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This review is taken from PN Review 1, Volume 4 Number 1, October - December 1977.

ADORATION AND ITS FRUITS Barbara Charlesworth Gelpi and Albert Gelpi (Eds.), Adrienne Rich's Poetry: Texts of the Poems, The Poet on Her Work, Reviews and Criticism, W. W. Norton & Co., New York (no price listed).

This book has aroused quite a lot of resentment in America, and not a little contempt for the editors. After all, who does Adrienne Rich think she is? Reading closely in the preface, it turns out that it began as a 'project' suggested to the editors by someone named John Benedict, though Ms Rich has cooperated materially as well as in spirit. It is designed, as are the other Norton Critical Editions, for an undergraduate readership. More precisely, for undergraduates at universities with poor library facilities, or for students who are not expected to do much work in encyclopedias and dictionaries. There are eighty-five pages of poems, most of which are lightly annotated. 'Mesopotamia is the ancient country between the Tigris and the Euphrates rivers'. The Random House Dictionary of the English Language tell us that Mesopotamia is 'an ancient country in Asia between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. The modern republic of Iraq includes much of this region'. This is slightly more helpful, but turning back to the poem ('Night-break' from the volume Leaflets, 1969) what needs annotation is not Mesopotamia but something else:


Time is quiet doesn't break things
or even wound Things are in danger
from people The frail clay lamps
of Mesopotamia
row on row under glass
in the ethnological section
little hollows for dried-
up oil The refugees
with their identical
tales of escape I don't
collect what I can't ...


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