Ana Castillo

Ana Castillo

Monday, March 7, 2011

Excerpts From My Close Reading of "Women Are Not Roses"

"Castillo presents women with a greater chance of patriarchal subversion in her short but powerful poem “Women Are Not Roses,” in which she deconstructs the language of metaphor surrounding women. She draws attention to the common comparisons made between women and particular elements of the natural world, only to quickly and forcefully negate them. In essence, her poem represents a sort of poststructural feminist consciousness in the way that it attempts to move beyond the established language associated with femininity. She bases her first two stanzas on a basic logical framework, initially stating in the first stanza that

Women have no


only continual

flows. (WANR 1-4)

Stylistically, Castillo’s use of enjambment, particularly the way she leaves the word “continual” hanging in space with no punctuation, creates a rhythmic word structure, a “flow” that mirrors the word choice of the lines themselves. Upon first reading, this initial stanza appears to fit snugly in the established tradition of associating women with the fecundity of nature. United by the reproductivity the two share, women and nature are “continual,” beautiful and blossoming. However, Castillo quickly severs ties between the two with her decisive second stanza. Stating that “[Al]though rivers flow/ women are not/ rivers” (4-6). She acknowledges the similarity in descriptive language that the two may share; yes, women succeed one another on the planet, they are born and die, come and go, and represent a presence that can be described as “continual flows” (3). However, this does not mean that they can be reduced to a simple comparison, repeatedly essentialized into something that they are not. Women are women. They “are not rivers” (5-6).

Castillo continues to combat particular words typically assigned to women in the third stanza. Not only are women not rivers, they can also not be reduced to “roses,” or “oceans,” or “stars” (8-10). Because, what is a rose, really, in relation to a woman? A rose is a cultivated flower, valued for its beautiful aesthetic, often a symbol of love with thorns that represent the backlash that this same love can result in. Through consistent comparisons to roses, women are dually reduced, simultaneously prized for their passive beauty and censured at any show of their “thorns.” These competing associations are implicit in metaphors that unite women and roses. Castillo insists that not only are roses, oceans, and stars insufficient in to represent women; they are unnecessary as well. Women need to be neither reduced nor conflated. Castillo offers women the option of self-creation and definition."

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