Adrienne Rich and the fierce politics of poetry

"I am here, the mermaid whose dark hair streams black"....Adrienne Rich in 1987 Image: Neal Boenzi/The New York Times

The tributes are pouring in for Adrienne Rich who died today aged 82. The New York Times called her a ” a poet of towering reputation and towering rage ” and notes that she was triply marginalised as a woman, a lesbian and a Jew. This did not stop her:

Ms. Rich was far too seasoned a campaigner to think that verse alone could change entrenched social institutions. “Poetry is not a healing lotion, an emotional massage, a kind of linguistic aromatherapy,” she said in an acceptance speech to the National Book Foundation in 2006, on receiving its medal for distinguished contribution to American letters. “Neither is it a blueprint, nor an instruction manual, nor a billboard.”

But at the same time, as she made resoundingly clear in interviews, in public lectures and in her work, Ms. Rich saw poetry as a keen-edged beacon by which women’s lives — and women’s consciousness — could be illuminated.

All the obituaries highlight her politics and the fact that she refused to accept the National Medal of Arts in 1997 saying that she was dismayed that  the government had chosen to honor “a few token artists while the people at large are so dishonored.”

Unlike the American obits the Irish Times makes her politics explicit noting that she considered herself a socialist:

Unlike most American writers, Rich believed that art and politics not only could co-exist, but must co-exist. She considered herself a socialist because “socialism represents moral value – the dignity and human rights of all citizens,” she said in 2005. “That is, the resources of a society should be shared and the wealth redistributed as widely as possible.”

“She was very courageous and very outspoken and very clear,” said her long-time friend, WS Merwin, the Pulitzer Prize winning poet. “She was a real original, and whatever she said came straight out of herself.”

The New York Times Arts beat blog has collected a series links to of reviews of her books. Margaret Atwood’s review of her prize winning 1973 collection is telling:

In 1973, reviewing Adrienne Rich’s seventh book of poems, “Diving Into the Wreck,” Margaret Atwood called it “one of those rare books that forces you to decide not just what you think about it; but what you think about yourself. It is a book that takes risks, and it forces the reader to take them also.”

The LA Times were one of the first to report her death in their book blog Jacket copy and now have one of the most detailed appreciations in their obits section.

This is an example of a comparative post pulling together several linked articles from a series of different sources and highlighting their differences and similarities. Note the use of links followed by short indented quotes.

To understand the differences in posting styles see my more analytic post on Rich’s death and the way different media responded and the follow-up post on the contribution of radio. 

Note: the para above was added after the original post was completed after I completed the next two posts – sometimes it is a good idea to revisit earlier posts and add in links to updates if you follow up this topic in future posts. This is because readers will “land” in your blogs in all sorts of ways from all sorts of searches and links and you need to create a circulation system that navigates them back and forth through your work.

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One thought on “Adrienne Rich and the fierce politics of poetry

  1. Pingback: Did you hear about Adrienne Rich? « UOW Journalism

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