An Adrienne Rich Poem for These Dire Days:
One of the Rude Pundit's favorite poets (and, truly, one of the best American poets ever) died this week. Get yourself a collection of Adrienne Rich's work for the weekend. Go beyond "Diving Into the Wreck" or "Aunt Jennifer's Tigers," which you might have read in an undergraduate lit class. The Rude Pundit recommends Dreams of a Common Language, with a sweep of words and undercurrent of the political that would have made old Walt Whitman proud. Rich was one of the first poets to tap into so many of the issues that drove Second Wave feminism, and she was down in the literary and activist trenches of Third Wave feminism, too. Mostly, though, Rich was simply one of those poets whose works make you wonder at the breadth of feeling and depth of thought created by such simple, quotidian language.
Here is an early work, from 1951, "Storm Warnings":
The glass has been falling all the afternoon,
And knowing better than the instrument
What winds are walking overhead, what zone
Of grey unrest is moving across the land,
I leave the book upon a pillowed chair
And walk from window to closed window, watching
Boughs strain against the sky
And think again, as often when the air
Moves inward toward a silent core of waiting,
How with a single purpose time has traveled
By secret currents of the undiscerned
Into this polar realm. Weather abroad
And weather in the heart alike come on
Regardless of prediction.
Between foreseeing and averting change
Lies all the mastery of elements
Which clocks and weatherglasses cannot alter.
Time in the hand is not control of time,
Nor shattered fragments of an instrument
A proof against the wind; the wind will rise,
We can only close the shutters.
I draw the curtains as the sky goes black
And set a match to candles sheathed in glass
Against the keyhole draught, the insistent whine
Of weather through the unsealed aperture.
This is our sole defense against the season;
These are the things we have learned to do
Who live in troubled regions.