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Thursday, March 29, 2012

We celebrate courageous activist, poet, essayist, teacher — Adrienne Rich

L-R: Writers
Audre Lorde
Meridel Le Sueur
Adrienne Rich
(Austin Texas, 1980)
Her words and work our celebration
Compiled and edited 
by Carolyn Bennett

“There’s a place between two stands of trees where the grass grows uphill / and the old revolutionary road breaks off into shadows / near a meeting-house abandoned by the persecuted / who disappeared into those shadows.

“I've walked there picking mushrooms at the edge of dread, but don't be fooled / this isn’t a Russian poem, this is not somewhere else but here, / our country moving closer to its own truth and dread, / its own ways of making people disappear.

“I won’t tell you where the place is, the dark mesh of the woods / meeting the unmarked strip of light— / ghost-ridden crossroads, leafmold paradise: / I know already who wants to buy it, sell it, make it disappear.

Adrienne Rich
“And I won’t tell you where it is, so why do I tell you / anything? Because you still listen, because in times like these / to have you listen at all, it's necessary / to talk about trees” [What Kind of Times Are These by Adrienne Rich]

She chronicled her journey in poetry and prose. A “critical optimist” … she called herself,

formed by our racial legacy and by the Vietnam War … [who]  became an American Skeptic — not as to the long search for justice and dignity, which is part of all human history — but in the light of my nation's leading role in demoralizing and destabilizing that search, here at home and around the world.

Perhaps just such a passionate skepticism, neither cynical nor nihilistic, is the ground for continuing.

Writer and teacher Adrienne Cecile Rich (May 16, 1929- March 27, 2012) was born in Baltimore, Maryland, and lived in Santa Cruz, California (USA). On her courageous, activist journey, Adrienne Rich refused in 1997 to accept the National Medal of Arts in protest of the U.S. House of Representatives’ vote to end funding for the National Endowment for the Arts and other policies concerning the arts and literature set out by the William (Bill) Jefferson Clinton government. Her words —

‘I could not accept such an award from President Clinton or this White House,’” Rich is reported saying, “‘because the very meaning of art, as I understand it, is incompatible with the cynical politics of this administration.… [Art] means nothing if it simply decorates the dinner table of the power which holds it hostage.’” 

Through readings of her poetry and other activities during the 2000s, Adrienne Rich stood among anti-war activists protesting the then-“threat’ of U.S. war on Iraq. A panel of judges awarding her the 2003 Yale Bollingen Prize for American Poetry applauded Rich’s  “‘honesty, at once ferocious, humane; her deep learning and her continuous poetic exploration and awareness of multiple selves.’”

We celebrate this outstanding intellectual, writer, activist who leaves a seven-decades legacy in work and words.

Sources and notes
‘What Kind of Times Are These’ © 2002, 1995 by Adrienne Rich, from The Fact of a Doorframe: Selected Poems 1950-2001 by Adrienne Rich. Source: Dark Fields of the Republic: Poems 1991-1995 http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/181516

Some of Adrienne Rich’s writings:

Nonfiction books
On Lies, Secrets and Silence: Selected Prose (1966–1978, 1979)
Blood, Bread, and Poetry: Selected Prose (1979–1985, 1986 including essay ‘Compulsory Heterosexuality and Lesbian Existence’)
What Is Found There: Notebooks on Poetry and Politics (1993)
Arts of the Possible: Essays and Conversations (2001)
Poetry and Commitment: An Essay (2007)
A Human Eye: Essays on Art in Society, 1997–2008, 2009

 Poetry collections
The Will to Change: Poems 1968-1970 (1971)
Diving into the Wreck (1973)  
The Dream of a Common Language ( 1978)
A Wild Patience Has Taken Me this Far: Poems 1978-1981 (1982, (reprint 1993)
An Atlas of the Difficult World: Poems 1988-1991 (1991)
Dark Fields of the Republic: Poems, 1991-1995 (1995)
The School Among the Ruins: Poems, 2000-2004 (2004)
Telephone Ringing in the Labyrinth: Poems 2004–2006 (2007)
Tonight No Poetry Will Serve: Poems 2007-2010 (2010)

‘What Kind of Times Are These’ © 2002, 1995 by Adrienne Rich, from The Fact of a Doorframe: Selected Poems 1950-2001 by Adrienne Rich. Source: Dark Fields of the Republic: Poems 1991-1995 http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/181516

Adrienne Rich — Career (a 2012 update)
  • Poet and writer, Conductor of workshop YM-YWHA Poetry Center, New York, NY, 1966-67;
  • Visiting lecturer, Swarthmore College, Swarthmore, PA, 1967-69;
  • Adjunct professor in writing division, Columbia University, Graduate School of the Arts, New York, NY, 1967-69;
  • City College of the City University of New York, New York, NY, lecturer in SEEK English program, 1968-70, instructor in creative writing program, 1970-71, assistant professor of English, 1971-72, and 1974-75;
  • Fannie Hurst Visiting Professor of Creative Literature, Brandeis University, Waltham, MA, 1972-73;
  • Lucy Martin Donnelly fellow, Bryn Mawr College, Bryn Mawr, PA, 1975;
  • Professor of English, Douglass College, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ, 1976-78; A. D. White Professor-at-Large, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, 1982-85;
  • Clark Lecturer and distinguished visiting professor, Scripps College, Claremont, CA, 1983, 1984;
  • Visiting professor, San Jose State University, San Jose, CA, 1984-96;
  • Burgess Lecturer, Pacific Oaks College, Pasadena, CA, 1986;
  • Professor of English and feminist studies, Stanford University, Stanford, CA, 1986-92;
  • Marjorie Kovler visiting fellow, University of Chicago, Chicago, IL, 1989;
  • National Director, The National Writers’ Voice Project, 1992 — Member of advisory board, Boston Woman's Fund, National Writers Union, Sisterhood in Support of Sisters in South Africa and New Jewish Agenda. http://www.poetryfoundation.org/bio/adrienne-rich
Adrienne Rich 1929–2012, http://www.poetryfoundation.org/bio/adrienne-rich

Image at Wikipedia: L-R: Writers Audre Lorde, Meridel Le Sueur, Adrienne Rich (Austin Texas, 1980)

Pen and paper image: http://bookofhov.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/09/pen.paper_in6a.jpg


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