Embracing the world with positive creativity since Sept 2007.
1986 Associated Press photo of Adrienne Rich in Chicago holding award certificate for the Ruth Lily Poetry Prize.
It is a very rare thing for a poet to embody simultaneously the classical and modern sensibilities that defined Adrienne Rich (May 16, 1929 - March 27, 2012). It might have had something to do with the physician father who encouraged her literary inclinations, or the pianist-composer mother who passed on to her daughter a gift for creative construction. Whatever the catalyst may have been, it proved one of the great events of 20th century poetry and essays. From the time W.H. Auden selected Rich’s A Change of World in 1951 as winner of the Yale Series of Younger Poets competition throughout the publication of nearly two dozen more books of poetry and prose, she mapped out the intricate meanings of all it meant to be woman, human, and brilliant.
With the many awards presented to honor her life and work, and with roughly 20 volumes of poetry on the market upon her death, finding samples of Rich’s poetry (for those unfamiliar with it) is not difficult. What is offered here is an excerpt from her 1993 essay, “Someone is Writing a Poem.” As you read it, you will see how a simple rearrangement of the words from the structure of paragraph into one of stanzas could easily reshape the text into a poem. Such flexibility of language and command of aesthetics is a testimony to her many intellectual gifts:
“Someone is writing a poem. Words are being set down in a force field. It’s as if the words themselves have magnetic charges; they veer together or in polarity, they swerve against each other. Part of the force field, the charge, is the working history of the words themselves, how someone has known them, used them, doubted and relied on them in a life. Part of the movement among the words belongs to sound—the guttural, the liquid, the choppy, the drawn-out, the breathy, the visceral, the downlight. The theater of any poem is a collection of decisions about space and time—how are these words to lie on the page, with what pauses, what headlong motion, what phrasing, how can they meet the breath of the someone who comes along to read them? And in part the field is charged by the way images swim into the brain through written language: swan, kettle, icicle, ashes, scab, tamarack, tractor, veil, slime, teeth, freckle.” —Adrienne Rich from SOMEONE IS WRITING A POEM
Many a “someone” is currently writing poetry in recognition of Rich’s life and many more shall likely write in the future in honor of the creative inspiration she brought into the world and left here as a gift for all.