Poet, Social Critic Adrienne Rich Dies at 82

HeadlineMar 29, 2012

And the pioneering poet and social critic Adrienne Rich has died at 82. Rich drew widespread acclaim for her many volumes of poetry and prose, which brought the oppression of women and lesbians into the public spotlight. She was a key figure in the women’s movement and an uncompromising critic of the powerful. Rich won numerous awards and honors, including the National Book Award for the 1973 collection “Diving into the Wreck.” Refusing to accept the award alone, she appeared onstage with poets Audre Lorde and Alice Walker, and the three accepted the award on behalf of all women. In 1997, she famously declined to accept the government’s National Medal of Arts in a protest against the Clinton administration, writing that art “means nothing if it simply decorates the dinner table of power which holds it hostage.” Here is Adrienne Rich reading from her poem, “What Kind of Times Are These.”

Adrienne Rich: “Our country moving closer to its own truth and dread, its own ways of making people disappear / I won’t tell you where the place is, the dark mesh of the woods meeting the unmarked strip of light— ghost-ridden crossroads, leafmold paradise: I know already who wants to buy it, sell it, make it disappear / And I won’t tell you where it is, so why do I tell you anything? Because you still listen, because in times like these to have you listen at all, it’s necessary to talk about trees.”

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