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This article is taken from PN Review 102, Volume 21 Number 4, March - April 1995.

Intimations of Utopia Nicolas Tredell

ADRIENNE RICH, What is Found There: Notebooks on Poetry and Politics (Norton) £14.95

Adrienne Rich has had a long, prolific, and provocative career as a poet. She came to public notice under the aegis of W.H. Auden, who selected her first collection, A Change of World (1951), for the Yale Series of Younger Poets, and wrote an introduction to it which praised her 'craftsmanship' - a gendered term that connoted her transcendence of feminine foibles. From her third collection, Snapshots of a Daughter-in Law (1963), her poetry began to change in form and emphasis, and she sought to shed the conventional structures which she could employ with great accomplishment, and to explore modes of being, particularly those springing from her experience as a woman, that she felt had not been widely articulated in poetry before. This poetic transformation went along with an explicit affirmation of herself as a lesbian feminist strongly opposed to what she called 'compulsory heterosexuality'. What is Found There is a montage of prose pieces which comprise autobiography, exploration of the nature and function of poetry, criticism of modern society, and discussion of other poets whom she admires and who have influenced her, such as Emily Dickinson, Wallace Stevens, Muriel Rukeyser and Irene Klepfisz. It provides an occasion to consider her formation as a poet and her attitudes to poetry.

Rich deplores the displacement of 'serious writing about poets and poetry' by 'speculative biography' and the 'obsession with intimate details, scandals, the ...


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