Storm Warnings

Adrienne Rich

‘Storm Warnings’ by Adrienne Rich draws attention to the turbulence brewing, from the perspective of a worried resident.


Adrienne Rich

Nationality: American

Adrienne Rich is one of the best-known poets of her generation. Her work is studied in universities around the world.

Notable works include 'Powerand 'Tonight No Poetry Will Serve.' 

Key Poem Information

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Central Message: Social storms are just as impactful as natural storms

Themes: Nature, War

Speaker: Unknown

Emotions Evoked: Fear, Terror, Worry

Poetic Form: Free Verse

Time Period: 20th Century

‘Storm Warnings’ is a well-written poem about an impending doom. Like the name suggests, it warns people about a storm on its way.

Storm Warnings’ addresses a social issue. It speaks about the unrest in a troubled society and compares it with unfriendly weather. The storm of the heart is akin to the naturally occurring storm because both are not bothered about humans, their predictions, and the instruments that give these predictions. They happen despite the belief that they won’t.

The storm will come anyway, and when it comes, the instruments will be shattered, and the most the people in troubled regions can do is weather the storm by staying inside their houses and locking themselves up until the storm passes for a time.


Storm Warnings’ by Adrienne Rich explores nature and social unrest as themes. It is a poem that warns about impending doom.

Adrienne Rich was known for her versatility as she addressed issues in different spheres of life. Her poem, ‘Storm Warnings,‘ addresses a social issue. It talks about the unrest in troubled regions and likens it to the weather.

The speaker starts by making observations and painting a vivid picture of the weather or the state of things outside. Noticing these changes scares her to the bones. In stanza two, she compares the naturally occurring storm with the storm that is social unrest.

In stanza three, the speaker doesn’t relent and instead fires on with her message of doom. The curtains are drawn by telling the reader that the people in the troubled regions have already become used to such storms, and what they usually do when it comes is scurry to their homes and shut themselves in.

Structure and Form

Storm Warnings‘ comprises four stanzas, each containing seven lines, known as septets. Although it contains examples of a meter, it has no definite rhyme scheme or a single metrical pattern used throughout the poem. It’s very common to find Rich poems that follow this type of pattern.

Detailed Analysis

Stanza One

The glass has been falling all the afternoon,
And knowing better than the instrument
What winds are walking overhead, what zone
Of grey unrest is moving across the land,
I leave the book upon a pillowed chair
And walk from window to closed window, watching
Boughs strain against the sky

From this stanza, it is obvious that the persona is restive. The very first line of the poem makes use of imagery to convey the main message, as well. The reader knows what glass shattering represents.

This means what is coming is harsh, and the persona knows this very well, even more than an instrument can predict. The storm is coming, and akin to the naturally occurring storm, no one knows how intense it will be.

The persona sees this with the human eye beyond what any instrument can tell. The winds walking overhead, the grey unrest, boughs straining against the sky—all these come together to paint a vivid picture and pass across the message of doom succinctly: something dark and sinister is brewing.

Knowledge of the above makes the speaker leave her book to pace from window to window. In line 4, the wind is said to be walking. This is a typical example of where personification is used in passing across a message. This time, the message passed across is that of uncertainty.

Stanza Two

And think again, as often when the air
Moves inward toward a silent core of


And weather in the heart alike come Regardless of prediction.

When the air is still, one better be expecting something soon, some rubble, perhaps. There is usually this unusual stillness or silence before a disaster. First, it gets very quiet, a deafening silence, and then it gets very noisy and turbulent. Time is one common thing between the two types of storms referred to.

What will happen will happen, regardless of predictions, the poem goes on to say. The persona knows this and goes on to describe what she senses, and it is so real, it can be felt, so palpable, it can almost be touched.

Time and air are personified in the first three lines of this stanza. The air is said to often move inward toward a silent core of waiting (as if waiting for something terrible to happen), and time is said to have traveled, further confusing what’s going on in the scene and reinforcing the reader’s prediction that something is about to happen.

Stanza Three

Between foreseeing and averting change
Lies all the mastery of elements


We can only close the shutters.

Sometimes, the human experience works better than any tool. This fact is stated at the beginning of this stanza. No instrument can beat this experience, not clocks, and definitely not weatherglasses. All these cannot do much, and humans can manipulate their own time, but that is the most they can do. Nature will continue to follow the standard time, and the manipulated time cannot change a thing.

In this same way, the storm will shatter the tools that predicted it won’t happen or that even if it does, it won’t be severe. Of what use is a shattered instrument? Your guess is as good as mine. It is of no use whatsoever. The persona ends this stanza by reiterating “…the wind will rise, we can only close the shutters”. This evokes a feeling of helplessness.

In the next lines, personification is employed to paint a clear picture. The wind is personified to show just how powerful it can be. The speaker says the wind will rise, and the question is not “if” but “when.” When the storm comes, the doubters, conspiracy theorists, and the like will shut up. Then, people won’t have any other option but to run inside and lock themselves up until it passes.

Stanza Four

I draw the curtains as the sky goes black


This is our sole defense against the season;
These are the things we have learned to do
Who live in troubled regions.

The persona draws the curtains by telling the reader how prepared she is for the storm and how she plans to hide. Even then, that would probably not be enough, but it is better than doing nothing, at least.

In this stanza, imagery is used to describe the situation in such a way that the reader imagines things exactly as they are intended. The sky is getting dark, and the storm is doing what storms do- shaking the whole house up, the doors, everything- this is the work of imagery. It is succinctly applied here as the reader imagines the persona inside, doors locked, candles lit, and waiting for the storm to pass—the turbulence, the doors shaking violently.

