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Welcome to the pub all, regular patrons and new guests alike, for our 38th Open Link Night. This is hedgewitch (Joy Ann Jones) and I’m  womaning the bar, serving a word-thirsty crowd of poets come to share their own brews and swig a stein or a glass or a mug of all the very dVerse offerings on tap tonight.

If you follow the news at all, you may have heard that we lost a prominent writer of our times this week. I’m talking about  American poet and essayist Adrienne Rich, who began writing poetry as a child in an upper middle class Baltimore, Maryland household, published her first work as a young Radcliffe graduate, transitioned into activism during the Viet Nam War era, and died last week at the age of 82. Poet, feminist, outspoken politically and immensely gifted, Rich won many awards, and turned down several very prominent ones, including The National Medal of The Arts in 1997, for ethical and political reasons, saying in her refusal letter that Art “…means nothing if it simply decorates the dinner table of power which holds it hostage.”

Some may know her from her most anthologized early poem, Aunt Jennifer’s Tigers, or another prominent longer poem, Diving into the Wreck, also the title of  her 1973 collection, which won The National Book Award in 1974 . While I had read these poems and a few others, sadly, I found that I knew little of Rich, so I’m taking this opportunity to learn a bit more about her and share it at the pub, where poetry is always in the central spotlight. 

In the wake of her death, a lot of obituaries and write-ups have emerged, a few of which I’ve cited and linked below for those interested in finding out more about her.

The New York Times says, “Widely read, widely anthologized, widely interviewed and widely taught, Ms. Rich was for decades among the most influential writers of the feminist movement and one of the best-known American public intellectuals. She wrote two dozen volumes of poetry and more than a half-dozen of prose…

“Triply marginalized — as a woman, a lesbian and a Jew — Ms. Rich was concerned in her poetry, and in her many essays, with identity politics long before the term was coined…

“For Ms. Rich, the personal, the political and the poetical were indissolubly linked; her body of work can be read as a series of urgent dispatches from the front. While some critics called her poetry polemical, she remained celebrated for the unflagging intensity of her vision, and for the constant formal reinvention that kept her verse — often jagged and colloquial, sometimes purposefully shocking, always controlled in tone, diction and pacing — sounding like that of few other poets…”

She has an extensive biography at The Poetry Foundation where you can read several of her poems and articles as well as see her bibliography in full.

NPR Books  also has an in-depth article on her, examining her life, her approach to her work, and her poem Turbulence, from her last book, Tonight No Poetry Will Serve(2010.)

All of Rich’s poems are still under copyright, of course, most to her publisher since the 1960’s, W. W. Norton & Company. so I will leave you with just an excerpt from one of them to whet your appetite, part of her numbered series published in the pamphlet Twenty-One Love Poems (1977),  incorporated into Dream of a Common Language (1978) which seems to me of interest to us as writers:

What kind of beast would turn its life into words?
What atonement is this all about?
–and yet, writing words like these, I’m also living.
Is all this close to the wolverines’ howled signals,
that modulated cantata of the wild?
or, when away from you I try to create you in words,
am I simply using you, like a river or a war?
And how have I used rivers, how have I used wars
to escape writing of the worst thing of all—
not the crimes of others, not even our own death,
but the failure to want our freedom passionately enough
so that blighted elms, sick rivers, massacres would seem
mere emblems of that desecration of ourselves?

by Adrienne Rich, from The Dream of a Common Language. Norton. 1978Audre Lorde, Meridel Lesueur, Adrienne Rich 1980Audre Lorde, Meridel Lesueur, Adrienne Rich 1980
(Ms. Rich is shown far right.)
by k.Kendall on flick’r shared under a Creative Commons 2.0 License

I hope this has gotten you in the mood for some poetry, because that’s what we’re all here for tonight.

If you’re new to the pub and don’t know the drill, here’s how it works:

  • Post a poem on any topic to your blog,
  • Link in the poem you’d like to share (1 per blog, please) by clicking on the Mr.Linky button just below.
  • This opens a new screen where you’ll enter your information, and where you also choose links to read. Once you have pasted your poem’s blog url and entered your name, simply click submit.
  • Don’t forget to let your readers know where you’re linking up and encourage them to participate by including a link to dVerse in your blog post.
  • Visit as many other poems as you like, commenting  as you see fit.
  • Remember, we’re here for each other. Engage your fellow poets, talk, chat, comment, let them know their work is being read, and enjoy the input you also will receive. Feel free to tweet and share on the social media of your choice.
  • Finally, enjoy. We’re here to share, appreciate, and learn from each other.