The Poem

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

“I married” is short and untitled; by convention, it is referred to by its first line. The simple declaration of the opening line is followed by a stanza break, and then by twenty short lines arranged in four stanzas. Though this is a free-verse lyric, the third and fourth lines of each stanza are linked by a rhyme or near-rhyme. Sometimes the focus of the poet’s attention shifts dramatically within a given stanza, as well as from one stanza to the next.

In the first stanza, Lorine Niedecker speaks of her motivation for marrying—she sought a refuge of human kindness in a world whose deplorable condition she characterizes as a state of “black night.” She next says that she expected “warmth” from her marriage but could not realistically hope for “repose.” In this context, “warmth” is also something one desperately seeks in the face of a society that is “cold” like night-time, and “repose” is something that is difficult to come by in a world that seems organized for the benefit of evildoers, just as nightfall is the time when criminals gain advantage and malevolent supernatural spirits are thought to stir. Niedecker concludes the stanza by noting that “at the close” she has found a companion. She was indeed sixty years old in 1963, when the marriage she speaks of took place.

In the second stanza, one gains a clearer sense of “the world’s black night.” Here Niedecker speaks of herself and her husband...

(The entire section is 542 words.)

Forms and Devices

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

“I married” is a challenging poem—it forces one constantly to maintain one’s interpretive alertness, and one may be puzzled or even exasperated by its sometimes quirky movement from subject to subject. If one listens well to Niedecker’s tone, one finds that it is also an engagingly friendly poem, for it radiates a feeling of candid and calm personal revelation, in which there is self-assurance without a trace of pompous self-importance, and meditation without brooding or abstraction.

Avoiding any theatrical outcries or effusions, the poet speaks quietly of the renewal she gained from her marriage and displays unembittered acceptance of the inherent limitations of human relationships and lives. Even wrenching societal horror is addressed in a calm manner. The poem’s tone of amiable stillness and strength can be seen in the following lines:

for warmth if not repose At the close—someone.

The phrase “at the close” speaks of a potentially devastating fact: not having many more years to live. Yet these lines are arranged for the word “close” to be lightened by fitting into a cheerful rhyme. If one pronounces the lines aloud, one rushes eagerly to this rhyme once one has spoken the word “repose,” for “at” and “the” are not syllables the tongue lingers...

(The entire section is 496 words.)