Thursday, January 17, 2013

In the Parlor with Literature, Poetry & Prose: Adrienne Rich

Over the years, I had the privilege of meeting and hearing the poet Adrienne Rich. Her work was and is very important to me. So when she died last year, like many others, I felt that her death was a personal loss. She was a writer of tremendous integrity.

For those of you who don’t know Rich’s work, she was an outspoken artist who championed the equality for all people. More than that, she was equal in her opposition to the ways in which American political culture devalued the citizens of this country while carrying on policies that imperiled people around the globe. In turning down the National Medal of the Arts from President Bill Clinton, she said that art was “incompatible with the cynical politics of this Administration.” She went on to write in her letter declining the award to then NEA chair, Jane Alexander, “The radical disparities of wealth and power in America are widening at a devastating rate. A President cannot meaningfully honor certain token artists while the people at large are so dishonored.”

In more than 25 books of poetry and essays, she courageously challenged the depictions of women, wrote frankly about sexuality, championed the work of other writers, and urged her readers not to be boxed in to a view of the world seen only through the prism of popular media.

Although she produced a large body of work, it is not uncommon when an author dies that there is a resurgence of interest in their work. So it was with great joy that a collection of her work Later Poems: Selected and New 1971-2012 was published at the end of last year. This collection selected by Rich includes work from 12 volumes of poetry from Diving into the Wreck in 1971 to Tonight No Poetry Will Serve, as well as 10 new poems. It is a wonderful addition to any library providing readers with an extensive sampling of the work of one of America’s finest poets.

Here is Rich reading "What Kind of Times Are These."
by Deb Morris


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