Study Guide

Diving into the Wreck Stanza I

By Adrienne Rich

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Stanza I

Lines 1-7

First having read the book of myths,
and loaded the camera,
and checked the edge of the knife-blade,
I put on
the body-armor of black rubber
the absurd flippers
the grave and awkward mask.

  • "Diving into the Wreck" begins with a description of the speaker getting ready to go scuba diving. In the first line, there's a kind of weird reference to "the book of myths."
  • Why would you need to read myths before diving? It's hard to say at this point, and we think Rich wants us to wait, and to hold that image in our mind as we read the poem.
  • From here on, things get simpler.
  • The speaker takes us through a list of the things you need to go diving.
  • There's a camera, a knife, a wetsuit, some flippers and a mask.
  • But check out the way Rich describes these things.
  • In lines 3-5, she emphasizes the "edge of the knife-blade" and then describes the wetsuit as "body-armor. "
  • It's almost like the speaker was getting ready for a fight. There's just a little tingle of anticipation and danger in the air.
  • Then again that feeling is balanced out when we are reminded how stupid people can look in scuba gear.
  • The speaker points out that the flippers are "absurd" (6) and the mask is "grave and awkward" (line 7).
  • Even if you are a diver in a serious poem, you can't really help looking like a strange duck.

Lines 8-12

I am having to do this
not like Cousteau with his
assiduous team
aboard the sun-flooded schooner
but here alone

  • Now that we've heard about the equipment, we learn about the speaker and the setting.
  • The poem sets up a contrast between the happy, lively world of Jacques Cousteau (i.e., the idealized world of diving), and the lonely world of the speaker.
  • If you've never seen any of his old movies, you should know that Jacques Cousteau was an ocean explorer who made documentaries about his voyages.
  • He wore a red stocking cap, invented scuba gear, and was basically everything you'd want a dashing French explorer to be.
  • He was an international star when this poem was written.
  • He would have been the center of all kinds of scuba activity, always helped by his "assiduous" (that just means hard- working) team (9).
  • Our speaker is, in contrast, is totally "alone" (12).

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