Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry: Explained, LADY POVERTY, by ALICE NOTLEY

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Classic and Contemporary Poetry: Explained

LADY POVERTY, by             Poet Analysis     Poet's Biography

"Lady Poverty" is a poem by Alice Notley, first published in her 1992 collection "Mysteries of Small Houses." The poem explores the theme of poverty and the struggles that come with it.


In the poem, Lady Poverty enters the speaker's house and declares herself to be the speaker's enemy, pointing out the speaker's lack of money as evidence of this. The conversation between Lady Poverty and the speaker is brief, and Lady Poverty leaves after delivering her message.

Poetic Elements:

  • Form: The poem is a free verse with irregular line lengths and no rhyme scheme.
  • Theme: The poem explores the theme of poverty and its impact on individuals.
  • Imagery: The poem uses vivid imagery, such as Lady Poverty entering the speaker's house with a stick or crutch.
  • Tone: The tone of the poem is somber and reflective.
  • Sound: The poem makes use of alliteration, such as "look at your life" and "money," and repetition, such as "I am your enemy" and "It's true."
  • Language: The language of the poem is straightforward and accessible.
  • Figurative language: The poem uses metaphor, with Lady Poverty serving as a metaphor for the experience of poverty.
  • Structure: The poem is divided into two stanzas, with the second stanza being shorter than the first.
  • Symbolism: Lady Poverty serves as a symbolic representation of poverty and its impact on individuals.
  • Emotion: The poem conveys a sense of resignation and acceptance in the face of poverty.


"Lady Poverty" is a powerful exploration of the experience of poverty and its impact on individuals. Through the use of vivid imagery and metaphor, Alice Notley captures the sense of hopelessness and despair that can accompany poverty.

Poem Snippet:

"Lady Poverty enters my house, an old woman

with a stick, or maybe a crutch, and says

I am your enemy. I say

what have I ever done to you?"


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