“what I know I cannot know, I must not forget”: Intimations of Alterity in Anna Rabinowitz’s Darkling

Claudia Ingram, University of Redlands
Vol. 33, No. 2 (Fall 2014), 151-178

While Anna Rabinowitz’s book-length poem Darkling (2001) is a work of mourning, it avoids what R. Clifton Spargo identifies as the most troubling effect of conventional elegy: the effacement of otherness in the persons mourned. On the contrary, Darkling registers, formally and thematically, the absence, estrangement, and profound otherness of loved ones when alive. It also realizes their otherness in death. The voice of its principal speaker is mingled with fragmentary voices of lost members of her family, many of whom suffered and died in the Holocaust. The poem dramatizes her inherently paradoxical struggle to orient herself toward those who are unknowable and no longer able to respond; her language is marked by the impossibility of the relation she nevertheless seeks. Darkling’s orientation toward otherness and its honoring of distances are crucial to its ethical effect.

Mary Wollstonecraft Sojourner Truth Margaret Atwood Abigail Adams Amy Tan H.D. Simone de Beauvoir Zora Neale Hurston Frances Burney Virginia Woolf

"The white saxifrage with the indented leafe is moste commended for the breakinge of the Stone."

— Turner, Herbal, III, 68 [1568]