b. May 16, 1929
Adrienne Rich is one of the leading American poets. Her ability to combine poetry with politics has made her a model for poets and activists.
Adrienne Rich became a published poet in 1951 at the age of 21, when W. H. Auden selected her first book, A Change of World, for the Yale Younger Poets Prize. She has published nearly twenty volumes of poetry and several books of non-fiction.
Rich’s poetry has been honored with numerous awards including the Academy of American Poets Fellowship, two Guggenheim Fellowships, and a MacArthur Fellowship. Her collection of poems Diving into the Wreck received the 1974 National Book Award. The American Academy of Poets bestowed the Wallace Stevens Award on Rich in 1997 for “outstanding and proven mastery in the art of poetry.”
“When We Dead Awaken: Writing as Revision,” Rich’s 1971 celebrated address to the Modern Language Association, challenged many traditional assumptions of literary scholarship and prompted the inclusion of women’s studies and feminist criticism in academia. Rich advocated equality for women, gays, and those disenfranchised by race and class.
Rich is active in movements for GLBT rights, reproductive freedom, and the progressive New Jewish Agenda. In 1981, she received the Fund for Human Dignity Award of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.
In 1997 Rich declined the National Medal of Arts, saying, “Art . . . means nothing if it simply decorates the dinner table of the power which holds it hostage. The radical disparities of wealth and power in America are widening at a devastating rate. A president cannot meaningfully honor certain token artists while the people at large are so dishonored.” In 2003, Rich joined other poets in protesting the war in Iraq by refusing to attend a White House symposium on poetry.
- Pope, Deborah, “Rich’s Life and Career,” from The Oxford Companion to Women’s Writing in the United States. Oxford University Press, 1999.
- Templeton, Alice. The Dream and the Dialogue: Adrienne Rich’s Feminist Poetics.
- Yorke, Liz. Adrienne Rich: Passion, Politics, and the Body.
Selected works by Adrienne Rich:
- An Atlas of the Difficult World, 1991.
- Blood, Bread and Poetry, 1986.
- Dark Fields of the Republic, 1995.
- Diving Into the Wreck, 1973.
- Of Woman Born: Motherhood as Experience and Institution, 1976.
- On Lies, Secrets and Silence, 1979.
- The Dream of a Common Language, 1978.
- The Fact of a Doorframe, 1984.
- The School Among the Ruins, 2004.
- What Is Found There: Notebooks on Poetry and Politics, 1993.
- Your Native Land, Your Life, 1986.