Adrienne Rich: No ‘Hostage of Power’

From Christopher Soden at the Dallas GLBT Arts Examiner:

AdrienneRich-smallConsidering the literary canon of Lesbian writers, perhaps none have had the pervasive impact and influence of poet Adrienne Rich, who entered the scene early, but continued to learn and evolve as she gained recognition and accolades for her modulated, angry, confrontational, articulate, yet subtle verse. Not that Rich only addressed defiant feminist gender politics. Much of her poetry has a reflective, wistful feel about it. No one (who gave it much thought) would accuse her of monotony or polemics. Married to Harvard economist Alfred H. Conrad in 1953, they had three sons before the epiphany of her actual orientation was fully realized, the territory of her writing symbiotic with her journey of self-discovery.

A pretty good summary of Rich’s poetic career follows here.

Adrienne Rich at Modern American Poetry

Rich interviewed by Don Swaim in 2008 at Wired for Books

On Adrienne Rich at bookslut

A list of online criticism for Adrienne Rich

Death of a Poet

I am very saddened by the suicide of poet Deborah Digges.  Her book on a journey with her difficult teenaged son is one of the most courageous pieces of writing I know of – only just slightly less courageous than the journey itself.  It gave me hope when I had little faith in my own much critisized mothering.

In recognizing Digges’ death, Edward Byrne posted this, written by Digges, on his blog, One Poet’s Notes:

“Once I asked myself, when was I happy?
I was looking at a February sky.
When did the light hold me and I didn’t struggle?”

And this.  I can do no better:

And here’s reaction from Tufts University where Digges taught.

I’ve Got This Mystic Streak …

Domestic Mysticism
In thrice 10,000 seasons, I will come back to this world
In a white cotton dress. Kingdom of After My Own Heart.
Kingdom of Fragile. Kingdom of Dwarves. When I come home,
Teacups will quiver in their Dresden saucers, pentatonic chimes
Will move in wind. A covey of alley cats will swarm on the side
Porch & perch there, portents with quickened heartbeats
You will feel against your ankles as you pass through.

After the first millenium, we were supposed to die out.
You had your face pressed up against the coarse dyed velvet
Of the curtain, always looking out for your own transmigration:
What colors you would wear, what cut of jewel,
What kind of pageantry, if your legs would be tied
Down, if there would be wandering tribes of minstrels
Following with woodwinds in your wake.

This work of mine, the kind of work which takes no arms to do,
Is least noble of all. It's peopled by Wizards, the Forlorn,
The Awkward, the Blinkers, the Spoon-Fingered, Agnostic Lispers,
Stutterers of Prayer, the Flatulent, the Closet Weepers,
The Charlatans. I am one of those. In January, the month the owls
Nest in, I am a witness & a small thing altogether. The Kingdom
Of Ingratitude. Kingdom of Lies. Kingdom of How Dare I.

I go on dropping words like little pink fish eggs, unawares, slightly
Illiterate, often on the mark. Waiting for the clear whoosh
Of fluid to descend & cover them. A train like a silver 
Russian love pill for the sick at heart passes by
My bedroom window in the night at the speed of mirage.
In the next millenium, I will be middle aged. I do not do well
In the marrow of things. Kingdom of Trick. Kingdom of Drug.

In a lung-shaped suburb of Virginia, my sister will be childless
Inside the ice storm, forcing the narcissus. We will send
Each other valentines. The radio blowing out
Vaughan Williams on the highway's purple moor.
At nine o'clock, we will put away our sewing to speak
Of lofty things while, in the pantry, little plants will nudge
Their frail tips toward the light we made last century.

When I come home, the dwarves will be long
In their shadows & promiscuous. The alley cats will sneak
Inside, curl about the legs of furniture, close the skins
Inside their eyelids, sleep. Orchids will be intercrossed & sturdy.
The sun will go down as I sit, thin armed, small breasted
In my cotton dress, poked with eyelet stitches, a little lace,
In the queer light left when a room snuffs out.

I draw a bath, enter the water as a god enters water:
Fertile, knowing, kind, surrounded by glass objects
Which could break easily if mishandled or ill-touched.
Everyone knows an unworshipped woman will betray you.
There is always that promise, I like that. Kingdom of Kinesis.
Kingdom of Benevolent. I will betray as a god betrays,
With tenderheartedness. I've got this mystic streak in me.
Lucy Brock-Broido

I Thought I Was Immortal

Embrace Them All

Parc Georges-Brassens, Paris
Most afternoons, I’d run laps through Parc Brassens
where grows the second smallest vineyard

I have ever seen, and where those silver,
pruned-back stalks looked blunt,

strung-out on wires, and mostly dead
all winter. That was how I saw them.

That’s all I expected. Even in the cold,
I’d see a guy my age there, once a week,

playing his guitar. He’d sit next to the bench
where I’d be stretching. He rarely spoke—

just to ask if I’d like a song—
until the week before I left for good.

I was sitting at the top of a hill
about a hundred feet away from where

if you stand tiptoe you can see the Eiffel Tower.
He sat too close to me. We spoke of many things.

Then he suggested we go at it right there,
on the ground, under the sun. This is how

one lives who knows that she will die:
rolling in the arms of anyone when she can—

rolling in the arms of a musician—aware
that no one cares much what we do

in little knolls behind reedy forsythia,
in the middle of a Tuesday, in the middle

of living. And I would know now
how he felt, and the ground against me,

and whether he was rough or sweet.
And what is possible would widen every hour.

Oh, but me, I thought I was immortal.

