Themes

Download PDF Print Page Citation Share Link

Last Updated on August 6, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 519

I married is a poem written by Lorine Niedacker, a poet who lived a secluded life on a Wisconsin island. Niedacker is commonly associated with the objectivist poets, a group of American poets in the 1930s and 1940s who emphasized the use of clear, concise language in order to portray the poem as an object. Objectivist poets chose common wording and language rather than flowery, figurative imagery; and emphasized a sincere, individual vision of the world. The writing in I married clearly reflects this objectivist mindset; the poem is sparse, with pregnant dashes at times carrying more weight than the words themselves.

Illustration of PDF document

Download I married Study Guide

Subscribe Now

The poem's central theme is marriage, and it is believed the poem was written in response to Niedacker's marriage to Albert Millen when she was in her sixties. There is speculation that there were tensions in the marriage that influenced both this poem and others written by Niedacker during the same period. The structure of the poem itself is interesting; its sparse language moves from scene to scene, leaving the reader with a feeling of motion and reflection. There is an "American gothic" sense to the language; a disturbing darkness underneath the visage of marriage.

The poem first portrays marriage as an almost-comforting shelter; the speaker has chosen to enter into it not out of desperation but out of wanting relief and well-being. It is almost unapologetic, the speaker unabashedly states the "practical" reason for the marriage.

I married

in the world’s black night
for warmth
if not repose.
At the close—
someone.
These lines are interesting, while Niebacker is not portraying marriage as something sinister, her language implies something less than passion: marriage for a sense of safety in having someone, rather than for overwhelming love for an individual person. The next lines are darker; with coffin-like imagery highlighting the claustrophobia and ghost-like state of the speaker's marriage.
I hid with him
from the long range guns.
We lay leg
in the cupboard, head
in closet.
The second half of the poem implies a disillusionment with marriage. The line "no bird dawn" also perfectly exemplifies the concise focus of objectivist poetry; it is a condensed but poignant set of words.
A slit of light
at no bird dawn—
Untaught
I thought
he drank
too much.
Marriage is not the warmth and repose the author envisioned, it is something darker and more desolate. The reference to drinking brings the poem back from abstract to the everyday; it feels very much like the venting of a problem. The author is disillusioned; the marriage is not what she wanted from it.
The final lines close the speaker's reflection on marriage, while also leaving the interpretation open.
I say
I married
and lived unburied.
I thought—

The words "married" and "unburied" draw directly from gothic imagery; the speaker is trapped between the world of the ideal and reality of marriage much like something supernatural. The dash at the end of the poem begs for interpretation and questions, rather than closure. Is the speaker complacent with this version of marriage, or is it a disillusioned dream-state rather than something tangible?

Themes and Meanings

Download PDF Print Page Citation Share Link

Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 341

“I married” sets its love story against the backdrop of a tragically unenlightened human race whose actions allow the “long range guns” to gather strength. Reference has already been made to the phrase “long range guns” as pointing both to warfare and to the broadcasts of the mass media. This interpretation may seem far-fetched; however, turning to other works of Niedecker, one finds that she often takes note of radio and television, sometimes quite negatively. In “Alone,” for example, she celebrates being without a television set with the statement, “At last no (TV) gun.” The gun metaphor in “Alone” refers to the way in which the public uses electronic entertainment as a weapon against meditation, anxieties, and other things it wishes to avoid.

Niedecker states in “I married” that her relationship to her husband has brought her much of the comfort she had sought. She speaks of the somewhat disappointing but still invigorating “dawn” moments and states near the end of the poem about eluding, through her marriage, a “buried” feeling of death in life.

In the latter passage, there is also another possible meaning: When Niedecker states, “I married/ and lived unburied,” she can be seen as expressing thanks that the marriage itself has not crushed her spirit. The tangles and perils that must accompany the attempt to mingle two human lives are an important concern of this poem. The passage about drinking can be viewed as relevantly exhibiting one of the tangles of Niedecker’s married life.

This leads, finally, to a possible added significance of the passage about “a slit of light.” In addition to the meaning already discussed, Niedecker indicates in these lines that her dawnlike moments of spiritual renewal, and her experiences of literal sunrises, cannot be characterized as “bird dawn[s],” because she cannot feel the simple elation one imagines a bird to experience when it senses sunlight or otherwise feels invigorated. Her happiness, like her other emotions, can only be human and complex, intertwined with intellectual conceptions and the details of a complicated life.

Unlock This Study Guide Now

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-hour free trial
Previous

Summary

Next

Analysis