I’m a bit late with the news, but none the less – one of the heroes of contemporary women’s poetry, the marvellous, incomparable, irreplaceable Adrienne Rich, has died. She was 82.
For those writers of my generation or younger, it’s easy to forget just how damn hard poets like Rich worked to make a space where women poets could write and publish, without the “poetess” tag being used as something to gag us with. She was one of the people who blazed the path – and blazed is exactly the right verb here. A flame that tore through everything in her own life, and left a path that all of us can follow. Light. Certainly heat. And a reminder that something gentle can also be ferocious.
I can’t say anything that won’t be said better elsewhere by other poets (like here, here and here), so I’ll just say this: Go read her poetry. The old, as well as the recent. See how thoroughly she remade herself, and imagine the skill and sheer determination it took to do so. Then go read some of her critical writings – you don’t need to be a feminist (although if you aren’t, what the hell is wrong with you?!) to appreciate her politics, or even a poet to appreciate her poetics. She was amazing. And now she’s dead.
And it feels bleaker and colder to know that.
Click the link to read her most famous poem, Diving into the Wreck.