Thursday, March 29, 2012

Adrienne Rich - a Tribute

Adrienne Rich died on March 27. She was 82. She was a poet with fierce courage and remarkable honesty present in the core of her works. Here is a quote from The Washington Post describing the writer:
Unlike most American writers, Rich believed art and politics not only could co-exist, but must co-exist. She considered herself a socialist because “socialism represents moral value — the dignity and human rights of all citizens,” she told the San Francisco Chronicle in 2005. “That is, the resources of a society should be shared and the wealth redistributed as widely as possible.” 
“She was very courageous and very outspoken and very clear,” said her longtime friend W.S. Merwin, the Pulitzer Prize-winning poet. “She was a real original, and whatever she said came straight out of herself.”

One of the famous poems by Adrienne Rich is The Burning of Paper Instead of Children, “an indictment of the Vietnam War”. A good informal explanation of the poem can be found in this link where the entire poem was also found. Read it below. Also, I’d documented 10 of Adrienne Rich’s poems that can be read from this link.


The Burning of Paper Instead of Children by Adrienne Rich


I was in danger of verbalizing my moral impulses out of existence. --Daniel Berrigan, on trial in Baltimore




1. My neighbor, a scientist and art-collector, telephones me in a state of violent emotion. He tells me that my son and his, aged eleven and twelve, have on the last day of school burned a mathematics textbook in the backyard. He has forbidden my son to come to his house for a week, and has forbidden his own son to leave the house during that time. "The burning of a book," he says, "arouses terrible sensations in me, memories of Hitler; there are few things that upset me so much as the idea of burning a book."
Back there: the library, walled
with green Britannicas
Looking again
in Durer's Complete Works
for MELANCOLIA, the baffled woman
the crocodiles in Herodotus
the Book of the Dead
the Trial of Jeanne d'Arc, so blue
I think, It is her color
and they take the book away
because I dream of her too often
love and fear in a house
knowledge of the oppressor
I know it hurts to burn


2. To imagine a time of silence
or few words
a time of chemistry and music
the hollows above your buttocks
traced by my hand
or, hair is like flesh, you said
an age of long silence
relief
from this tongue this slab of limestone
or reinforced concrete
fanatics and traders
dumped on this coast wildgreen clayred
that breathed once
in signals of smoke
sweep of the wind
knowledge of the oppressor
this is the oppressor's language
yet I need it to talk to you


3. People suffer highly in poverty and it takes dignity and intelligence to overcome this suffering. Some of the suffering are: a child did not had dinner last night: a child steal because he did not have money to buy it: to hear a mother say she do not have money to buy food for her children and to see a child without cloth it will make tears in your eyes.
(the fracture of order
the repair of speech
to overcome this suffering)


4. We lie under the sheet
after making love, speaking
of loneliness
relieved in a book
relived in a book
so on that page
the clot and fissure
of it appears
words of a man
in pain
a naked word
entering the clot
a hand grasping
through bars:
deliverance
What happens between us
has happened for centuries
we know it from literature
still it happens
sexual jealousy
outflung hand
beating bed
dryness of mouth
after panting
there are books that describe all this
and they are useless
You walk into the woods behind a house
there in that country
you find a temple
built eighteen hundred years ago
you enter without knowing
what it is you enter
so it is with us
no one knows what may happen
though the books tell everything
burn the texts said Artaud


5. I am composing on the typewriter late at night, thinking of today. How well we all spoke. A language is a map of our failures. Frederick Douglass wrote an English purer than Milton's. People suffer highly in poverty. There are methods but we do not use them. Joan, who could not read, spoke some peasant form of French. Some of the suffering are: it is hard to tell the truth; this is America; I cannot touch you now. In America we have only the present tense. I am in danger. You are in danger. The burning of a book arouses no sensation in me. I know it hurts to burn. There are flames of napalm in Catonsville, Maryland. I know it hurts to burn. The typewriter is overheated, my mouth is burning. I cannot touch you and this is the oppressor's language.

Here is one more of her poem that I find to be striking, a writer’s honest plea for the dying conscience:


What Kind of Times Are These by Adrienne Rich

There's a place between two stands of trees where the grass grows uphill
and the old revolutionary road breaks off into shadows
near a meeting-house abandoned by the persecuted
who disappeared into those shadows.


I've walked there picking mushrooms at the edge of dread, but don't be fooled
this isn't a Russian poem, this is not somewhere else but here,
our country moving closer to its own truth and dread,
its own ways of making people disappear.


I won't tell you where the place is, the dark mesh of the woods
meeting the unmarked strip of light—
ghost-ridden crossroads, leafmold paradise:
I know already who wants to buy it, sell it, make it disappear.


And I won't tell you where it is, so why do I tell you
anything? Because you still listen, because in times like these
to have you listen at all, it's necessary
to talk about trees.

2 comments:

  1. Great tribute, I'd forgotten many of these. Thanks for sharing!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks for sharing information about this wonderful poet! well written and worthwhile!

    ReplyDelete