In Diving into the Wreck, Rich describes destruction as deep-sea wreckage, something that she ambivalently explores. The persona is both curious by the wreck and fears it, feeling that it is her mission to explore it. She writes“ I came to explore the wreck/the words are purposes/the words are maps”, which I understood to mean that with the exploration of the wreck the words as a poet will have new meaning, and she will gain something new from it as a writer.
The wreck also has the duel nature of general wreckage and personal wreckage. The poem starts with the narrator) preparing herself for the wreck, or in the place of destruction, rather she prepares for it, going into the wreck with the proper scuba gear that doubles as battle gear. Rich writes “the body-armor of black rubber/the absurd flippers/the grave and awkward mask”. She uses the imagery of a grave and awkward mask, as a means to explain the wreck. In many ways the wreck is grave, is objectively serious and austere place, as Rich describes it as a place that is “is not the story of the wreck, but the wreck itself/ the thing not the myth”. It is the alternate universe, or world that exists bellow the surface, having nothing to do with Rich herself. Yet it is also awkward, awkward is a personal experience it is not an objective description, it is the way somebody experiences discomfort. It is the personal experience of the wreck. This appears to be a tension until the narrator chooses a side, and focuses primarily on the personal wreck. Rich compares herself to the mermaid and the merman whose “hair streams black” of the wreckage, “I am he, I am she” she breaks the threshold of exploring the wreckage, and becomes it.
However, I am not convinced. I do not see her as the wreck, but more of a tourist or the wreck. I think that her need to proclaim her excavation towards the wreckage, to find the destruction, and then becomes it, is a little fake. Compared to Plath, who seems to really live in despair, Rich’s poem appears to be trying too hard. To me, she is a bit of a poser.
But maybe I am being too harsh.
What do you think?
Do you think that her description of immersing herself in the wreckage is sincere?
Additionally, who do you think the “We” is in “We are, I am, you are”?