By Gary Berg-Cross
The Headline in March 2012 read, “Influential Poet Adrienne Rich Dies At 82. I hadn’t stumbled on Baltimorean Adrienne but my morning was brightened from knowing her work and life as a pioneering poet (National Book Award in 1973 for the collection "Diving into the Wreck") and social critic. I wish I had hear her speak.
From the stories I learnt that Rich was widely acclaimed for multiple volumes of poetry and prose, and hers was an important voice about the oppression of women and lesbians maintained by old myths ... that perpetuate the battle between the sexes. With books like Of Woman Born: Motherhood as Experience and Institution, she was a key figure in the women’s movement and a fierce critic of the powerful and establishment. In that book Rich wrote:
"we need to understand the power and powerlessness embodied in motherhood in patriarchal culture."
In 1997, she famously declined to accept the government’s National Medal of Arts as a protest against the Clinton administration, writing that art "means nothing if it simply decorates the dinner table of power which holds it hostage."Here thoughts, I think, includes Humanist values such as in On relationships
"A long-lived relationship is about so many things. It is such a dense and complex process — always a process — and it's not to be summed up. It's not to be turned into some kind of vignette. If we are serious, we also have to recognize that even the longest and richest and densest relationship must end, and we see it around us. We see it in that inevitability of time's power, if you will."
Her life and thought is part of a human fabric we need as part of our movement against myths that maintain an irrational culture. You can see her fusion of art and politics and hear her concern for our modern culture and its values confronting the natural world drowning out human conversation in the poem, "What Kind of Times Are These."
"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 /
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." Adrienne Rich
We see her truth in her thought on poetry:
A poetry of ideological commitment must enter the heart and mind, become as real as one’s body, as vital as life itself—that’s what makes it poetry.