Thursday, March 29, 2012

Adrienne Rich ( 1929-2012), Poet, Feminist, Shaman

The world is somehow a lesser place with the death of Adrienne Rich yesterday.

A few of her insights, gathered by me:

On learning from our elders:

The danger lies in forgetting what we had. The flow between generations becomes a trickle, grandchildren tape-recording grandparents' memories on special occasions perhaps—no casual storytelling jogged by daily life, there being no shared daily life what with migrations, exiles, diasporas, rendings, the search for work. Or there is a shared daily life riddled with holes of silence.

On the absence of female history:

Of artists dying in childbirth, wise-women charred at the stake,
centuries of books unwritten piled behind these shelves;
and we still have to stare into the absence
of men who would not, women who could not, speak
to our life—this still unexcavated hole
called civilization, this act of translation, this half-world.

On women trying to make it in a man's world:

No woman is really an insider in the institutions fathered by masculine consciousness. When we allow ourselves to believe we are, we lose touch with parts of ourselves defined as unacceptable by that consciousness; with the vital toughness and visionary strength of the angry grandmothers, the shamanesses, the fierce marketwomen of the Ibo's Women's War, the marriage-resisting women silkworkers of prerevolutionary China, the millions of widows, midwives, and the women healers tortured and burned as witches for three centuries in Europe.

On Emily Dickinson:

Narrowed-down by her early editors and anthologists, reduced to quaintness or spinsterish oddity by many of her commentators, sentimentalized, fallen-in-love with like some gnomic Garbo, still unread in the breadth and depth of her full range of work, she was, and is, a wonder to me when I try to imagine myself into that mind.


  1. What a wise woman!

    Her mention of Emily Dickinson reminded me that she was my mother's favourite poet..

    Good that you posted a tribute.

  2. The first quotation you've included is, for me, the most important, WWW. I didn't know of this lady. Sad loss.

    The fading from mass consciousness of "the way it was", not only for women, before emancipation, but regarding what World War, and fascism can do in countries previously thought of as civilised. As generations who remember these things die off, their memories with them, it becomes more and more likely that history will repeat (or rhyme).
    Think Santorum, think the danger of a World War, now with even more horrendous weaponry and technology available than ever before.

    We MUST remember!

  3. Nice tribute. We must never forget where we came from, but forge on to make life better for all.

  4. How very sad. Some of her writings had a great influence on me when I was a young lad getting my head around the new feminist movement.

  5. I've loved her poetry for a long time. I didn't know she'd died, I am so glad you wrote about her here. I shall have to reread her poems now, to remind me of her.

  6. I didn't know of her at all and it seems that was my loss. Another great mind I was unifluenced by. What a shame. I have many great holes in my education.

  7. I encountered her in a woman's study class and while not a true poetry buff was much taken with her work.

  8. I too admired her for being different than Germaine Greer and Gloria Steinem. More my style! A nice tribute.


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