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
our names do not appear.
Photo from kkendall via flickr.