Since I learned that the great poet Adrienne Rich died yesterday, I’ve been mulling over a response, but I don’t think I’m capable of putting my grief over this loss into words, nor am I likely qualified. A year ago I posted a poem that seems strangely fitting. But what I would do is point to her remarkable essay on Elizabeth Bishop, and especially to a passage near its end, because it always appeared to sum up the force driving Rich’s magnificent work through all these past decades, and it’s the first thing I thought of when the terrible news of her death reached me:
It is important to me to know that, through most of her life, Bishop was critically and consciously trying to explore marginality, power and powerlessness, often in poetry of great beauty and sensuous power. That not all these poems are fully realized or satisfying simply means that the living who care that art should embody these questions have still more work to do.
Read Rich. There are many editions of her work out there and you really can’t go wrong.