Adrienne Rich, Feminist Poet And Essayist Dies At 82

Poet and pioneer Adrienne Rich has died. She was 82 years-old.

Rich gave voice to a full-throated feminism that refused to be silenced. In her own words:

When those who have power to name and to socially construct reality choose not to see you or hear you, whether you are dark-skinned, old, disabled, female, or speak with a different accent or dialect than theirs, when someone with the authority of a teacher, say, describes the world and you are not in it, there is a moment of psychic disequilibrium, as if you looked in to a mirror and saw nothing. Yet you know  you exist and others like you, that this is a game with mirrors. It takes some strength of soul—and not just individual strength, but collective understanding—to resist this void, this nonbeing, into which you are thrust, and to stand up, demanding to be seen and heard.

From “Invisibility in Academe” (1984) in Blood, Bread, and Poetry (1986)

As a writer Rich was as impressive as a poet as she was an essayist and social critic. Her “Of Woman Born” remains a foundational feminist critique of pregnancy, childbirth and motherhood. Rich also won a National Book Award for her collection of poems “Diving into the Wreck. For Rich art and politics could not be separated, nor would she have permitted it even if it were possible.

Rich leaves a legacy too large to summarize in any good way here. Women’s studies departments and disciplines launched because of Rich’s words and her vision. Her unwavering insistence of speaking truth to power came back to a quest to find the self for all of those cut out of power and disenfranchised by patriarchy. In the end Rich leaves behind generations of feminists that too will not be silenced. And for that we are eternally in her debt.

We are, I am, you are
by cowardice or courage
the one who find our way
back to this scene
carrying a knife, a camera
a book of myths
in which
our names do not appear.

From Diving into the Wreck


Photo from kkendall via flickr.

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16 comments

Rin S.
Rin S.3 years ago

RIP. What an amazing woman..

Emily M.
Emily M.3 years ago

I had the pleasure of meeting her in college. She encouraged my friends and I that our efforts to increase feminist principles on campus were important, even if they were met with ignorance and backlash. She was truly a fantastic woman.

KS Goh
KS Goh3 years ago

Thanks for the article.

Carole Cherne
Carole Cherne3 years ago

A wild and wise beautiful soul.

Jason S.
Jason S.3 years ago

Good Posting, Thanks

Karla T.
Karla Tonella3 years ago

These three women are all important poets and feminists and all are now dead.
They should be identified! They are:
Audre Lorde, Meridel Lesueur, Adrienne Rich in 1980

Rachel Verde
Rachel Verde3 years ago

"Compulsory Heterosexuality and Lesbian Existence" is one of my favorite feminist essays. She will be missed.

Bonnie B.
Bonnie B.3 years ago

One of my favorite poets! I got to hear her read and meet her many years ago. She will be greatly missed by many! and thank you for quoting from one of my favorite poems.

Alisha W.
.3 years ago

Aunt Jennifer’s tigers prance across a screen,
Bright topaz denizens of a world of green.
They do not fear the men beneath the tree;
They pace in sleek chivalric certainty.

Aunt Jennifer’s finger fluttering through her wool
Find even the ivory needle hard to pull.
The massive weight of Uncle’s wedding band
Sits heavily upon Aunt Jennifer’s hand.

When Aunt is dead, her terrified hands will lie
Still ringed with ordeals she was mastered by.
The tigers in the panel that she made
Will go on prancing, proud and unafraid.

This is my favorite poem by Adrienne Rich. Even though she didn't live to see a time when all the "tigers" were unafraid, I hope we will learn from her life and voice, and honor her by continuing to work towards a more equal and tollerant society.

Marg H.
Marg H.3 years ago

" ... with the hands of a sister I would leave your hands
open or closed as they prefer to lie
and ask no more of who or why or wherefore "

A. Rich - A Wild Patience Has Taken Me This Far.

For my friend.