October 3, 2002
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Editor's note: For a photo of Rich,
call (413) 585-2190 or e-mail Marti Hobbes.
Poet and Activist Adrienne
Rich to Read at Smith College
NORTHAMPTON, Mass.-In celebration of
the inauguration of Carol T. Christ as tenth president of Smith
College, the Poetry Center at Smith College will present poet
Adrienne Rich at 2:30 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 18, in John M. Greene
Rich's life and writings have bravely and eloquently challenged
roles, myths and assumptions for half a century. She has been
a fervent activist against racism, sexism, economic injustice
and homophobia. Her exacting and provocative work is required
reading in English and women's studies courses throughout the
Rich has authored more than 15 volumes of poetry and four books
of non-fiction prose, most recently "Fox" and "Arts
of the Possible: Essays and Conversations." Beginning with
the Yale Series of Younger Poets prize, awarded to her at age
22 for "A Change of World," she has received countless
literary honors, including the prestigious Tanning Award for
Mastery in the Art of Poetry, an Academy of Poetry Fellowship,
the Ruth Lilly Prize, the Common Wealth Award in Literature,
two Guggenheims, the MacArthur Fellowship, the Lannan Foundation
Lifetime Achievement Award and the National Book Award, which
she accepted with Audre Lorde and Alice Walker on behalf of all
women who are silenced.
For Rich, activism and art are inexorably intertwined. "Poetry,"
she writes, "can remind us of all we are in danger of losing
disturb us, embolden us out of our resignation."
While her search for social justice has informed her life and
her work, the poems, rather than suffering under the yoke of
a heavy ideology, are brilliantly varied in their strategies
and capacities to disturb and empower. Poet David Wagoner's 1996
citation proclaimed: "At every stage of her development,
she has not simply pleased her admirers, but has surprised them.
Her ingenuity in structure and diction, the variety and intensity
of her forms and voices and the emotional depth they have enabled
her to reach ... have made her lifetime of work a demonstration
of what the Tanning Prize was meant to reward: mastery."
The one prize Rich chose to decline was the National Medal for
the Arts, awarded in 1997 by the National Endowment for the Arts
and President Clinton. "I could not accept such an award
from President Clinton or this White House," she wrote in
a letter to the New York Times, "because the very meaning
of art, as I understand it, is incompatible with the cynical
politics of this administration. [A]rt means nothing if it simply
decorates the dinner-table of power which holds it hostage. The
radical disparities of wealth and power in America are widening
at a devastating rate. A President cannot meaningfully honor
certain token artists while the people at large are so dishonored."
Rich's commitment to a ruthless examination of the self, as well
as of society, has produced a body of work that traces her transformation
from the well-behaved wife and formalist of the early poems to
the fierce and politically artful writer she became. A partial
chronological listing of book titles (poetry and prose) provides
an abbreviated narrative of this process and its concerns: "Snapshots
of a Daughter-in-Law," "Necessities of Life,"
"The Will to Change," "Diving into the Wreck,"
"The Dream of a Common Language," "On Lies, Secrets
and Silence," "A Wild Patience Has Taken Me This Far,"
"Time's Power," "An Atlas of the Difficult World,"
"Dark Fields of the Republic," "Midnight Salvage,"
and "Arts of the Possible."
Rich's work is living necessary proof of the need for and the
possibility of union between art and politics. As the late June
Jordan put it, she "inflames our otherwise withering moral
consciousness with tender and engendering inventions of language."
In the words of poet W. S. Merwin, "Adrienne Rich's poems,
volume after volume, have been the makings of one of the authentic,
unpredictable, urgent, essential voices of our time."
For more information about Rich's reading or the Poetry Center
reading series, call Cindy Furtek in the Poetry Center office
at (413) 585-4891 or Ellen Doré Watson, director, at (413)