Are you tired of the misogynistic ideals steering the ship of your life, the waves of patriarchy lapping against and dampening your free will, the parched sun of sexism scorching on your integrity?
So was she.
And she decided to voice her angst in a manner so poignant that the reader of her poems couldn’t remain aloof for long.
Adrienne Rich was one of the most influential writers of her times, with an insight which was an outcome of an experience of triple exploitation at the hands of the society- as a woman, as a Jew and as a lesbian. Born in Baltimore, Maryland, in 1929, Rich wielded the magic of her pen for seven decades, harbouring an ember of progressive vision in her heart which would materialize into an unsparing flame when penned down. For her, the political, the personal and the polemical melted into one mould, reflective of the unfathomable struggles of womanhood.
In her first two publications of her poetry collection- The Change Of Worlds and The Diamond Cutter, Rich seems to have been finding her poetic aura and was in the process of creating a niche of her own. It was after getting married to Alfred Conrad, an economics professor at Harvard University, and experiencing motherhood that she let her thoughts flow unbridled, unmindful of all societal constraints.
In her third book- Snapshots of a Daughter-in-laws she dwelt extensively on the struggles of a woman stuck in matrimony and described her quest to find a sexual and a social identity of her own. In this series, she ventured to appropriate a space for women, her radical feminist instincts fueling this bid. Her widely acclaimed work titled Diving Into the Wreck, written in the trying times of Vietnam War period bagged her many accolades including the National Book Award
In her bid to express her defiance towards figures of authority, she refused to accept the National Medal of Arts for political reasons. She held art to be a pristine form of expression, unadulterated by the cynicism of something as shallow as politics. She wasn’t vain enough to place her poetry on a revolutionary pedestal and acknowledged, “Poetry is not a healing lotion, an emotional massage, a kind of linguistic aromatherapy. Neither is it a blueprint, nor an instruction manual, nor a billboard. Nor does it need endorsement from governments to be written or performed”
The poems written by Rich towards the end of her career are characterized by a sort of lucid angst, and a passion for rebellious feminism. By 1970s, she had inwardly begun to acknowledge her lesbian desires and her poems became unprecedentedly reflective of her newly sought identity synthesizing with her experiences as a Jewish, a black woman and a survivor of the holocaust.
It is truly rare to find a writer whose growth as a person is so well chiseled in his/her work. Rich’s work provides a portal for the reader to experience the world as she experienced it. Even though her text is polysomic and can be read with multiple interpretations, her dogmatic side never fails to shine through.
The world lost this gem on 27th March, 2012.