a woman, partly brave and partly good,
who fought with what she partly understood.
Few men about her would or could do more,
hence she was labeled harpy, shrew and whore.
I have been listening to Adrienne Rich: The Voice of the Poet, a compact disc with book of the sometimes controversial poet reading selections from her work recorded between 1951 and 2000. The compact disc is part of series from Random House Audio (now on compact discs from Books on Tape) that also includes Allen Ginsberg, Anne Sexton, Langston Hughes, T. S. Eliot, and Robert Lowell.
Rich's voice is clear and sharp, easily understood while driving to work or doing household chores. I enjoyed listening to her challenging thoughts while preparing a bathroom for painting. She speaks about the daily experiences of a woman unsatisfied with her life. Her intent is feminist and political. She is mostly serious, discussing loneliness, love, disease, and death, but she can at moments also be very funny. In "Snapshots of a Daughter-in-Law" she includes the following description:
she shaves her legs until they gleam
like petrified mammoth-tusk
Rich sometimes writes about famous women. "Power" tells about the cancer of Marie Curie. "Planetarium" celebrates the career of astronomer Caroline Herschel (1750-1848), who identified eight comets. She also writes about the dangerous environmental and political state of our world, as in "Incipience" and "North American Time."
Everything we write
will be used against us
or against those we love.
These are the terms
take them or leave them.
Poetry never stood a chance
of standing outside history.
The companion book includes the 19 poems on the compact disc, an essay about Rich by J. D. McClatchy, and a bibliography of works by and about Rich.
Literature students in high school and college will benefit from this series. This title and the entire series should be in more public libraries.
Adrienne Rich: The Voice of the Poet. Santa Ana, California: Books on Tape, 2005. ISBN 141592094x. 1 disc (64 minutes) and 1 book