View Full Version : Adrienne Rich (19292012)

03-29-2012, 02:42 AM

She was one of the first poets whose words made my heart falter.

While some of her politics are very different from my take, many years later, her essay from 1980 "Compulsory Heterosexuality and Lesbian Existence (http://www.terry.uga.edu/~dawndba/4500compulsoryhet.htm)" had a very profound effect on me, since I read it as a student, just figuring out what it meant to be a woman and an adult in a culture that wanted to restrict my choices.

Rich became more moderate with time, but there are some powerful ideas in that piece, and even those I didn't agree with, made me think very hard about how I wanted to be.

Her poetry is incredible. "Diving into the Wreck" was the first thing of hers I read. You can find it here:


The world is a poorer place for her loss, but richer for her words.

Requiescat in pace Adrienne.

03-29-2012, 09:21 AM
Shaken to come online and read Adrienne Rich had died -- tributes coming in across the Internet. I remember these lines from her poem Planetarium written for the astronomer Caroline Herschel:

I have been standing all my life in the
direct path of a battery of signals
the most accurately transmitted most
untranslatable language in the universe
I am a galactic cloud so deep so invo-
luted that a light wave could take 15
years to travel through me And has
taken I am an instrument in the shape
of a woman trying to translate pulsations
into images for the relief of the body
and the reconstruction of the mind.


Alessandra Kelley
03-29-2012, 03:45 PM
Sorry to see her go.

Manuel Royal
03-29-2012, 05:09 PM
A long and fruitful life. Lot of chutzpah:

Selected for the National Medal for the Arts in 1997, the highest award given to artists, Rich refused it.

“The radical disparities of wealth and power in America are widening at a devastating rate,” she wrote in a letter addressed to then-President Clinton. “A president cannot meaningfully honor certain token artists while the people at large are so dishonored.”

03-29-2012, 07:30 PM
I frequently say that I don't much like poetry.

I liked Adrienne Rich. I'm glad she was who she was.

03-29-2012, 11:56 PM
I'm not particularly thrilled with her views on transgender people, but I think overall she was a positive influence and helped women as a whole considerably. Including, whether she meant to or not, transgender women like me.

Rest in peace.

03-31-2012, 02:06 AM
I was saddened to learn of her passing. She was a wonderful poet and had a huge impact on feminist scholarship (even though she is justifiably critiqued). As a feminist and a writer, I wouldn't be as developed if I hadn't read her work.

03-31-2012, 04:34 AM
Ms. Rich
& know
your poetry lives on

03-31-2012, 05:31 AM
Here's another of hers that I love:


I wake up in your bed. I know I have been dreaming.
Much earlier, the alarm broke us from each other,
you've been at your desk for hours. I know what I dreamed:
our friend the poet comes into my room
where I've been writing for days,
drafts, carbons, poems are scattered everywhere,
and I want to show her one poem
which is the poem of my life. But I hesitate,
and wake. You've kissed my hair
to wake me. I dreamed you were a poem,
I say, a poem I wanted to show someone...
and I laugh and fall dreaming again
of the desire to show you to everyone I love,
to move openly together
in the pull of gravity, which is not simple,
which carries the feathered grass a long way down the upbreathing air.

Adrienne Rich from Twenty-One Love Poems.

Rich initially published these in a chapbook; they were commercially published in 1976.

03-31-2012, 10:33 AM
What has struck me in the last couple of days has been the number of tributes and obits right across the Internet. Like many others, I moved away from Rich's gender essentialism (very much part of Second Wave feminism) but I never thought of her as transphobic. Leslie Feinberg and Minnie Bruce Pratt cited Rich in acknowledgments and I assumed she had not concurred with Janice Raymond's views or have changed her views.

Rich was onvolved through the 1990s in solidarity with oppressed women in South Africa, helped women publish and supported funding initiatives for black writers..

A great interview here with her from 1994, very incisive on writing and the establishment: http://www.english.illinois.edu/maps/poets/m_r/rich/progressive.htm

03-31-2012, 10:52 AM
Rich struggled with scars from the 1970s, in particular, and part of that was first the move towards separatism, and then, the rebound (and greater understanding) away from separatism. There was a definite element of loathing towards anything perceived as at all in any way "masculine" for many separatists then, and I'm afraid that colored everything, to the point where I can remember communes where male children were placed with relatives as soon as they were weaned.

I don't actually believe Raymond's thank you in her acknowledgement of a 1979 book means much of anything at all. 33 years is a long time—Raymond's attitude, and the quote she used from Rich was, frankly, and quite unfortunately, on the more thoughtful end of the spectrum for the era. I do think, based especially on various interviews and publications since then, that Rich got a little more clueful, and perceptive.

In 1979 it wasn't even a little uncommon for people to assert in mainstream and even academic publications that lesbians wanted to be men, and gay men wanted to be women . . . I know that makes no sense, but that kind of crap was in college psychology text books. It was perceived as absolutely true.

Imagine what idiotic assumptions would have been made about gender dysphoria, in that kind of a dyslogistic and crude environment.

Raymond is . . . non compos mentis is the kindest thing I can say. Certainly she is lacking in intellectual rigor. I think her transphobia is related to her misogyny. She makes even less sense now than she did then.

I'm sorry for the pain that she, and Rich, and others have caused. I know that doesn't help, but honestly gender is in our hearts and minds, not in this too too solid flesh.

04-07-2012, 09:30 PM
I'm so sad to hear that she's gone.

If I'm lonely
it's with the rowboat ice-fast on the shore
in the last red light of the year
that knows what it is, that knows it's neither
ice nor mud nor winter light
but wood, with a gift for burning

Vale, and well done.

ETA: the quote is from her "Song" (http://southerncrossreview.org/41/rich.htm)

Robin Bayne
06-06-2012, 05:00 AM
That is sad. Read her in college.

06-06-2012, 06:11 AM
May she R.I.P.