2: Video, Adrienne Rich reading “Prospective Immigrants Please Note,” 1995.
Adrienne Rich’s writing is concerned with two kinds of myths: stories that are told or written and passed down, like legends and fables, and myths in the sense of fantasies or untruths that shape society. In “Diving into the Wreck,” she announces that her goal is to find and describe “the thing itself and not the myth.” In this activity, students will explore the meaning of the “book of myths” that recurs throughout “Diving into the Wreck” by examining an earlier Rich poem, “Prospective Immigrants Please Note.”
Suggested Activity: Prepare your students to listen to and read “Prospective Immigrants Please Note” by describing the two ideas of “myth” Rich’s poetry engages with (legends and societal fallacies). Ask them to write down a list of myths about immigrants and immigration to the United States—both contemporary and from the past, positive and negative. Ask them to mark whether they are legends (e.g., the story of the Pilgrims arriving at Plymouth Rock) or societal fallacies (e.g., the misconception that immigrants are crime-prone).
Share the text of “Prospective Immigrants Please Note” with your students and play the video of Rich reading the poem for the class. Pose some of the following questions to your students for discussion: what immigration myths does Rich challenge or address in this poem? In what way is the door, the poem’s central image, a myth? What change in perspective does Rich ask potential immigrants to take when viewing this door?
If your students have already read “Diving into the Wreck,” ask them to think about the two poems together. How does “Prospective Immigrants Please Note” relate to Rich’s ideas about myth in “Diving into the Wreck”? What legends or fictions might the “book of myths” in this poem contain?
Source: Adrienne Rich, “Prospective Immigrants Please Note,” recorded July 28, 1995, BillMoyers.com, April 6, 2017.