Katy Didden

From Poetry Magazine Podcast:  The editors discuss a new John Ashbery poem from the March issue. Plus, Seth Abramson, Katy Didden, and Fanny Howe on her memoir The Winter Sun.

Katy Didden at Poets Against War

Biscuits & Bones

The Missing Wife 

Wife and dog missing.
Reward for the dog.
—bumper sticker on a pickup truck  

The wife and the dog planned their escape
months in advance, laid up biscuits and bones,
waited for the careless moment when he’d forget
to latch the gate, then hightailed it.They took shelter in the forest, camouflaged
the scent of their trail with leaves.
Free of him at last,
they peed with relief on a tree.

Time passed. They came and went as they pleased,
chased sticks when they felt like chasing sticks,
dug holes in what they came to regard
as their own backyard. They unlearned
how to roll over and play dead.

In spring the dog wandered off in pursuit
of a rabbit. Collared by a hunter and returned
to the master for $25, he lives
on a tight leash now.
He sleeps on the wife’s side of the bed,
whimpering, pressing his snout
into her pillow, breathing
the scent of her hair.

And the wife? She’s moved deep into the heart
of the forest. She walks
on all fours, fetches for no man, performs
no tricks. She is content. Only sometimes
she gets lonely, remembers how he would nuzzle
her cheek and comfort her when she twitched
and thrashed in her sleep.


—from Eve’s Red Dress (Wind Publications, 2003)
first published in Two Rivers Review

Diane Lockward

Poetry for Breakfast

Anything that can be thoroughly said in prose might as well be said in prose. The everyday intellect remains satisfied with abstraction and explanation in prose; the poetic mentality wants more. In narrative poems, the poetry adds the secret (unsayable) room of feeling and tone to the sayable story. Philosophy in its more logical incarnations strives to eliminate powers of association because they are subjective and uncontrollable. Poetry, on the other hand, wants to address the whole matter of the human — including fact and logic, but also the body with its senses, and above all the harsh and soft complexities of emotion. Our senses, excited by sound and picture, assimilate records of feeling that are also passages to feeling. Poems tell stories; poems recount ideas; but poems embody feeling. Because emotion is il-logical—in logic opposites cannot both be true; in the life of feeling, we love and hate together—the poem exists to say the unsayable.

Donald Hall

Breakfast Served Any Time All Day: Essays on Poetry New and Selected at Shortcovers

Furze & Gorse

You Furze, Me Gorse

The only true synonyms in the English language
are “furze” and “gorse.” — Tennyson

Furze, Gorse, of equal and abiding value
But for the speed of each word off the lips:
The warm and cornucopic cup of U
Hanging on by the very fingertips
Of the lazy Z. Furze, you would lie,
Luxurious; you would make a mattress;
You would carry yellow torches nightly,
Barbed fingers circling in slow caress.
Raise the lamps high, let us look at ourselves:
Once a tender union, now turned fierce,
Twins scratching across sands and rocky shelves.
Furze, Gorse. Which cuts worse?
The claws that grab and cling, purpling the skin,
Or the sudden spike that stabs and runs?

Sarah Hannah

What a Poet Wants

What Do Women Want
I want a red dress. 
I want it flimsy and cheap, 
I want it too tight, I want to wear it 
until someone tears it off me. 
I want it sleeveless and backless, 
this dress, so no one has to guess 
what's underneath. I want to walk down
the street past Thrifty's and the hardware store 
with all those keys glittering in the window, 
past Mr. and Mrs. Wong selling day-old 
donuts in their café, past the Guerra brothers 
slinging pigs from the truck and onto the dolly, 
hoisting the slick snouts over their shoulders. 
I want to walk like I'm the only 
woman on earth and I can have my pick. 
I want that red dress bad.
I want it to confirm 
your worst fears about me, 
to show you how little I care about you 
or anything except what 
I want. When I find it, I'll pull that garment 
from its hanger like I'm choosing a body 
to carry me into this world, through 
the birth-cries and the love-cries too, 
and I'll wear it like bones, like skin, 
it'll be the goddamned 
dress they bury me in.
Kim Addonizio


Parable of the Fictionist

He wanted to own his own past,

be able to manage it

more than it managed him.

He wanted all the unfair

advantages of the charmed.

He selected his childhood,

told only those stories

that mixed loneliness with

rebellion, a boy’s locked heart

with the wildness

allowed inside a playing field.

And after he invented himself

and those he wished to know him

knew him as he wished to be known,

he turned toward the world

with the world that was within him

and shapes resulted, versions,


In his leisure he invented women,

then spoke to them about

his inventions, the wish just

slightly ahead of the truth,

making it possible.

All around him he heard

the unforgivable stories

of the sincere, the boring,

and knew his way was righteous,

though in the evenings, alone

with the world he’d created,

he sometimes longed

for what he’d dare not alter,

or couldn’t, something immutable

or so lovely he might be changed

by it, nameless but with a name

he feared waits until you’re worthy,

then chooses you.

Stephen Dunn

… there are refuges that are just watering holes on the way to nowhere. The refuge of the habitual-the comfort of it, the stasis. The refuge of wishing to please-those little forays into hackdom that injure the soul. The refuge of the lie, how it buys time, lets you ride for a while in its big white car.

I tell my students the public wants excitement without danger, wants the artist to be considerate enough to stop before his bones show, to please not be so tacky as to disturb. I talk about the refuge of the neatly wrapped package. The refuge of the melodious. The refuge of entertainment and distraction that all of us except those artists who go all the way seem to need.