“Adrienne Rich’s Poetic Transformations” by Claudia Rankine

by janeeatonhamilton

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Adrienne Rich remains one of my favourite writer and a touchstone to me as a lesbian poet in the 1980s and beyond. Here is the astute Claudia Rankine in The New Yorker talking about her legacy. I, with my partners, dreamed of accessing this common language. That it remained a dream was as much our personal failures as the then pressures of patriarchy and homophobia.

“Lying is done with words, and also with silence.”
Adrienne Rich

“Responsibility to yourself means refusing to let others do your thinking, talking, and naming for you; it means learning to respect and use your own brains and instincts; hence, grappling with hard work.”
Adrienne Rich

“No one has imagined us. We want to live like trees,
sycamores blazing through the sulfuric air,
dappled with scars, still exuberantly budding,
our animal passion rooted in the city.”
Adrienne Rich, The Dream of a Common Language

Today a backhoe divulged out of a crumbling flank of earth
one bottle amber perfect a hundred-year-old
cure for fever or melancholy a tonic
for living on this earth in the winters of this climate.

Today I was reading about Marie Curie:
she must have known she suffered from radiation sickness
her body bombarded for years by the element
she had purified
It seems she denied to the end
the source of the cataracts on her eyes
the cracked and suppurating skin of her finger-ends
till she could no longer hold a test-tube or a pencil

She died a famous woman denying
her wounds
denying
her wounds came from the same source as her power. ”
Adrienne Rich, The Dream of a Common Language

“That’s why I want to speak to you now.

To say: no person, trying to take responsibility for her or his identity, should have to be so alone. There must be those among whom we can sit down and weep, and still be counted as warriors. (I make up this strange, angry packet for you, threaded with love.)

I think you thought there was no such place for you, and perhaps there was none then, and perhaps there is none now; but we will have to make it, we who want an end to suffering, who want to change the laws of history, if we are not to give ourselves away.”
Adrienne Rich, Sources

“That’s why I want to speak to you now.

To say: no person, trying to take responsibility for her or his identity, should have to be so alone. There must be those among whom we can sit down and weep, and still be counted as warriors. (I make up this strange, angry packet for you, threaded with love.)

I think you thought there was no such place for you, and perhaps there was none then, and perhaps there is none now; but we will have to make it, we who want an end to suffering, who want to change the laws of history, if we are not to give ourselves away.”
Adrienne Rich, Sources

“My heart is moved by all I cannot save:
so much has been destroyed
I have to cast my lot with those
who age after age, perversely,
with no extraordinary power,
reconstitute the world.”
Adrienne Rich