Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Adrienne Rich Died Today

Adrienne Rich, a poet of towering reputation and towering rage, whose work — distinguished by an unswerving progressive vision and a dazzling, empathic ferocity — brought the oppression of women and lesbians to the forefront of poetic discourse and kept it there for nearly a half-century, died on Tuesday at her home in Santa Cruz, Calif. She was 82. (New York Times)

While thinking constantly about the death of my brother John of AIDS, I heard Adrienne Rich read at the Woman's Place Bookstore in Salt Lake.

11 November 1993

            I don’t want to know how he tracked them
            along the Appalachian Trail, hid close
            by their tent, pitched as they thought in seclusion
            killing one woman, the other
            dragging herself into town his defense they had teased his loathing
            of what they were
            Adrienne Rich, from An Atlas of the Difficult World
I heard Rich read from her new book of essays last night at the Women’s Place Bookstore in Salt Lake. A small woman with short grey hair and a stiff leg. She walks with a thick, rubber-footed plexiglass cane. Her power resides in her voice, controlled and set free by thin lips.
While she spoke about the drive to connect and about the dream of a common language, I watched a man in a baseball cap push along the side of the crowd until he was right up front. He had a small tape recorder in his right hand, in his left a manila envelope. He stood there, quivered there, his eyes wild and his elbows twitching. It felt dangerous to me, awkward that he would invade Rich’s space. A red light blinked on his tape recorder. He took off his coat and sat on the floor.
A small white spider clambered through the black-and-grey hair of the woman in front of me, returning to the topmost hairs after every downward foray. Instinctively upward. Up to where a web can be useful, up to where it won’t be crushed on the ground. But what good the instinct when the spider is climbing on an upright human, an erect, movable island?
I braced myself to jump on the man if he rushed Rich.
“We must use what we have to invent what we desire.”
Yellow post-it notes marked her book.
“--To track your own desire, in your own language, is not an isolated task. You yourself are marked by family, gender, caste, landscape, the struggle to make a living, or the absence of such a struggle. The rich and the poor are equally marked. Poetry is never free of these markings even when it appears to be. Look into the images.”
            To track my own desire, my brother’s desire. To read familial marks of gender and landscape. To look into the images.

The rubrics on the bookshelves read like a poem with a couple of tragic turns, some humor, and final pragmatism:
Women’s Studies
Lesbian Fiction

1 comment:

michael morrow said...

a glaring point I find totally interesting (and lends me inspiration) about the most powerful artists across history, is the painful and challenging trials that seem to inform much of their contribution to society

oh that I could translate my life even a speck as powerful as they have theirs