It is with joy, deep interest, and widening curiosity that I am reading Hilary Holladay’s detailed, warm, and bird-on-the-shoulder biography of American poet, Adrienne Rich, The Power of Adrienne Rich (Talese 2020). It can be found here.
Rich, a Baltimore-born, Harvard-educated and half-Jewish poet and cultural thinker already was a famous American poet when I was born. I remember reading A Dream of a Common Language at 16 in high school, and can recall the feeling of it, though not really much of what I read into it. I enjoyed it; it struck me.
I ended up reading most of Adrienne Rich from her 1991 Atlas of a Difficult World onward and much of her other work too, over time, and it has influenced how I have thought about literature, myself, and the world.
I am now moving through Rich’s Collected Poems in tandem with this biography. Holladay helps one see Rich from her own perspective, that is, as she grew into the person, poet, intellectual, wife, widow, feminist, etc. Likewise, Holladay’s biography traces the changing cultural and literary and political landscapes that Rich navigated. From Rich’s 1951 first book to her 2012 final collection, Tonight No Poetry Will Serve, the world has changed and Rich embodies one version of the cutting edge of it.
G. H. Mosson