I need some help with literary criticism on Kateri Akiwenzie Damm's poem entitled "To You Who would Wage War Against Me." I only have literary criticism experience with marxism and feminism. This...

I need some help with literary criticism on Kateri Akiwenzie Damm's poem entitled "To You Who would Wage War Against Me."

I only have literary criticism experience with marxism and feminism. This poem doesn't seem to match either so could someone help me get started using another school of literary criticism such as archetypal or psychoanalytic please. Poem is below:

i
there are many lines
you have not traced on my palms
still
you think you know me

when i speak
you nod knowingly
as if
you've already read my mind
and are only politely acknowledging
the confirmation of my spoken words

ii
but you cannot possibly know
what i've been contemplating
these days

my head is full of blood
but you show no fear
and i do not trust my hands
they look to me like stones

you do not cower when i approach
though i feel like a runaway train
and i can hear your voice cool and steady
while my brain screams profanities
into the air around your ears

our past has given you no reason
to be afraid
but still i am surprised you cannot see
the danger burning brightly in my eyes
the fire i am struggling to control

iii
as i sit stewing in my kitchen's false light
with tears my daughter
comes to me
frightened by what she cannot see
afraid tonight to sleep
i hold her in my arms
singing soft words of comfort
feeling her heart quickly
beating against my chest
knowing before i can think that
i have forgiven us
for our stupid little wars

knowing in that incandescent light
that anger will never move me
as delicately as she has moved me
this night

Expert Answers
James Kelley eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This poem is interesting, and I'll gladly offer my comments. I hope they're helpful.

1. I wouldn't rule out a feminist critical approach so quickly, particularly a critical approach that draws on what's called "essentialist feminism," as might be seen in the poetry and essays of Adrienne Rich, for example. Essentialist feminism (also often called "radical feminism") is a branch of feminist thinking that posits that, in addition to the obvious biological differences, there are very real and perhaps timeless psychological differences between men and women. Rich uses the term "lesbian continuum," for example, in her essay addressing compulsory heterosexuality and the very close emotional bonds between women. This poem illustrates such a closeness; the mother-daughter bond is much closer and more grounded in mutual understanding than the bond between (what I take to be) the male partner/husband and the female speaker in the poem.

2. I wouldn't rule out marxism so quickly, either, although I think there's less to say here. The relationship between the speaker and the unnamed "you" is likened in the poem to a war or set of battles. Perhaps that relationship can be seen as a sort of class war and the mother-daughter bond at the poem's end as a recognition of the need for unity and solidarity.

3. I think that psychoanalytic criticism might work, too, because the poem deals with what the speaker says and doesn't say. You could apply psychoanalytic concepts such as "repression" (what important things are left unsaid), "projection" (how the "you" imposes something onto the speaker), and/or perhaps other humanist psychological terms such as "disassociation" and "integration." (One wonderful phrase in the poem -- "I do not trust my hands"  -- seems to open the poem up to a psychoanalytic or more generally psychological reading.)