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Remembrances of Adrienne Rich Abound

By Harriet Staff

“What kind of beast would turn its life into words? / What atonement is this all about? / — and yet, writing words like these, I’m also living” (from “Love Poem VII”). Of course, there are plenty of outstanding people and places writing tributes to the sad passing of Adrienne Rich. We’d like to point to, in no particular order:

PennSound

The Guardian

Lambda Literary Foundation

The New Yorker

Huffington Post

Coldfront

The New York Times obituary

The New York Times’s Arts Beat Blog looks at various reviews of Rich’s work, including those written by Margaret Atwood and William Logan.

The Academy of American Poets found a great recording in their archives.

The University of Chicago Press has Rich’s letter declining the National Medal for the Arts. (“There is no simple formula for the relationship of art to justice. But I do know that art—in my own case the art of poetry—means nothing if it simply decorates the dinner table of power which holds it hostage.”)

Third Factory has another recording—Rich’s “Divisions of Labor.” Steve Evans breaks it down:

Adorno somewhere characterizes the separation of intellectual from manual labor as the secular model for the theological concept of original sin. In this poem composed in 1988, collected in Time’s Power in 1989, republished in the Monthly Review in 1999, and here performed in Buffalo in October 2000, Adrienne Rich satirizes faddish and ineffectual first-world “theory” and sacralizes the labor of third-world women, seeing in the latter’s remaking of “the world / each and every morning” a more authentic form of work than that performed by the writer’s hand, whether her own (“blistered” by the “sacred wax” at poem’s end) or another’s (the exemplarily foolish hand that practices “deconstruction” on “the prose of Malcolm X” in audia six). • I would divide the poem’s thirty-seven audias into five asymmetrical groupings: the first two comprised of three audias each and progressing semantically from general (“revolutions”) to particular (political magazines); a long third section in which seventeen audias parse out a single sentence with “the women” as subject and compound verbs formed of “are” plus seven participles (licking, trading, splitting, producing, fitting, teaching, watching) for predicates; the brief fourth section, which generalizes from the particulars of the preceding section (thus echoing in reverse the transition from general to particular in sections one and two); and the closing, eleven-audia section that shifts from the plural subject of sections three and four (“the women”) to the singular (“a woman”) and introduces the poem’s narrator as subjective witness (“I have seen…. I have felt”).

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Posted in Poetry News on Thursday, March 29th, 2012 by Harriet Staff.