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Adrienne Rich Since receiving the Yale Younger Poets Award in 1951 (from judge W.H. Auden), at the age of 21, Adrienne Rich has not stopped writing in her distinct voice, with strength and conviction. Rich has said that her poetry seeks to create a dialectical relationship between “the personal, or lyric voice, and the so-called political — really, the voice of the individual speaking not just to herself, or to a beloved friend, but to and from a collective, a social realm.” Her poetry and prose are taught in literature, creative writing, and gender and gay studies courses across the country and abroad. “Rich writes of disruption, dislocation, disconnection. But she is also ravishingly lyrical, inventive, philosophical, sensual. She makes things whole again.” (National Book Critics Circle citation.)

Adrienne Rich is the recipient of the 1999 Lannan Foundation Lifetime Achievement Award. She has also been distinguished by an Academy of American Poets Fellowship, the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize, the Common Wealth Award in Literature, the National Book Award, the 1996 Tanning Award for Mastery in the Art of Poetry, and the MacArthur Fellowship. In 2003, Adrienne Rich was awarded the Bollingen Prize for Poetry. She is the author of more than sixteen volumes of poetry, including, Diving into the Wreck, The Dream of a Common Language, The Fact of a Doorframe: Selected Poems 1950-2001, An Atlas of the Difficult World: Poems 1988-1991, Collected Early Poems: 1950-1970, Dark Fields of the Republic: Poems 1991-1995, Midnight Salvage, Fox, and The School Among the Ruins. Her prose books include Of Woman Born: Motherhood as Experience and Institution. What is Found There: Notebooks on Poetry and Politics, and Arts of the Possible: Essays & Conversations.

In 2006, Rich was awarded the Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters by the National Book Foundation. The judges articulated this distinction as follows: “Adrienne Rich ... in recognition of her incomparable influence and achievement as a poet and nonfiction writer. For more than fifty years, her eloquent and visionary writings have shaped the world of poetry as well as feminist and political thought.” Her newest book of poems is Telephone Ringing in the Labyrinth (2007). She will publish a new collection of essays, A Human Eye: Essays on Art in Society, in May 2009.

Biography reprinted by permission of the author from www.barclayagency.com/rich_a. Photo by Lilian Kemp.

English version


I needed fox     Badly I needed
a vixen for the long time none had come near me
I needed recognition from a
triangulated face      burnt-yellow eyes
fronting the long body the fierce and sacrificial tail
I needed history of fox    briars of legend it was said she
   had run through
I was in want of fox

And the truth of briars she had to have run through
I craved to feel on her pelt     if my hands could even slide
past or her body slide between them     sharp truth distressing
   surfaces of fur
lacerated skin calling legend to account
a vixen’s courage in vixen terms

For a human animal to call for help
on another animal
is the most riven the most revolted cry on earth
come a long way down
Go back far enough it means tearing and torn    endless
   and sudden
back far enough it blurts
into the birth-yell of the yet-to-be-human child
pushed out of a female   the yet-to-be woman


“Fox”, from Fox: Poems 1998-2000 by Adrienne Rich.
Copyright © 2001 by Adrienne Rich. Used by permission
of the author and W. W. Norton & Company, Inc.
English version


Time split like a fruit between dark and light
and a usual fog drags
over this landfall
I’ve walked September end to end
barefoot room to room
carrying in hand a knife well honed for cutting stem or root
                                          or wick         eyes open
to abalone shells     memorial candle flames
split lemons   roses laid
                            along charring logs      Gorgeous things
: : dull acres of developed land as we had named it: Nowhere
wetland   burnt garbage burning at its heart
gunmetal thicket    midnightblue blood and
                                tricking masks    I thought I knew
history was not a novel

So can I say it was not I    listed as Innocence
betrayed you   serving (and protesting always)
the motives of my government
thinking we’d scratch out a place
where poetry   old subversive shape
grew out of Nowhere    here?
where skin could lie on skin
a place “outside the limits”

                           Can I say I was mistaken?

To be so bruised:    in the soft organs     skeins of consciousness
Over and over have let it be
damage to others    crushing of the animate core
that tone-deaf cutloose ego swarming the world

so bruised:      heart    spleen    long inflamed ribbons of the guts
the spine’s vertical necklace swaying

Have let it swarm
through us    let it happen
as it must, inmost

but before this:     long before this   those other eyes
frontally exposed themselves and spoke

English version


That the meek word like the righteous word can bully
that an Israeli soldier interviewed years
after the first intifada could mourn on camera
what under orders he did, saw done, did not refuse
that another leaving Beit Jala could scrawl
on a wall:   We are truely sorry for the mess we made
is merely routine    word that would cancel deed
That human equals innocent and guilty
That we grasp for innocence whether or no
is elementary    That words can translate into broken bones
That the power to hurl words is a weapon
That the body can be a weapon
any child on playground knows    That asked your favorite word
                                                              in a game
you always named a thing, a quality, freedom or river
(never a pronoun, never God or War)
is taken for granted    That word and body
are all we have to lay on the line
That words are windowpanes in a ransacked hut, smeared
by time’s dirty rains, we might argue
likewise that words are clear as glass till the sun strikes it blinding

But that in a dark windowpane you have seen your face
That when you wipe your glasses the text grows clearer
That the sound of crunching glass comes at the height of the
That I can look through glass
into my neighbor’s house
but not my neighbor’s life
That glass is sometimes broken to save lives
That a word can be crushed like a goblet underfoot
is only what it seems, part question, part answer: how
                                                      you live it.


“Equinox” and “Transparencies”, from The School Among the Ruins:
Poems 2000-2004
by Adrienne Rich. Copyright © 2004 by
Adrienne Rich. Used by permission of the author and
W. W. Norton & Company, Inc.
This Is Not the Room
English version

This Is Not the Room

of polished tables lit with medalled
torsos bent toward microphones
where ears lean hands scribble
“working the dark side”

---glazed eye meeting frozen eye---

This is not the room where tears down carven
cheeks track rivulets in the scars
left by the gouging tool
where wood itself is weeping

where the ancient painted eye speaks to the living eye

This is the room
where truth scrubs around the pedestal of the toilet
flings her rag into the bucket
straightens up   spits at the mirror



U.S. Vice President Richard Cheney, on NBC’s Meet the Press,
September 16, 2001: “we also have to work, though, sort of, the
dark side ... use any means at our disposal, basically, to achieve
our objective.”

“This is Not the Room”, from Telephone Ringing in the Labyrinth:
Poems 2004-2006
by Adrienne Rich. Copyright © 2004 by
Adrienne Rich. Used by permission of the author and
W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.