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This article is taken from PN Review 114, Volume 23 Number 4, March - April 1997.

Reading Adrienne Rich Eavan Boland

When I first read the poems of Adrienne Rich I was in my early thirties. I was married with small children. I was far away from some of the claimed ground here and not yet sure of my own. These are, after all, American poems, written from the heart of the American empire as the century darkens. They are fiercely questioning, deeply political, continuously subversive. They celebrate the lives of women and the sexual and comradely love between them. They contest the structure of the poetic tradition. They interrogate language itself. In all of this, they describe a struggle and record a moment which was not my struggle and would never be my moment. Nor my country, nor my companionship. Nor even my aesthetic.

And yet these poems came to the very edge of the rooms I worked in, dreamed in, listened for a child's cry in. They passed through the frost of the suburban dark, the early light of a neighbourhood summer. I took whichever book they were happening in from place to place, propping it against jars and leaving it after me on chairs and beside coffee cups. Even as I did so, I felt that the life I lived was not the one these poems commended. It was too far from the tumult, too deep in the past. And yet these poems helped me live it. And as they permeated the small barriers of place and distraction, these poems also began to open my ...


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