Adrienne Rich Essays

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Rich’s poems also became increasingly experimental, employing longer, contrapuntal lines.

She adapted the ghazal, a Persian form traditionally used for expressions of love, to convey social and political comment.

The impulse behind the search, however, remains the same: finding a way to “reconstitute the world” (The Dream of a Common Language, 1978).

Rich advocates a woman-centered vision of creative energies that she aligns with lesbianism in her essays “‘It Is the Lesbain in Us'” (On Lies, Secrets, and Silence, 1979) and “Compulsory Heterosexuality and Lesbian Experience” (Blood, Bread, and Poetry, 1986).

Rich’s next three books – Necessities of Life (1966), Leaflets (1969), and The Will to Change (1971) – reflect the social upheaval of the late 1960s and early 1970s.

Like other poets of her generation, such as Denise Levertov, Robert Bly and W. Merwin, she wrote poems protesting the Vietnam War, particularly in Leaflets.Language, too, remains on trial for its duplicitous nature.The book’s title poem, one of the 20th century’s most significant poems, uses an androgynous diver to examine a culture wrecked by its limited view of history and myth.Informed more distinctly by a feminist analysis of history and culture, Diving into the Wreck (1973) marks another turning point in Rich’s career.In it she expresses her anger regarding women’s position in Western culture more directly and alludes to problematic dualities or images of Otherness.At the same time, Rich began to distrust her medium because of its close ties to patriarchical culture.“This is the oppressor’s language // yet I need it to talk to you,” she writes in “The Burning of Paper Instead of Children,” a five-poem sequence with prose segments in The Will to Change.She also critcizes the impact of patriarchical culture on motherhood in Of Woman Born: Motherhood as Experience and Institution (1976).Other essays as well as poems in The Dream of a Common Language and A Wild Patience Has Taken Me This Far (1981) offer important new readings of female literary and historical figures.Rich’s essays and poetry from the mid-1970s to the early 1980s have been considered her most radical, in part because in them she rejects her earlier use of androgyny and seems to make a case for feminist separatism.“There are words I cannot choose again: / humanism androgyny,” she writes in “Natural Resources,” in which a female miner replaces the androgynous diver of “Diving into the Wreck.” Rich defines and addresses her villain more clearly: a patriarchical culture that inherently devalues anything female or feminine.

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