What is Found There: Notebooks on Poetry and Politics

Front Cover
Norton, 1993 - Literary Criticism - 304 pages
The "impulse to enter, with other humans, through language, into the order and disorder of the world, is poetic at its root as surely as it is political at its root, " writes Adrienne Rich at the beginning of her powerful new prose work. What Is Found There is Rich's response to her impulse as a poet to know poetry fully, to plumb and scale and inhabit it; it is also, profoundly, Rich's attempt to bring poetry into the lives of many kinds of people - out of the academy, away from the literary magazines. In a voice that is generous, bold, and personal, Rich uses the poet's materials - journals and letters, dreams, memories, and close reading of the work of many poets - to reflect on poetry and politics, to consider how they enter and impinge on an American life, and what it means to be a citizen of a fragmented country, part of a people turned inward for safety. Rich acknowledges the cost of this turning: "We have rarely, if ever, known what it is to tremble with fear, to lament, to rage, to praise, to solemnize, to say We have done this, to our sorrow; to say Enough, to say We will, to say We will not. To lay claim to poetry." But she acknowledges hope as well. Speaking to poets, to readers of poetry, to all of us who imagine and desire a humane civil life, Rich lays claim to poetry as an instrument of change, and offers up its possibilities: "I see the life of North American poetry at the end of the century as a pulsing, racing convergence of tributaries - regional, ethnic, racial, social, sexual - that, rising from lost or long-blocked springs, intersect and infuse each other while reaching back to the strengths of their origins."

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About the author (1993)

Adrienne Cecile Rich was born in Baltimore, Maryland on May 16, 1929. In 1951 she graduated from Radcliffe College and was selected for the Yale Series of Younger Poets prize by W.H. Auden. She began teaching for City College of New York in 1968, and was also a lecturer and adjunct professor at Swarthmore College and Columbia University School of the Arts. She taught in CUNY's basic writing program during the early 1970s. In the 1970s, she started to be active in the women's liberation movement. Her work has been characterized as confrontational, treating women's role in society, racism, and the Vietnam War. In addition to many collections of poetry, she has also written several books of nonfiction prose, such as Arts of the Possible: Essays and Conversations, What is Found There: Notebooks on Poetry and Politics, and Of Woman Born: Motherhood as Experience and Institution. Her last poetry collection was entitled Tonight No Poetry Will Serve: Poems 2007-2010. She has won numerous literary awards, including the 1986 Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize, the 1992 Poets' Prize, the 1997 Wallace Stevens Award of the Academy of American Poets, the 2004 National Book Critics Circle Award in Poetry, and the 2006 National Book Foundation Medal of Distinguished Contribution to American Letters. She has also received the Bollingen Prize, the Lannan Lifetime Achievement Award, the Academy of American Poets Fellowship, the Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize, and a MacArthur Fellowship. In 1974, she refused to receive as an individual the National Book Award for Poetry, instead accepting it on behalf of all silenced women. She also refused the National Medal of Arts in 1997, stating that "I could not accept such an award from President Clinton or this White House because the very meaning of art, as I understand it, is incompatible with the cynical politics of this administration." In 2012, she won the Lifetime Recognition Award from the Griffin Poetry Prize. She died from long-term rheumatoid arthritis on March 27, 2012.

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