Thursday, March 29, 2012

May your poems never rest, Adrienne Rich

Adrienne Rich.  I have her Twenty Four Love Poems and A Wild Patience Has Taken Me Thus Far on my shelf -- two books that I bought when I was young enough to love a poetry (or a poet, or anything, for that matter) without hesitation or interest in codifying or pacifying that love.

I haven't read her books in years. Mostly I've been afraid to open them up and find that they are merely, as NPR so classily put it, Feminist.  But I think I know better.

I saw her read in Middlebury way back when. Even then her skin was papery and see-through, covered in a net of wrinkles. I thought she must be the oldest person I'd ever seen. She was probably in her early 70s, or late 60s. She was also beautiful.

Over at AVClub, Steve Hyden has been musing philosophical about what it means to be a fan: "you end up forming a weird, sacred, and irrational bond that’s entirely one-sided and exists only in your mind." It's true. I loved Adrienne Rich with the full understanding that I didn't know or necessarily understand her. It was complicated even more by the fact that I was (and still am) male -- which would have made any actual interaction with her tense, I suspect (at one point she was banning men from attending her readings. A professor I had once told me he stood outside the room just to hear her).

But her poems made me want to be a better person, and they made me want a better world, and more importantly, they made me love her and love language.

It's customary to wish that the dead have a peaceful rest. I don't know where Adrienne Rich is, now, or if she is. I don't know if she exists enough to rest. But I don't really know her anyway -- I know her poems. And I hope they don't rest. I hope they keep affecting and infecting readers for a long, long time.

2 comments:

Bernie said...

Now I'm going to have to find some of her poems, she sounds facinating.

Christopher Michel said...

This is one of my favorites: http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/15228