Study Guide

Power The Big Ol' Spaces

By Adrienne Rich

The Big Ol' Spaces

All over the poem, we find big spaces between words, as if Rich went a little spacebar happy and couldn't stop herself from holding that sucker down. The effect of this is that the poem feels fragmented and jerky when we read it out loud, because we pause for extra time at each one of these big spaces. These spaces (which are particularly prevalent at the beginning and end of the poem) make us feel like we're on unsure ground in the poem. They prevent us from ever really relaxing into its rhythm. They keep us on alert.

  • Lines 1-5: The spaces that separate words in these first few lines make us feel like we're examining the bottle of amber in the moment. We're taking in image after image ("one bottle     amber     perfect"), and we have to make our own interpretations about what this bottle is and what exactly is going on. The story of the bottle isn't completely clear, and we experience the fragments of it as we would if we were actually at the scene, digging around and finding weird objects from the past, and trying to make sense of them. 
  • Lines 7-8: In these lines, the spaces seem like pauses for emphasis: "she must have known she suffered [dot dot dot] from radiation sickness," and "her body bombarded for years [dot dot dot] by the element." Think of these spaces as indications of dramatic pauses. 
  • Lines 10-17: In these lines, the speaker tells us of the decay of Curie's body, and the big spaces mimic this decay. The lines seem like they're falling apart. Curie had wounds, the poem tells us. Think of these spaces as the poem's own wounds.