Monthly Archives: March 2012

The messages about Adrienne continue to come into my mailbox.

My friend Lauren, from San Francisco– sent this link to me.  The photo so beautiful.  We are lucky to have had each of these women writers and I am so lucky to have you, Lauren.  My friend and sister in so many ways, Jewish sister, mother, friend and adventurer and sister reader, writer, lover of words.

Rich (right), with writer Audre Lorde (left) and Meridel Le Sueur (middle) in Austin Texas, 1980 (image credit: K. Kendall / Flickr)

One of the foremost poets and thinkers of the 20th century, Adrienne Rich, has died, SF Chronicle book editor John McMurtrie reports via Twitter. In addition to winning loads of awards for her work, she was also an anti-war, civil right, and feminist activist.

The Poetry Foundation notes:

Through over fifty years of public introspection and examination of society and self, Adrienne Rich has chronicled her journey in poetry and prose. “I began as an American optimist,” she commented in Credo of a Passionate Skeptic, “albeit a critical one, formed by our racial legacy and by the Vietnam War…I became an American Skeptic, not as to the long search for justice and dignity, which is part of all human history, but in the light of my nation’s leading role in demoralizing and destabilizing that search, here at home and around the world. Perhaps just such a passionate skepticism, neither cynical nor nihilistic, is the ground for continuing.”

She was also a fabulous lesbian.

Whenever the death of an esteemed poet blips on our radar, this line from Sweeney Todd‘s “A Little Priest” — wherein the two main characters bandy back and forth about which profession would make for the tastiest meat pie — pops into our head: “No, you see, the trouble with poet is how do you know it’s deceased?”

We’re probably misinterpreting Sondheim’s gem of a line, but… it works here.

Rich was 82.

Adrienne Rich 1929-2012 & what feminist bookstores gave us

I got word last night that Adrienne Rich, our much-needed, beautiful,  female, Jewish, lesbian, mother, U.S., poet-of-conscience, died Tuesday.  I was at work today and I didn’t find an opening to say to my colleagues, “I suspect none of you know her work, but Adrienne Rich died on Tuesday—and know it or not, the world is a poorer place without her. Your world is a poorer place without her.”  Perhaps more importantly I didn’t bring them and read them a poem.  Nor one for you here.  But her death has been on my mind all day.  Through a public hearing that I staffed and while sitting at my desk and while walking around.

For me Adrienne Rich was a poet whose voice I truly relied upon; a teacher, foremother, and sister from afar.  The times (which were quite a few, but once someone like Adrienne is gone, turn out to have been not nearly enough)  that I was in her presence in person date back to the 80’s.  I remember a particular moment, standing in a huge, standing-room-only room at the Memorial Union in Madison, Wisconsin where I was a student– listening to Adrienne read—about being a Jew and then poems from Twenty-One Love Poems—and thinking “I am happy.  Alive.  How lucky, lucky I am to be born in a time and place where I can read and hear this poet.”

I remember arriving home relatively late from work last night to my daughter and partner sprawled on the sofa, reading a very excellent young people’s book about a Chicana girl—a story about racism and classism and family and triumph called, Esperanza Rising,  together.  The phone rang and my daughter answered and handed it to my partner,M.  It became clear that it was my friend Deb—and that someone had died.  Someone in Deb’s small family? I stage-whispered, worrying.   M. shook her head no.  And then she mouthed, Adrienne Rich, and she started to cry.  I have not yet cried.

I remember several times hearing Adrienne read in my partner’s feminist bookstore in the 80’s and 90’s—listening to her words, watching my partner’s careful caretaking of Adrienne (she had rheumatoid arthritis)—and Adrienne’s genuine, spoken, warm affection for bookstores and for feminist bookstores and for feminist bookstore owners and for my partner in particular.  I loved their relationship and I loved listening to Adrienne.

Poetry and poets have been a lifeline for me in times of loneliness and confusion and have also been a source of deep, abiding hope and pleasure and engagement in the best sense, with life and the world, in all it’s harshness and beauty.  Adrienne was typical, to me, of what Jewish women are.  In her case, she was very small in physical stature– and a woman with an enormous mind, command of ideas and language and issues.  She also had a powerful command of the difference, increasingly difficult to discern in this world, between truth and falsity.  And she had a powerful understanding of the interconnectedness of us.

