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Understanding Adrienne Rich

Jeannette E. Riley

Published: Sep 12 2024


Published: Aug 19 2016


Published: Aug 31 2016

OA Ebook
Published: Aug 31 2016


The inclusion of this book in the Open Carolina collection is made possible by the generous funding of

The journey of an important feminist writer through poetry, prose, and politics

Among the most celebrated American poets of the past half century, Adrienne Rich was the recipient of numerous awards, including the Bollingen Prize, the National Book Award, and the Lannan Lifetime Achievement Award. In Understanding Adrienne Rich, Jeannette E. Riley assesses the full scope of Rich's career from 1957 to her death in 2012 through a chronological exploration of her poetry and prose.

Riley details the evolution of Rich's feminist poetics as she investigated issues of identity, sexuality, gender, the desire to reclaim women's history, and what she terms "the dream of a common language." Throughout the book she documents Rich's gradually developing assertion that poetry can create social change and engage people in the democratic process. Interweaving explications of Rich's poetry with analysis of her prose, Riley offers a close look at the development of the author's voice from formalist poet to feminist visionary to citizen poet.

Jeannette E. Riley is professor of English and gender and women's studies at the University of Rhode Island. Her writings on Adrienne Rich have appeared in edited collections dedicated to Rich's work and in Soundings: An Interdisciplinary Journal.

"Adrienne Rich took on the issues of our time as no one before or since and created a brand-new idiom to convey a poetry of witness and essays of extraordinary brilliance. In Understanding Adrienne Rich, Jeannette E. Riley does Rich and her work a great service: drawing a map that continually moves between the life and the word with a brilliance of its own. This is an important contribution to understanding and appreciating one of our truly great voices."—Margaret Randall, author of She Becomes Time and Haydée Santamaría, Cuban Revolutionary: She Led by Transgression

"Throughout her career, Adrienne Rich resisted all attempts to limit or contain the wild energy of language and consciousness, insisting on the power of poetry to act in the political world. Clear and complex in equal measure, Jeannette E. Riley's Understanding Adrienne Rich is an exemplary response to Rich's call. Combining a convincing overview of the poet's career with attentive readings of crucial poems, Riley provides an ideal introduction for general readers and a solid foundation for future critical conversations."—Craig Werner, author of Adrienne Rich: The Poet and Her Critics

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