Summary (Magill's Survey of American Literature, Revised Edition)
Rich boldly proclaims “I know you” to twelve types of readers in “XIII. (Dedications).” She strives to isolate the reader as a way of asserting her intense connection with the authentic readers who approach her work. She is acutely aware that the idyllic poetry readers—the single guy in the coffee shop or group of girls in the basement of the dorm—are not real. She goes even further to imply that even if these readers do exist, they are not the ones to whom she is writing. She does not include in her catalog of readership anyone that would seem typical.
She invades the reader’s personal space, making it impossible for him or her to dismiss the work as nothing more than words on a page. According to Rich, all readers are “stripped” and “listening for something.” She speaks to those who are trapped by life, those living “where the bedclothes lie in stagnant coils on the bed/ and the open valise speaks of flight/ but you cannot leave yet.” Immediately following this characterization of entrapment is one of intense freedom—readers full of dare and blithe who are “running up the stairs/ toward a new kind of love/ your life has never allowed.” She pulls at the heartstrings of a woman searching for the life that she has lost amid “warming milk, a crying child on your shoulder, a book in your hand/ because life is short and you too are thirsty.” Rich reminds her readers that, as literate beings, they all are empty without...
(The entire section is 389 words.)
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