title in that the barometer, gray skies, and bending boughs warn the reader that a storm is brewing. Rich speaks of not only a literal storm, but also a metaphorical storm- a
Storm Warnings by Adrienne Rich
And knowing better than the instrument
What winds are walking overhead, what zone
Of grey unrest is moving across the land,
I leave the book upon a pillowed chair
And walk from window to closed window, watching
Boughs strain against the sky
And think again, as often when the air
Moves inward toward a silent core of waiting,
How with a single purpose time has traveled
By secret currents of the undiscerned
Into this polar realm. Weather abroad
And weather in the heart alike come on
Regardless of prediction.
Between foreseeing and averting change
Lies all the mastery of elements
Which clocks and weatherglasses cannot alter.
Time in the hand is not control of time,
Nor shattered fragments of an instrument
A proof against the wind; the wind will rise,
We can only close the shutters.
I draw the curtains as the sky goes black
And set a match to candles sheathed in glass
Against the keyhole draught, the insistent whine
Of weather through the unsealed aperture.
This is our sole defense against the season;
These are the things we have learned to do
Who live in troubled regions.
“Storm Warnings” seems to describe not only weather conditions, but also a major event in the life of the poet, Adrienne Rich.
The poet describes a change in readings in a barometer or thermometer as glass falling, informing her that a storm is coming. Alternatively, “glass has been falling” suggests a certain degree of unrest or destruction. It is important to note that this is not just a storm in the meteorological sense of the word, but also in an emotional or mental sense for the poet. We do not know if the poem regards her escape from the control of her father, her increased social activism or her realisation regarding her sexuality, but we are aware that it is something that puts her outside her comfort zone. This is shown to us when she describes leaving her comfortable chair, or comfort zone, to confront this storm that threatens her life as she knows it.
As she anticipates the approaching storm, she begins to reflect on the nature of the troubles that approach her. Rich hints that she has experienced these troubles in the past through her use of the words “again” and “often”. She creates a sense of expectation, but there is also perhaps a sense of dread for what is to come. Having experienced such problems before, she is somewhat philosophical about them. One can reflect on the fact that one might not always know the precise cause of the difficulties now confronting her. The degree of the difficulty is hinted at through her use of the word “polar”. In the last few lines of this stanza, both literal and metaphorical meanings of the word “storm” come together. Even though Rich hasn’t used a personal pronoun in these lines, it is nonetheless unmistakably private. Rich is quite fatalistic at this point, anticipating the difficulties will not prevent them from happening.
Rich’s spirits seem to recover or rally a little, as she begins to consider how one might deal with the momentous change and turmoil that accompany the storm. This is registered in the phrase “mastery of elements”. Rich falters again, and becomes dispirited in the face of such turmoil. Even though one might know of the troubles in advance, one cannot stop time or the troubles. She uses an image of destruction and violence to remind the reader both of the inevitability of the storm and of its destructive power. Meanwhile, the reader is very much aware of the metaphorical reading of the poem. The use of “shattered fragments” is significant and might just as easily be applied to her life as to the meteorological instruments used to measure the storm. When her response finally does come, it seems somehow pathetic and inadequate - “we can only close the shutters”. Clearly, this particular storm has had a terrible toll on Rich.
Rich feels that all she can do in this situation is shut out the problems as best she can and try to get on with her life, safe inside from the storm. However, as the storm disimproves and changes from grey to black, there is only one small glimmer of hope. This tiny, insignificant glimmer of hope is fragile and although Rich tries her best to protect it from the violent onslaught of the storm, the storm is finding its way in to her safe place. This glimmer of hope that Rich is trying so hard to protect must be taken care of, as taking care of it is the only way to survive in such troubled times.