“The serious revolutionary, like the serious artist, can’t afford to lead a sentimental or self-deceiving life.” ― Adrienne Rich
Last week, the brilliant poet and pioneering feminist Adrienne Rich passed away. The world has lost a profound voice, but Adrienne’s poetry and prose will certainly live on.
I first read Adrienne’s poetry in a class on women writers, which was easily my favorite literature course during college. We read “Aunt Jennifer’s Tigers” as one of our assignments, and I fell in love with the poem. In fact, it was one of the first poems that I truly studied, reading it over and over to absorb every nuance.
The poem does exactly what I think poetry is supposed to do: it paints a picture, it’s rich with emotion, it uses symbolism and metaphor, and it carries a subtle but deeply meaningful message. It makes you think. It invites you to read it aloud and to read it again. To this day, it remains one of my all-time favorite poems.
“Aunt Jennifer’s Tigers” is presented in full (on page two) of the New York Times obituary: “A Poet of Unswerving Vision at the Forefront of Feminism.”
Remembering Adrienne Rich
The Los Angeles Times also published an obituary highlighting Adrienne Rich’s contributions and accomplishments:
She came of age during the social upheavals of the 1960s and ’70s and was best known as an advocate of women’s rights, which she wrote about in both her poetry and prose. But she also wrote passionate antiwar poetry and took up the causes of the marginalized and underprivileged (from the Los Angeles Times obituary: “Adrienne Rich dies at 82; feminist poet and essayist“).
The Poetry Foundation has assembled articles and essays commemorating Adrienne Rich’s life and legacy: “Remembrances of Adrienne Rich Abound.”
New Verse News has published a poem by Bill Sullivan, which is simply titled “Adrienne Rich (1929-2012).”
“When a woman tells the truth she is creating the possibility for more truth around her.” ― Adrienne Rich
To celebrate Adrienne Rich’s life and legacy, I thought I’d share a poem I wrote many years ago, shortly after I first discovered her work. This was for a class assignment in which we were asked to write a creative response to a poem of our choosing. I chose “Aunt Jennifer’s Tigers” and wrote a response in the voice of Aunt Jennifer.
A Creative Response to “Aunt Jennifer’s Tigers” by Adrienne Rich
Adrienne’s language settles across the page
Black symbols of her thoughts embedded,
engraved in deliberate books. Unafraid
of readers’ mindful eyes. Her lovely lullabies
sing and cry. Brave
niece – she grips the pen in hand,
scrawling the notions of life and
the images of living. Her heart lay
open for all to see, for me, my tigers.
Her words set the scene: tales alive
and breathing. Recount the memory, recount.
Counting stitches of her stories – her own
tapestries, done up in Adrienne’s language.
By Melissa Donovan
“You must write, and read, as if your life depended on it.” ― Adrienne Rich
*All quotes are from Goodreads