Adrienne Rich: Contribution as American Poet

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      Adrienne Cecile Rich (1929-2012), was born in Baltimore and educated at Radcliff College, Harvard. She taught many institutions, including Stanford University. She moved to California in 1984. Her early works are Change of the World Diamond Cutters and Other Poems (1955). These were followed by The Snapsothots of a Daughter-in-Law (1963) and turned increasingly to free verse and frank idiom in which she explored feministic themes. Subsequent volumes reveal a powerful ‘positional imagination’ staking its political claims on a universal sense of justice rather than priorities of personal suffering and desire. These include Necessities in Life (1966), Focus (1966), Leaflets (1969), The Will to Change (1971) and Diving into the Wreck (1973) - Her special genius is the metaphor, as it is in her extraordinary work, “Diving Into the Wreck” (1973), evoker a women’s search for identity in terms of diving down to a wreckage of women’s selfhood. The speaker suggests that women must find their way through male - dominated realms. In her poem “The RoofWalker” (1961), dedicated to poet Denise Levertov, Rich imagines poetry writing as a dangerous craft for women.

      The next works are - The Dream of the Common Language (1978). A Wild Patience Has Taken Me This Far (1981), Sources (1983) Your Native Land and Your Life (1986) Time’s Power (1989) and Fox (2001) show her exacting use of dialogue with her poets and artists and resistance figures to bridge the gaps of history. She has brought poetry out of academy into the lives of the ordinary people and their struggles. She writes with candor and urgency about sexuality, race, motherhood, politics, identity and relations between women, seeking to reclaim an active subject position within the oppressor’s language. Arts of the Possible is a collection of essays and conversations on American politics, violence and imperialism. With Moore, Bishop may be placed in a “cool” female poetic tradition harking back to Emily Dickinson, in comparison with the “hot” poems of Plath, Sexton, and Adrienne Rich. Though Rich began by writing poems in traditional poetic form and meter, her works, embody strong emotions, particularly those written after she became an ardent feminist in the 1960s.

      The force behind Lowell’s mature achievement and much of contemporary poetry lies in the experimentation begun in the 1950s by a number of poets. They may be divided into five loose schools, identified by Donald Allen in his The New American Poetry (1960), the first anthology to present the work of poets who were previously neglected by the critical and academic communities. What followed was the ‘experimental poets’. Inspired by jazz and abstract expressionist painting, most of the experimental writers are a generation younger than Lowell. They have tended to be bohemian, counter culture intellectuals who disassociated themselves from universities and outspokenly criticized, “bourgeois” American society. Their poetry is daring, original, and sometimes shocking. In its search for new values, it claims affinity with the archaic world of myth, legend, and traditional societies such as those of the American Indian. The forms are looser, more spontaneous, organic.

      They arise from the subject matter and the feeling of the poet as the poem is written, and from the natural pauses of the spoken language. As Allen Ginsberg writes “first thought best thought noted in “Improvised Poetics,” The next, the ‘Black Mountain School’ centered around Black Mountain College, an experimental liberal arts college in Asheville, North Carolina, where poets Charles Olson, Robert Duncan, and Robert Greeley taught in the early 1950s. Ed Dorn, Joel Oppenheimer, and Jonathan Williams studied there, and Paul Blackburn, Larry Eigner, and Denise Levertov published work in the school’s magazines, Origin and the Black Mountain Review. The Black Mountain School is linked with Charles Olson’s theory of “projective verse,” which insisted on an open form based on the spontaneity of the breath pause in speech and the typewriter line in writing.

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