Adrienne Rich - Comments & Themes

Comments & Themes

  1. There is a long tradition of women poets writing political poetry (Rukeyser, Levertov, Rich). Assess this trend versus their male counterparts.
  2. Levertov and Rich in particular invite comparison. Address this issue.
  3. Can heavily political poetry nonetheless be beautiful? What are the dangers for a poet who must make a case? What about overt didacticism?
  4. Rich’s essay "Compulsory Heterosexuality and Lesbian Existence" was a major breakthrough for women, for readers of poetry, for gays and lesbians. This kind of essay can frame your reading of much of Rich’s own poetry. Relate it to the poems.
  5. Read Rich’s "Why I Refused the National Medal for the Arts" and discuss political compromise in a public figure. How can one perceive that partisanship in the poetry?
  6. Few other poets have had such an impact in the real world as Rich. This is in fact one of the pillars of her poetics of politics: that poets can make a difference. To what extent do you agree?
  7. Rich’s distrust of poetry as the medium of the oppressor recalls the ambiguity of other authors toward their mother languages (which they thought alienating in their circumstances). A conspicuous example is German for Jewish writers. Can you relate both positions?
  8. Discuss the interrelationship between the private and the public in Rich’s poetry.