Adrienne Rich (b. 1929). Born to a middle-class family, Rich was educated by her parents until she entered public school in the fourth grade. She graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Radcliffe College in 1951, the same year her first book of poems, A Change of World, appeared. That volume, chosen by W. H. Auden for the Yale Series of Younger Poets Award, and her next, The Diamond Cutters and Other Poems (1955), earned her a reputation as an elegant, controlled stylist.
In the 1960s, however, Rich began a dramatic shift away from her earlier mode as she took up political and feminist themes and stylistic experimentation in such works as Snapshots of a Daughter-in-Law (1963), The Necessities of Life (1966), Leaflets (1969), and The Will to Change (1971). In Diving into the Wreck (1973) and The Dream of a Common Language (1978), she continued to experiment with form and to deal with the experiences and aspirations of women from a feminist perspective.
Adrienne won the National Book Award in 1974 for "Diving Into the Wreck". She refused to accept the award individually, instead sharing it with fellow nominees Audre Lorde and Alice Walker. They accepted it on behalf of all women everywhere who are silenced by a patriarchal society.
In the 1980s and 1990s she revealed more ways in which U.S. society is a male-dominated system, far from having solved the problem of women's liberation.
Rich encouraged the use of the term "women's liberation" because the word "feminist" could easily become a mere label, or it could cause resistance in the next generation of women. Rich went back to using "women's liberation" because it brings up the serious question: liberation from what?
Rich praised the consciousness-raising of early feminism. Not only did consciousness-raising bring issues to the forefront of women's minds, but doing so led to action.
In addition to her poetry, Rich has published many essays on poetry, feminism, motherhood, and lesbianism. Her recent collections include An Atlas of the Difficult World (1991) and Dark Fields of the Republic: Poems 1991-1995 (1995). Adrienne Rich died on March 27, 2012, at the age of eighty-two.
Poems - 10 in all
Living In Sin
Miracle Ice Cream
Diving into the Wreck
"I Am in Danger - Sir - "
A Valediction Forbidding Mourning
From an Atlas of the Difficult World
Prospective Immigrants Please Note
My Mouth Hovers Across Your Breasts