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.
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 marriedin the world’s black nightfor warmthif not repose.At the close—someone.
I hid with himfrom the long range guns.We lay legin the cupboard, headin closet.
A slit of lightat no bird dawn—UntaughtI thoughthe dranktoo much.
I sayI marriedand lived unburied.I thought—
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.
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