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Yom Kippur 1984 is a poem by the Jewish-American poet Adrienne Rich. One of Rich’s key poems, it was reprinted in her 1986 collection Your Native Land, Your Life.

The poem opens with two contradictory statements; a verse from the Torah, Leviticus 23:29; and a line from the poem Prelude by Robinson Jeffers.

The poem goes on to explores questions of identity, difference, and solitude, particularly from the lens of oppressed groups such as women, gender nonconforming people, lesbians/gays, Jewish people, and Black people.

The central focus of the poem is the tension between the desire for independence and individuality and the longing for community and belonging.

The poem is named for Yom Kippur, the Jewish day of atonement, during which observant Jews engage in fasting, repentance, and self-examination.

Rich has stated that the poem took her a year to finish, during which time she was reading Robinson Jeffers, Walt Whitman, and the Tanakh.


 

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