Lady A Day 034: Adrienne Rich

Switching it up again! Poets. Lady poets. I have a fondness for them that stretches back to the early days of my English major. I didn’t love poetry until I discovered lesbian poets, whose words seemed to resonate with my young lesbo self more profoundly than that flowery stuff put out by the male Romantics ever had. Blech. So yeah, for me it’s death and gayness (Baudelaire and Plath, Rich, Lorde, and Ryan). Adrienne Rich, Audre Lorde, and Kay Ryan are like, my gay trinity of poetry.  Adrienne Rich came to my poetry class once about four years ago and gave a reading of her work.  The woman was nearing 80, and her entire body was wracked by rheumatoid arthritis.  I could tell because her knuckles are large and gnarled; she walks unsteadily.  All I could think was how painful it must be for her to exercise her god-given talent.  Just putting pen to paper must be torturous.  In retrospect I realized she was WAY smart and probably just typed her poems, or dictated them to some gorgeous undergrad lesbian who was just as besotted with her as I was.  D’oh.

And since this is already running long, I’ll leave you with my favorite Rich poem. If you like it, run, don’t walk to your local bookstore and pick up her amazing collection, The Fact of a Doorframe.

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.

-Adrienne Rich


5 thoughts on “Lady A Day 034: Adrienne Rich

  1. You got me convinced! What beautiful words. The rythm of the piece is uncanny. It’s even better read out loud. The Fact of a Doorframe is now officially part of my collection. After I get it from Amazon of course. And if they dare make me wait 2 weeks like when I bought Lilith’s Brood by Octavia Butler, this will be the last book I ever buy on Amazon! you hear me, Amazon?!

    mmm… ranting. sorry 😉

    • It’s definitely a poem to be read aloud. I don’t memorize very many poems, but I’ve got that one down pat. I even recited it to my therapist when I tried to explain the concept of “internal weather.” Now she always opens sessions, “So, how’s that internal weather?” It’s her new thing. Thanks, Adrienne Rich.

  2. Her magnificent poem From a Survivor is one of the first I ever studied in English thanks to a feminist lesbian irreverent 11th grade English teacher who put the obligatory Newsweek articles aside and had us read Sexton and Maya Angelou instead. What a better way to study a foreign language than seeing it flow from its poets’ lips?

    Is it ok that I’m jealous of your therapist? Mine is so obtuse, I don’t think she would even understand that poem… let alone use the metaphor.

  3. I spent a good part of my day reading essays and speeches by Audre Lorde, feeling inspired and awe-struck as always by her both her message and her way with language… I’m conducting research for a paper on U.S. feminisms of color, trying to trace black feminist thought from the suffrage movement through the 20th C in order to show how dominant feminism continually subsumes it and makes it invisible. Lorde, hooks, Anzaldua, et al were so. f-ing. ahead of their time.

    ANYway. My point. In Lorde’s book Sister Outsider, there’s an interview with Rich and Lorde. It’s like a Queer Lit geek’s wet dream imagining those two women existing in the same space. I thought of you.

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