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‘Storm Warnings’ is a poem written by eminent poet Adrienne Rich. It revolves around a storm– one that literally and figuratively pertains to the poet’s persona.
About the Poet:
Adrienne Rich (1929-2012) was a prominent American poet and essayist. She was also a notable feminist. Famous works of hers include, “Diving Into The Wreck”, “The Trees”, and “Snapshots of a Daughter-In-Law”.
The glass has been falling all the afternoon, 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.
The poem begins with the persona stating that they were aware of the arrival of the impending storm without the help of the ‘glass’ instrument too. Leaving the book they were then reading, they watch the turbulent skies. This situation can best be described as ‘the calm before the storm’.
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.
This stanza captures the inner ruminations of the poet’s persona. They contemplate about ‘time’, how it travels with one single purpose just like the air in the eye of the storm. How it does so remains a mystery. The persona then compares the ‘weather’ outside to the ‘weather in the heart’, thus drawing a parallel between the literal storm outside and the storm brewing within their mind.
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.
Here, the persona declares that one who can foresee and avert possible changes in their life becomes a master of all elements. This, they state, cannot be changed by storms such as these or time for the instruments themselves do not become time and storm.
There is a sense of inevitability that can be gleaned here when the persona states that all they could do is “close the shutters” and brace for the impending storm. This stanza reveals that the persona is anticipating something unpleasant and violent that they believe they cannot prevent.
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.
In the final stanza, the persona prepares themselves for the oncoming storm. They “draw the curtains” and light candles protected by glass. This, they state, is all they can do against the fury of nature. They also state that these precautionary measures are learnt by all “Who live in troubled regions”- it refers to the literal and emotional landscape of the persona.
This is a sombre poem that is deceptively calm at first glance. With masterful language, the poem effectively uses a storm to paint the state of the persona’s mind.