Later Poems: Selected and New 1971–2012

Adrienne Rich, Author
Adrienne Rich. Norton, $39.95 (608p) ISBN 978-0-393-08956-1
Reviewed on: 09/17/2012
Release date: 11/01/2012
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This big and important selection begins at the point where Rich (who died in March 2012) became a national political figure: Diving into the Wreck (1973), with its often-quoted title poem, became a must-read for 1970s feminists, while The Dream of a Common Language (1977), with its central sequence “Twenty-One Love Poems,” set a new standard for writing on love between women. The long phrases of “Yom Kippur 1984” look back at her Jewish heritage, showing how a writer’s solitude interacts with an activist’s solidarity; An Atlas of the Difficult World (1991) found phrases harsh and mild for American landscapes, especially her adoptive home in California, where the “light of outrage is the light of history,/ springing upon us when we’re least prepared.” Rich could depict calls to action and prophetic near-despair, but her white spaces and broken-up lines, recurring symbols (solitary mammals, lost boats, telescopes) and isolated terms could also portray an inner life as complex as it was committed. Those portrayals resound anew through the 10 new poems, among them an inspiring address “For the Young Anarchists” and the last of her many responses to Wallace Stevens. “What’s concrete for me: from there I cast out further,” she wrote; this inspiring retrospective shows just how much she could take in. (Nov.)
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