Pioneering Feminist Poet Adrienne Rich Dies at 82
Poet and essayist Adrienne Rich, a feminist literary figure celebrated as much for deeply personal reflections on her own life as for sometimes-biting social commentary, has died at age 82, family members said on Wednesday, Reuters reports.
Rich, who received a galaxy of honors, including the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize and National Book Award, for a body of work that spanned seven decades and ranks among the most anthologized of the 20th century, died on Tuesday at her home in Santa Cruz, California, daughter-in-law Diana Horowitz said.
Horowitz said Rich succumbed to complications from rheumatoid arthritis, from which she suffered for many years.
Rich, who lived and wrote openly as a lesbian for most of her adult life, starting in an era when homosexuality was widely condemned in American society, became a pioneering champion for women’s rights and the rights of others who were disadvantaged.
“She accomplished in verse what Betty Friedan, author of ‘The Feminine Mystique,’ did in prose,” Margalit Fox wrote of the pioneering feminist bard in The New York Times obituary.
The Poetry Foundation’s website called her “one of America’s foremost public intellectuals.”
As a poet, her personal observations and reflections often became intertwined with or used as metaphors for her social commentary, said D.A. Powell, a fellow poet and University of Iowa professor who was nominated with her in 2004 for the National Book Critics Circle Award.
“She sought always in her work to discover the truth about her life, and through that lense to discover the truth about women’s lives and the lives of people who came from marginal or cross-cultures,” he told Reuters.
“Her poetry is something that some people might categorize as poetry of witness,” he added. “But witness is only one aspect of it. There’s a kind of unsentimental, unselfish lense through which she articulates the simple joys and burdens of living, the journey of finding oneself.”
Photo (cropped): Stuart Ramson/Associated Press
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