Sunday, April 6, 2008

Getting some Culture with Adrienne Rich

Her name is pronounced Ahh-Dree-Enn, not Ay-Dree-In. I never knew this until my much-more-knowledgeable husband talked about some of her work one day. I proceeded to tease him about his pronunciation, but then he "schooled me" as to the facts. Now I get to sound all high-brow and in-the-know. I love it.

Rich's life has been a progression of theme and style in relation to her work. Reading various pieces in chronological order provides a time-line of social mores and change. Check out her bio on

"Diving into the Wreck" is probably the poem with which the public is most familiar. It's a staple in undergrad and grad literature classes. However, "At a Bach Concert" is a lovely, deceptively simple poem. When teaching poetry, I try to show my students that form actually helps creativity. It doesn't stifle it. Some of the best poems from my students have come out of iambic pentameter; I believe it's because word choice becomes utterly important. It's a struggle, surely, and they hated the work, but the true literature students were so pleased with the results.

So I chose this excerpt because of it's focus on form. And besides, I like Bach. So there. The link to the poem also has a solid and well-written critical reflection. Check it out.

from "At a Bach Concert"

This antique discipline, tenderly severe,
Renews belief in love yet masters feeling,
Asking of us a grace in what we bear.

Form is the ultimate gift that love can offer -
The vital union of necessity
With all that we desire, all that we suffer.

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