Friday, March 30, 2012

Adrienne Rich, 1929-2012

New reviews this weekend- I am trying to decide what I think of audio books. Generally pro, of course, but is anything especially valuable lost in the translation? Does actually seeing the words matter to you? Is it ok that my children shush me so that they can hear the exciting part of the Witch of Blackbird Pond? (It is not *that* exciting) (and I thought my exposition on the history of mass public transportation was very interesting, thankyouverymuch)

Probably I am too morose and thoughtful this week, with the passing of Adrienne Rich. Have you all heard of her? Her stuff was all over my college political science/feminist what-have-you courses, lo these many years ago. Here's an excerpt from her New York Times obit-

Adrienne Rich, a poet of towering reputation and towering rage, whose work — distinguished by an unswerving progressive vision and a dazzling, empathic ferocity — brought the oppression of women and lesbians to the forefront of poetic discourse and kept it there for nearly a half-century, died on Tuesday at her home in Santa Cruz, Calif. She was 82.

The cause was complications of rheumatoid arthritis, with which she had lived for most of her adult life, her family said.

Widely read, widely anthologized, widely interviewed and widely taught, Ms. Rich was for decades among the most influential writers of the feminist movement and one of the best-known American public intellectuals. She wrote two dozen volumes of poetry and more than a half-dozen of prose; the poetry alone has sold nearly 800,000 copies, according to W. W. Norton & Company, her publisher since the mid-1960s.

Triply marginalized — as a woman, a lesbian and a Jew — Ms. Rich was concerned in her poetry, and in her many essays, with identity politics long before the term was coined.

As it happens I have a poetry loving daughter. Claire Helen adores Emily Dickinson with a passion that makes my postmodern novel loving head tilt and smile bemusedly, and though I try gamely to do read my part of Poems for Two Voices, it's hard to say I care quite as much as she does. Claire Helen is too young for Rich, I think, but her poet's heart caused me to notice Rich's passing when I might not really have otherwise. Rich was 82; it's not that she was young, but that she was so great.

Diving Into the Wreck

I am here, the mermaid whose dark hair
streams black, the merman in his armored body
We circle silently about the wreck
we dive into the hold. ...
We are, I am, you are
by cowardice or courage
the one who find our way
back to the scene
carrying a knife, a camera
a book of myths
in which
our names do not appear.

--Adrienne Rich, 1973


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