Risk by Anaïs Nin is an eight-line poem that uses a garden metaphor to express a tale of change after turmoil. Little information is given about what led to this change, and there is also no indication as to whether or not this change proved a good thing. By cutting off the poem at these beginning and ending points, Nin has made this decision to change the focal point, or the thing of significance within the poem. That change, as a theme for the poem, is treated like something to strive toward. Seemingly to the author, when we must push against conflicts, we should always strive to grow to be our best versions. You can read the full poem here.
The beginning word of this set of lines, “And,” indicates that a story came before it, and this is just an added piece of that story. Of course, the reader is only being introduced to this section of the story through these lines, but it is understood that this is not where the tale began. Other than this before element, there is no indication given about these prior circumstances that led to the decision that is presented in the poem. The reader cannot know what happened or how long it happened. These elements are treated as only essential in regard to being the catalyst for the noted change.
This change that will be elaborated on in Lines 5-8 involves the state of being that whoever this poem is discussing was in. Specifically, they were “in a bud” that was “tight” because it was a “risk” to move beyond that circumstance. Once more, however, there is no information provided about who this person “in a bud” is. This could be the narrator or a person the narrator is detailing. It could even be an animal, a character, or a group of individuals.
There are few to no parameters given, which indicates that this element of who endured this situation is irrelevant. It is open to interpretation, much like the situation that led to this “risk” being taken is undefined. This could indicate a lack of clarity, as if the narrator is saying that the circumstance was confusing, but given the level of strength noted in these lines, this concept is doubtful.
Rather, this choice to keep things open and vague is likely to add universality to the concept. Any person or any group reading this could relate to needing change from a “tight” circumstance, and a number of complications in life could push us to that point. By neglecting to be specific, Nin has created a piece that allows numerous beings to relate to the situation to embrace the theme of growth.
Here, the reader is introduced to what “risk” the person in the story chose to pursue, and that is “to Blossom.” The details behind this “Blossom” aspect are not fully elaborated upon, which again boosts the universality of the concept. The reader can grasp, however, that this was a “risk,” and it was less “painful” than staying “in a bud.”
There are several things that can be discovered beyond the universality of this poem by browsing the word choices. For starters, both of these concepts—being “in a bud” or in “Blossom”—bring a “risk.” By this, Nin is saying that no matter what kind of decisions we make, they all come with “risk[s].” Even if we hold to a safer route, to Nin, it is still a “risk.”
By noting this initial “risk” as being “in a bud” and “painful,” the author seems to hint that this “risk” is relatable to being confined to a situation that is less than we could experience, as if we have boxed ourselves into places where we cannot grow. This can be thought of as a person who is in a too-small room, one where they cannot so much as stand up straight. Leaving that room might lead to unknown territory, but not leaving prevents that person from seeking a better life where their fullness can be reached. Of course, Nin uses a garden metaphor, which relates as well. A flower that is not given the room to grow could be unnaturally limited by its small spacing, and this could cause it to be stunted.
To “Blossom,” though, can come with unknown territory, but it is only in deciding to take that “risk” to change that a person could become something different, perhaps someone in a more comfortable, happy situation.
Overall, it seems that the person (group? plant?) noted in this poem was afraid to move beyond the known existence—a “bud”—but decided that the best choice was to try and become something more. This is granted a positive connotation by linking it to the garden concept since a flower that “[b]lossom[s]” is treated as a thing of lively beauty. The reader expects from this presentation that good things will happen because of this choice to “Blossom,” though no information is provided to prove that point.
Worth noting as well is that only two words are capitalized in the poem—the significant concept of choosing to “Blossom” and the “And” that leads into the decision to change. Clearly, this indicates that growing is the most important element of the poem, given “Blossom[‘s]” unneeded capitalization, but it also hints that the two moments that define the situation like this are the initial moment to decide on changing and the moment a person enters into that change. Whatever caused the story’s character to change is hardly relevant. The relevant detail is that the character did choose to change—highlighted by that bold “And”—and moved into that change—highlighted through the dramatic capitalization of “Blossom.”
This change, then, is the key element, and Nin has brought that theme home in this handful of words. Complications, essentially, may not matter. What matters, to Nin, is that we decide to reach our best versions of ourselves in spite of conflict.
About Anaïs Nin
Anaïs Nin was a French writer who was born in 1903, though she spent a percentage of her life in New York. She wrote short stories, novels, and poems, and she is noted for having literary connections to Surrealism in her work. She was a friend of fellow writer, Henry Miller, and passed away in 1977 in California.