Adrienne Rich: RIP 1929 – 2012

(This article is a work in progress. Over the next couple days I will add to this posting.)

 

A poem by Adrienne Rich, from her collection “The School Among the Ruins”.

To Have Written the Truth

To have spent hours stalking the whine of an insect

have smashed its body in blood on a door

then lain sleepless with rage

To have played in the ship’s orchestra crossing

the triangle route

dissonant arpeggios under cocktail clatter

to have written the truth in a lightning flash

then crushed those words in your hand

balled-up and smoking

with self-absolution

easygoing pal of youth

leans in the doorframe

Kid, you always

took yourself so hard!

2003

by Adrienne Rich

Adrienne Rich often wrote about death and the human condition. Shortly after her divorce, her husband committed suicide. During this time in her life, Rich became an outspoken feminist and anti-war activist. Yet, when I read her poems, I also feel like Rich is in someway acting like a psychologist trying to work out human pathologies.

In 2005 I was among one hundred fans crammed into a tiny bookstore in Marin, California, to listen to the 76-year-old poet rail against the “War on Terrorism” and the U.S. Government in general. In between her sharp criticism, she would read a poem or two, and then go back into her outrage with U.S. policies, covering a wide rage of issues. Yet, throughout the lecture and reading, Rich maintained a stillness and confidence which made her passionate performance not one of anger, but one of a combination of stirring intellect, honestly, and raw emotion. It was amazing how a 76-year-old woman can awaken an audience of all ages, simply with her words.

According to Poets.com:

“In 1997, she refused the National Medal of Arts, stating that “I could not accept such an award from President Clinton or this White House because the very meaning of art, as I understand it, is incompatible with the cynical politics of this administration.” She went on to say: “[Art] means nothing if it simply decorates the dinner table of the power which holds it hostage.””

Adrienne was the best example of a poet that lived her life believing, and proving, she could say and do anything and no one was going to hold her back.  Rich was an activist, poet, and inspiration to many. RIP, Master Poet Adrienne Rich.

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