Writing While Female: Remembering Adrienne Rich

On Saturday, several days after the death of poet Adrienne Rich, I read with other female poets in celebration of SWAN (Support Women Artists Now) Day in Washington D.C. It could not have been a more beautiful spring day in Georgetown, and we read in the intimate sanctuary of Grace Church.  The voices were diverse; we heard reinterpreted Mother Goose tales by Brandel France de Bravo, detail-rich political poems by Yvette Neisser Moreno, and dynamic longer pieces by poetry slam champion 2Deep Carter. I felt proud to be among this group of women of so many different backgrounds, ages, writing styles. There were many poems celebrating women: our daughters, mothers, friends.

It made me think of Adrienne Rich’s strong, female – yet universal – voice.  When I read her work in graduate school, I loved the strength of her language, the way she headed fearlessly into the thick of things, what we all need to do as writers. Rich spurred us on to rip through surfaces: “A thinking woman sleeps with monsters./The beak that grips her, she becomes.” An excerpt from her poem “Diving into the Wreck,” below, demonstrates the bravery of body and mind that her work exemplifies. R.I.P., Adrienne.

I came to explore the wreck.

The words are purposes.

The words are maps.

I came to see the damage that was done

and the treasures that prevail.

I stroke the beam of my lamp

slowly along the flank

of something more permanent

than fish or weed

the thing I came for:

the wreck and not the story of the wreck

the thing itself and not the myth

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