Feminism Is: Adrienne Rich — Feminist Champion

October 3, 2014

Despite being marginalized as a woman, a Jew, and a lesbian, Adrienne Rich‘s volumes of poetry sold nearly 800,000 copies.

In my favorite, “Diving Into the Wreck,” Rich describes us women as carrying:

a book of myths
in which
our names do not appear.

She also wrote some influential essays, including a study of motherhood, “Of Woman Born,” and “Compulsory Heterosexuality and Lesbian Existence.”  When she was chosen for the National Book Award, she refused to accept until she was permitted to do so along with Audre Lorde and Alice Walker on behalf of women everywhere.  But she flatly declined the National Medal of Art, saying that the USA honors a few token artists while dishonoring Americans as a whole.

She was partnered for 30 years with Jamaican author Michelle Cliff, who was featured in “Home Girls: A Black Feminist Anthology.”

Rich‘s reason for publishing her work was what she considered the goal of feminists everywhere: to create a society free of domination and therefore free of one-way submission.  When I met her at a Modern Language Association discussion, I was so moved by her greatness of spirit that I could not speak and burst into tears.  Compassionately, she told me that when she wrote, she always faced her shelves of books by women — they gave her strength and inspiration.

Read five of her poems included in The Nation‘s obituary.

Read a few more poems linked from her obituary published in The New Yorker.

posted by Virginia Ramey Mollenkott

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