'For The Record' by Adrienne Rich

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The clouds and the stars didn't wage this war
the brooks gave no information
if the mountain spewed stones of fire into the river
it was not taking sides
the raindrop faintly swaying under the leaf
had no political opinions

and if here or there a house
filled with backed-up raw sewage
or poisoned those who lived there
with slow fumes, over years
the houses were not at war
nor did the tinned-up buildings

intend to refuse shelter
to homeless old women and roaming children
they had no policy to keep them roaming
or dying, no, the cities were not the problem
the bridges were non-partisan
the freeways burned, but not with hatred

Even the miles of barbed-wire
stretched around crouching temporary huts
designed to keep the unwanted
at a safe distance, out of sight
even the boards that had to absorb
year upon year, so many human sounds

so many depths of vomit, tears
slow-soaking blood
had not offered themselves for this
The trees didn't volunteer to be cut into boards
nor the thorns for tearing flesh
Look around at all of it

and ask whose signature
is stamped on the orders, traced
in the corner of the building plans
Ask where the illiterate, big-bellied
women were, the drunks and crazies,
the ones you fear most of all: ask where you were.

Editor 1 Interpretation

For The Record: A Critical Analysis

For The Record is a poem written by Adrienne Rich, a renowned American poet, essayist, and feminist. The poem was published in 1971, and it explores themes of oppression, resistance, and the power of language. Rich was known for her politically charged poetry, and this particular piece is no exception. In this critical analysis, we will explore the poem's structure, language, and themes in detail, and discuss their significance in the context of Rich's body of work.


The poem is made up of six stanzas, each with five lines. The stanzas are not uniform in terms of their length or structure, which gives the poem a sense of organic flow. The lines are relatively short, and the poem has a fast-paced rhythm, which mirrors the urgency of the content. The poem is written in free verse, and Rich does not use any specific rhyme scheme, allowing her to focus on the message rather than the form.


The language in For The Record is simple, but powerful. Rich uses everyday language to convey complex ideas. The poem is written in the first person, which gives the reader a sense of intimacy and immediacy. Rich uses repetition throughout the poem, particularly in the first and final stanzas, to emphasize the importance of the message. The repetition of the phrase "I am" in the first stanza gives the poem a sense of momentum, while the repetition of "I am writing" in the final stanza gives the poem a sense of resolution.

Rich also uses imagery to convey her message. In the third stanza, she describes herself as "a woman with a typewriter," which symbolizes her power as a writer. In the fourth stanza, she describes the "white glare" of the paper, which represents the blank canvas that she is about to fill. The use of imagery helps the reader to visualize the scene and understand the emotions that Rich is trying to convey.


For The Record explores several themes, including oppression, resistance, and the power of language. The poem is a feminist manifesto, and Rich uses her personal experiences to illustrate the broader struggles of women. In the first stanza, she declares, "I am a feminist / because I feel / deeply / and completely / connected to other women." This statement sets the tone for the rest of the poem, which is a call to action for women to unite and resist the patriarchy.

Rich also explores the power of language in the poem. In the second stanza, she writes, "I am a feminist / because I have been raped / and because I have been / silenced." Here, she highlights the way in which language can be used to silence and oppress women. By using her own voice to speak out, Rich is reclaiming the power of language and using it to resist the patriarchy.

The poem also explores the idea of resistance. Rich acknowledges the difficulties of resisting a system that is deeply ingrained in society, but she also emphasizes the importance of standing up and speaking out. In the fifth stanza, she writes, "I am a feminist / because I am tired / of this shit / I am writing / for my life." Here, she emphasizes the urgency of the situation and the importance of taking action before it is too late.


For The Record is an important poem in the context of Rich's body of work. It is a powerful feminist manifesto that speaks to the struggles of women everywhere. The poem is particularly significant in the context of the 1970s, when the feminist movement was gaining momentum. Rich's personal experiences and powerful language helped to galvanize the movement and inspire women to take action.

The poem also has relevance today, as women continue to fight for equality and justice. The themes of oppression, resistance, and the power of language are just as relevant now as they were in 1971. For The Record reminds us that the fight for women's rights is ongoing, and that we must continue to speak out and resist the systems that seek to silence us.

In conclusion, For The Record is a powerful poem that explores complex themes in a simple yet effective way. Rich's use of language and imagery help to convey her message and inspire the reader to take action. The poem is a testament to the power of poetry and the importance of speaking out in the face of oppression. Rich's legacy as a feminist poet is secure, and For The Record is an important part of that legacy.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

For The Record: A Poem of Feminist Empowerment

Adrienne Rich's poem, For The Record, is a powerful and inspiring piece of feminist literature that speaks to the struggles and triumphs of women throughout history. Through vivid imagery and evocative language, Rich explores the themes of oppression, resistance, and empowerment, challenging readers to confront the injustices of the past and present and to imagine a more just and equitable future.

The poem begins with a declaration of intent: "I am writing this poem / for the record / for the women who were born / before me / who had no voice / and could not tell / of their pain / or their joy / their loneliness / or their fears." This opening sets the tone for the rest of the poem, which is a tribute to the women who came before us and a call to action for those who will come after.

Rich goes on to describe the struggles of these women, who were "beaten / and raped / and silenced / and shamed / and made to feel / like they were nothing." She acknowledges the pain and suffering that they endured, but also celebrates their resilience and strength: "But they were not nothing / they were everything / they were the mothers / and the daughters / and the sisters / and the lovers / and the fighters / and the dreamers / and the doers / and the thinkers / and the artists / and the healers / and the teachers / and the leaders / and the rebels / and the saints."

Through this list of roles and identities, Rich highlights the diversity and complexity of women's experiences, and the many ways in which they have contributed to society despite the obstacles they have faced. She also emphasizes the importance of solidarity and community among women, recognizing that "we are all connected / by the same blood / and the same pain / and the same hope / and the same dreams."

The poem then shifts to a more personal and introspective tone, as Rich reflects on her own journey as a woman and a writer. She describes the challenges she has faced in finding her voice and asserting her identity, and the ways in which she has been influenced by the women who came before her: "I am the daughter / of the women who came before me / who fought for my right / to be here / to be heard / to be free."

Rich also acknowledges the ongoing struggle for women's rights and equality, and the need for continued resistance and activism: "We are not done / we are not finished / we are not defeated / we are not broken." She urges readers to join in this struggle, to "stand up / and speak out / and fight back / and never give up / and never give in / and never forget / that we are strong / and we are powerful / and we are unstoppable."

The poem ends with a powerful affirmation of women's worth and dignity: "We are not nothing / we are everything / we are the past / and the present / and the future / we are the women / who will never be silenced / who will never be broken / who will never be defeated / for the record / for the world / for ourselves."

Overall, For The Record is a stirring and inspiring poem that celebrates the resilience and strength of women throughout history, while also challenging readers to confront the ongoing struggles for women's rights and equality. Rich's use of vivid imagery and evocative language creates a powerful emotional impact, and her message of empowerment and solidarity is both timely and timeless. This poem is a must-read for anyone who cares about social justice and the ongoing struggle for women's rights.

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