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Adrienne Cecile Rich

Adrienne Cecile Rich used her poetry as a means to reclaim the voices of the silenced, drawing from her own experience as a woman and lesbian. Rich met early acclaim with her first two collections of poems, A Change of World in 1951, which W.H. Auden selected for the Yale Series of Younger Poets, and The Diamond Cutters in 1955. Rich’s growing interest in the civil rights movement led her to examine the oppression of women in her 1963 collection, Snapshots of a Daughter-in-Law, for which she accepted the National Book Award on behalf of all women, donating the prize money to charity. She began writing further on feminism and lesbianism, as well as on political issues. With her partner, Michelle Cliff, she coedited a lesbian feminist journal called Sinister Wisdom from 1980–1984. She also taught at a variety of universities, including Swarthmore, Columbia, and Brandeis, and served as chancellor of the Academy of American Poets. She has won many literary awards, including a MacArthur Fellowship, but famously refused the National Medal of Arts in 1997 because she felt her art was “incompatible with the cynical politics of this administration.”

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The impact of Adrienne Rich on poetry in America since the second half of the twentieth century has been enormous. Too richly talented to be ignored by the literary establishment, she was at the same time too politically oriented to be comfortably digested.

Institution: Steven Barclay Agency

Date of Birth
May 16, 1929
Place of Birth
Baltimore
Date of Death
March 27, 2012

How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Adrienne Cecile Rich." (Viewed on September 19, 2014) <http://jwa.org/people/rich-adrienne>.

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