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Adrienne Rich is a complex person who uses her poetry to explore many diverse and controversial topics. She has been lauded and criticized for her efforts and she has pushed boundaries in her attempts to develop her art whilst remaining in touch with her reality. Rich's poem I Am In Danger- Sir- is a direct quotation from a letter of renowned poet Emily Dickinson which Dickinson wrote to her mentor Thomas Higginson, an advocate for women's rights in the early twentieth century. The main point of Rich's poem is to remind women to stand up for their beliefs and to not be bullied or persuaded against their own better judgment. Emily Dickinson is a good example, in Rich's estimation, of a woman who remained true to herself.
Rich confirms that she writes about people, particularly women who inspire her, and Emily Dickinson features high on her list. Rich has also written about other influential women such as Marie Curie and Caroline Herschel, although she does also write about women in general and their struggle to become significant in a world dominated by men.
Rich focuses on Emily Dickinson in this poem because of Dickinson's style and her refusal to conform. Rich is presenting her own understanding of Emily Dickinson's reasons for effectively removing herself from society, which have been speculated on and discussed at great length by prominent critics. Dickinson was somewhat intense and withdrawn from her society and there is disagreement as to whether it was her choosing or whether she was forced into this situation by the patriarchal society in which she lived and whether Dickinson's poetry is, therefore, her means of rebelling against that society.
Rich refers to Dickinson's "hoard of dazzling scraps" (Dickinson wrote many of her poems on pieces of paper as the inspiration took her). Rich is indicating that Dickinson was misunderstood and the "garbled versions" are the attempts of many to possibly incorrectly interpret what she may have meant. Rich understands how exhausting it must have been for Dickinson, which resulted in a "forehead battered paper-thin." Dickinson's "condition of being" and her "single-mindedness" were not enough to convince others of her real intentions and so it is as if those interpreting her poetry committed "Perjury" and the result is "spoiled language." Rich understands that Dickinson "chose silence for entertainment" as she withdrew even more from society and applauds Dickinson for standing up for herself in her "half-cracked" or seemingly bizarre way.
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