She wasn’t the only–but  she was one significant moral compass for all of us living with and hoping to see clearly and to untangle racism, classism, sexism, homophobia, every day, in our midst, here in the US.  And she brought us words, beautiful and hopeful.

Before I end, I really should say a special thank you here too– to my beloved M. You, my love, did your own labor of love, working with a great vision and with much joy, for so long, for almost no pay.  Your important work of running your wonderful feminist bookstore for so many years.  Adrienne did the writing and you dear, so deeply understood the power of words and the importance to all of us– of bringing Adrienne and other important women writers to me and to some of you who read this and to so many women.  I heard Adrienne do this on more than one occasion and if Adrienne could, she would thank you again one more time.  I do.

A Moment, or many moments, of Silence and then let us be noisy

I am not in a position to write at all fully about what is on my mind.  But tonight I am thinking about this world, and about those lost recently– because of racism, anti-Jewish oppression and the violence perpetrated that leads to more violence in the world around us.  Trayvon Martin; our lost Jewish, French father–Jonathan Sandler and his two young sons, and the eight year old Jewish girl who died in a shooting at a Jewish School in Toulouse, France, Tuesday.  I am also thinking about the Afghan civilian men, women and children who have not been named in the Western media– but who all do have names and who have mothers and fathers and sisters and brothers and people who love them.  The 16 who died, it seems, by the hand of Sgt. Robert Bales.  And I am thinking about Robert Bales and his wife and child and the destruction of his life and that of his family too.

I will write more too, but you should start by heading over to Mama C and looking at her beautiful son, Sam and read what she has to say.  What I know is that we all need a moment of silence, or many.  And we all, it seems clear, need to cry and tremble and hold people close and then we need to go out wherever we go and to make some noise, a lot of noise against violence, against racism, against anti-Jewish oppression and against all things– large and also the seemingly small, that divide us from one another.

Bermuda Blog triangle

Here’s another post that begins like this, “Oh my goodness, OMG, oy, oy,oy.  I miss blogging.  I miss sitting at this very dining room table and in my light– (we don’t really get direct sun in this room), bright, quiet dining room and writing.  I miss it, I miss it, I miss it.”  I miss dropping what I’m doing at 3:10 and racing to school to pick up my daughter.  I miss a lot about my old life, but the thing is I am really loving my new job.  From my very, very brief experience, a legislative job is, just like in West Wing, full of long days and myriad dramas.

As for the work itself; It’s interesting.  Engaging.  Sometimes funny.  Fun. Fast-paced and demanding.  There is such a range of different and  serious and intellectually challenging and just interesting things to do and to learn and to master each day.  I often have to force myself to get up and walk out the door to get out for lunch– just to move around.  I could sit at my desk and work on the next thing and the next all day.  I’m having the most serious back trouble I’ve had in years and it’s not dissipating– and I miss my family.  But I am having fun which is not exactly what I expected to hear myself saying at this point.  I don’t know what I expected, but I am surprised in many ways.

All that said, I miss three things terribly– more time with my daughter and partner; being out and about in the world in a certain way during the daytime– and the breezy, or drudge-like or thorough, intent or inspired and contemplative work of writing.  I’ve been writing a lot in my work, but not here.

To solve one logistical problem I am determined to head out soon (as in soon in the days-not-months sense) and I will buy an iPad– because I have a lunch hour and I occasionally have that hour actually free for the start of an interesting idea to be written.  But one definitely should not blog at a government computer.   (Actually, that was a detail of the movie Julie and Julia that nagged at me and distracted me like a sore tooth– the fact that she wrote much of that blog from a government office– I worried the whole time that one of the sub-plots of the movie was going to be her getting fired for blogging at work…).  So for sure the purchase of an iPad will enrich someone other than me and perhaps that will be the extent of it, or perhaps I’ll get to write more often.  Get in a groove.

I have much more to say– about all kinds of things going on, but I am dead tired.  So, so tired.   Daylight savings time and a busy weekend did me in.  So I will just have to promise to write again soon.  Sooner than the last post which was Leap Year Day.