American Poet, Non-Fiction Writer and Essayist
Adrienne Rich, fully Adrienne Cecil Rich
American Poet, Non-Fiction Writer and Essayist
Lesbian existence comprises both the breaking of a taboo and the rejection of a compulsory way of life. It is also a direct or indirect attack on male right of access to women But it is more than these, although we may first begin to perceive it as a form of nay-saying to patriarchy, an act or resistance It has of course included role playing, self-hatred, breakdown, alcoholism, suicide, and intra-woman violence; we romanticize at our peril what it means to love and act against the grain, and under heavy penalties; and lesbian existence has been lived (unlike, say, Jewish or Catholic existence) without access to any knowledge of a tradition, a continuity, a social underpinning The destruction of records and memorabilia and letters documenting the realities of lesbian existence must be taken very seriously as a means of keeping heterosexuality compulsory for women, since what has been kept from our knowledge is joy, sensuality, courage, and community, as well as guilt, self-betrayal, and pain.
No one who survives to speak new language, has avoided this: the cutting-away of an old force that held her rooted to an old ground the pitch of utter loneliness where she herself and all creation seem equally dispersed, weightless, her being a cry to which no echo comes or can ever come. But in fact we were always like this, rootless, dismembered: knowing it makes the difference. Birth stripped our birthright from us, tore us from a woman, from women, from ourselves so early on and the whole chorus throbbing at our ears like midges, told us nothing, nothing of origins, nothing we needed to know, nothing that could re-member us.
Poetry can add its grain to an accumulation of consciousness against the idea that there is no alternative - that we're just in the great flow of capitalism and it can never be any different - that this is human destiny, this is human nature.
She had to possess the courage to enter, through language, states which most people deny or veil with silence.
The connections between and among women are the most feared, the most problematic, and the most potentially transforming force on the planet.
The mind's passion is all for singling out. Obscurity has another tale to tell.
The Stranger: Looking as I?ve looked before, straight down the heart of the street to the river walking the rivers of the avenues feeling the shudder of the caves beneath the asphalt watching the lights turn on in the towers walking as I?ve walked before like a man, like a woman, in the city my visionary anger cleansing my sight and the detailed perceptions of mercy flowering from that anger. If I come into a room out of the sharp misty light and hear them talking a dead language if they ask me my identity what can I say but I am the androgyne I am the living mind you fail to describe in your dead language the lost noun, the verb surviving only in the infinitive the letters of my name are written under the lids of the newborn child.
There is no 'the truth', 'a truth' - truth is not one thing, or even a system. It is an increasing complexity. the pattern of the carpet is a surface. When we look closely, or when we become weavers, we learn of the tiny multiple threads unseen in the overall pattern, the knots on the underside of the carpet
Those years you never looked at any of us. Staring into your own eyelids. Like you saw a light there. Can you see me now?
We are, I am, you are by cowardice or courage the one who find our way back to this scene carrying a knife, a camera a book of myths in which our names do not appear.
We who were loved will never unlive that crippling fever.
When someone with the authority of a teacher describes the world and you?re not in it, there?s a moment of psychic disequilibrium, as if you looked into a mirror and saw nothing.
Yet we can't wait for the undamaged to make our connections for us; we can't wait to speak until we are wholly clear and righteous. There is no purity, and, in our lifetimes, no end to this process.
In this disintegrative, technologically-manic time, when public language is so debased, poetry continues to matter because it's the art that reintegrates words, speech, voice, breath, music, bodily tempo, and the powers of the imagination.
Lies are usually attempts to make everything simpler ? for the liar ? than it really is, or ought to be. In lying to others we end up lying to ourselves. We deny the importance of an event, or a person, and thus deprive ourselves of a part of our lives. Or we use one piece of the past or present to screen out another. Thus we lose faith even within our own lives.
No person, trying to take responsibility for her or his identity, should have to be so alone. There must be those among whom we can sit down and weep, and still be counted as warriors.
Poetry can open locked chambers of possibility; restore numbed zones to feeling, recharge desire.
She is here because no-one else was there when worn-to-skeleton her enemy died. Her love. Her twin. Marghanita dreamed the intravenous, the intensive the stainless steel before she ever saw them. She's not practical, you know, they used to say. She's the artist, she got away.
The danger lies in forgetting what we had. The flow between generations becomes a trickle, grandchildren tape-recording grandparents' memories on special occasions perhaps-no casual storytelling jogged by daily life, there being no shared daily life what with migrations, exiles, diasporas, rendings, the search for work. Or there is a shared daily life riddled with holes of silence.
The moment of change is the only poem.
The suppressed lesbian I had been carrying in me since adolescence began to stretch her limbs ...
There is nothing revolutionary whatsoever about the control of women's bodies by men. The woman's body is the terrain on which patriarchy is erected.
To become a token woman--whether you win the Nobel Prize or merely get tenure at the cost of denying your sisters--is to become something less than a man since men are loyal at least to their own world-view, their laws of brotherhood and self-interest.
We are, none of us, 'either' mothers or daughters; to our amazement, confusion, and greater complexity, we are both.
We write from the marrow of our bones.