I was saddened last night to read of the death of Adrienne Rich. This NYT obituary nicely outlines the role of feminism in her poetry while this one from The Washington Post focuses more on her political writing and actions.
Rich is the author of my two most favorite poems, both from her collection The Dream of a Common Language. I was looking around for the text of the poems to tweet and share with my students and found myself really frustrated. The online versions I was finding did not preserve the spacing that was so important to the works. So I decided to see if I could do better and if so, to post them here.
At first I planned to justify posting them here by arguing that honoring a feminist poet through the technological means at my disposal makes them fit into the themes of the blog. Then I realized, the content of both poems ties in. They are both about pioneering women and the complex relationship between power, gender, and collectives of women (shared histories and experiences). I have been looking forward to the day that my nieces (currently 9 and 8 years old) are old enough for me to share these with them. I’ll post them here and hope that you draw as much inspiration from them as I do.
Living in the earth deposits of our history
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
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
til she could no longer hold a test-tube or a pencil
She died a famous woman denying
her wounds came from the same source as her power
“PHANTASIA FOR ELVIRA SHATAYEV”
(leader of a women’s climbing team, all of whom died in a storm on Lenin Peak, August 1974. Later, Shatayev’s husband found and burned the bodies.) (more…)