I am shocked and sad that Adrienne Rich has died. I don’t really know what more to say about that, but I feel a connection with her. When I requested permission from her publisher to include one of her poems from “An Atlas of the Difficult World,” in Two-Powered, they sent my manuscript to her for her to decide. I was terrified and giddy when I read the notification. I’d thought the publisher would make its own decision, and that it would likely reject me flat out. While I waited I obsessed between extremes: “My work was crap – of course she’d hate it! But she wrote a book called Of Woman Born: Motherhood as Institution and Experience – surely she’d connect with my book!” Back and forth I went until I got an envelope in the mail from the publisher. I still feel so honoured that she agreed to have her poem be part of my wee, self-published book. I guess she must have seen at least some kernel of… something, authenticity at least?
I only actually read her Of Woman Born: Motherhood as Institution and Experience last fall. I mostly read it when my oldest was in school and the baby had tummy time (unfortunately he started crawling way too early for that to continue for long). I marked passages I wanted to share here, but I didn’t get around to writing about it and I had to return the book to the library long ago. It remains perfectly relevant to my experience as a young mother today, and I highly recommend it to anyone interested in reading or art about motherhood.
Anyways, today I am sad. I’ll leave you with my favourite part of the poem:
you are reading this poem through your failing sight, the thick
lens enlarging these letters beyond all meaning yet you read on
because even the alphabet is precious.
I know you are reading this poem as you pace beside the stove
warming milk, a crying child on your shoulder, a book in your
because life is short and you too are thirsty.
I know you are reading this poem which is not in your language
guessing at some words while others keep you reading
and I want to know which words they are.
I know you are reading this poem listening for something, torn
between bitterness and hope
turning back once again to the task you cannot refuse.
I know you are reading this poem because there is nothing else
left to read
there where you have landed, stripped as you are.