Monday, November 16, 2009

I am trying to invent this post while simultaneously making fried rice, so bear with my flightiness. But I want to at least mention the book I quoted from yesterday, the one I never look into but opened at random. It's a Norton critical edition of Adrienne Rich's poetry, and I should say at the outset that Rich is a poet I have never cared a speck about. This is not to imply that I actively dislike her work, just that I've never craved it, or puzzled over it, or felt the need to reread even a single poem. My detachment from Rich is odd, I think, because she is often bracketed with the generation of women poets that includes Sexton and Plath: poets who have mattered to me greatly at certain points in my life. These women are (or would have been) roughly my mother's age, and I have watched them with the sort of intensity that a daughter gives to eavesdropping on her mother, learning, in bits and pieces, fits and starts, what she thinks might be the Real Story.

Plath and Sexton have given me all kinds of angles onto the Real Story. Rich has never given me a one. But I don't necessarily blame that on either of us so much as I do on the word political, which critics are always using as a label for Rich's work and which, as soon as I hear it ascribed to a poet, makes me want to walk straight out the door. The term leads me suspect I'll be reading a Gloria Steinem or Betty Friedan polemic instead of poetry; and frankly, I don't go to poems for feminist reassurance or camaraderie or outrage, even though I may well vote on those platforms. This is not to say that politics should be separated from poetry. What is Hayden Carruth's poem about Eichmann if not political? Yet he comes to the politics backwards, as it were, through the window of himself.

And maybe Rich is doing that as well, so I think I owe her the chance to show me what she does. In other words, expect some blat about Adrienne Rich this week. I'll bring her along to my Massachusetts gig, and we'll see what happens.


charlotte gordon said...

As usual, I resonate with you about Rich. But I am glad she exists and am glad you are looking into her more closely. I will happily listen to what you find. THis time tomorrow, you will be here!

Kate Meo said...

Rich can be a little inscrutable - maybe it was the sexual orientation thing in her generation, maybe it's just her. I'm fond of some stuff from Diving into the Wreck, especially "Song" but some of the later stuff, like Atlas of the Difficult World and that last book left me kind of cold, too. Enjoy