They have learned to do this as it is common for people in troubled regions. Their sole defense against seasons like this is to run and hide, for the storm cares about no instrument or prediction. 


What themes does ‘Storm Warnings’ explore?

Storm Warnings’ explores nature and war as themes. Naturally occurring storms and social storms do not care about predictions but facts. Both are only interested in what is before us. And the storm, no matter how much and for how long humans and their instruments deny or predict it won’t happen, will come. Then, all the people can do is hide and wait it out.

What made Adrienne Rich write ‘Storm Warnings?’

The regularity of social issues must have inspired Adrienne Rich to write ‘Storm Warnings’. Social unrest is rife in many countries of the world. There is almost always a storm coming, an impending doom, something that cannot be denied for too long before it hits.

What is the mood of ‘Storm Warnings?’

The mood of ‘Storm Warnings’ is restive. The poem warns about a storm on its way, and the reader gets to know the situation of things just before the storm through the eyes of the speaker.

What emotion does ‘Storm Warnings’ evoke the most?

Storm Warnings’ evokes fear of the known unknown. What would happen? How long would the storm last? How severe would it be? The fear birthed by uncertainty. The air in ‘Storm Warnings‘ can be felt, and the fear is so palpable one can almost reach and touch it.

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Poetry+ Review Corner

Storm Warnings

Enhance your understanding of the poem's key elements with our exclusive review and critical analysis. Join Poetry+ to unlock this valuable content.

Adrienne Rich

Adrienne Rich was an American poet known for her free-verse poems and versatility. Her poems are rated highly, and ‘Storm Warnings’ is no different. It is a warning about the impending doom that represents social unrest in troubled regions. She writes brilliantly, and this poem is nothing short of what readers expect from her.
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20th Century

This is a 20th century poem about nature and social unrest. It was first published in 1951 by Yale University Press alongside Adrienne Rich's debut poetry collection. It is equally timeless and represents its times very well, but many 20th century poems rank above it in so many aspects.
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Adrienne Rich was a 19th century American poet known for her versatility. Fully aware of the American experience and also known for representing her country through her poems, she wrote ‘Storm Warnings’ to conform to the American style of literature. However, there are many poems that rank above them in the archives of American Literature.
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Adrienne Rich's 'Storm Warnings' makes reference to nature. Although the type of storm being talked about isn't primarily the naturally occurring storm, it is still correct to say that the poem explores the theme of nature. This is because the man-made storm is likened to nature's storm in terms of severity and unconcern for instruments and their predictions. The poem is not among the best poems written about nature.
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This poem explores nature and war as themes. The message is passed across very well because the fear caused by uncertainty is almost palpable. The people in troubled regions live in fear. Even though the poem does a very good job in this aspect, better poems about war exist.
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Adrienne Rich's poem evokes the emotion of fear. Readers can sense the fear in the speaker's voice and countenance; in fact, it is palpable. Fear is evoked because of the storm coming. No one knows when it will hit; what the speaker does know is that it will hit, regardless of humans and their instruments that predict otherwise.
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Adrienne Rich's poem skillfully evokes the emotion of terror. The picture painted by the speaker is terrifying. She warns that there's a storm coming, that something dark and sinister is brewing, and what is coming does not care about humans and their predictions. Although the poem does a good job of this, there are other poems that rank above it in this aspect, and elicit this emotion better.
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Fear, worry, terror, and uncertainty are the emotions elicited by Adrienne Rich's ‘Storm Warnings.’ Worry is the major one here. The words used by the writer convey this emotion undoubtedly, and this is a plus. The uncertainty leads to worry and vice versa. The poem ranks high in this aspect because it evokes this emotion succinctly.
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Conflict is one of the major topics of Adrienne Rich's 'Storm Warnings.' The storm primarily referred to in the poem is man-made, and that is conflict, something the people in troubled regions have become used to. Still, it has the ability to terrify them. The poem addresses this topic quite well and ranks high amongst other poems addressing the same topic.
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Man vs Nature

Man vs nature is the major topic of Adrienne Rich's ‘Storm Warnings.’ Man is seen as mostly helpless because the storm coming does not care about them, their predictions, and the instruments used in making these predictions. Nature is seen as very powerful, and all humans can do when trouble ensues is to run inside and hide. This is a very good poem about Man vs nature.
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Storm, unrest, and conflict are the topics looked into in Adrienne Rich's ‘Storm Warnings.’ The issues are addressed in such a way that there is no second-guessing what message is intended to be passed across. The poem warns about a storm, something dark and sinister brewing. This is the major topic of the poem, and the poet does a very good job in this aspect.
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Adrienne Rich's ‘Storm Warnings’ explores weather as a topic. There are two types of storms referred to in the poem. The naturally occurring storm is about the weather and how human predictions can be wrong. Even though the poem does a good job of this topic, it does not come top of the list when it comes to poems about weather.
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Free Verse

This poem by Adrienne Rich is a poem of four stanzas consisting of seven lines each. The poem contains examples of meter and rhyme but does not adhere to a specific pattern in either category. It is a good, although not great, example of free verse poetry.
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The mood created by Adrienne Rich's ‘Storm Warnings’ is pensive. What the poem warns about is tragic. Imagery and personification are used as poetic devices to align the reader's mood with the mood the poem seeks to convey. It is a good poem on tragedy, but better poems have been written for this category.
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Chioma Julie Poetry Expert
Chioma is an accomplished poetry expert with a background in Mass Communication. Utilizing her additional experience as an English Literature Teacher, she has honed her analytical skills to provide in-depth and insightful interpretations of poetic works.

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