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The Will to Change: Poems 1968-1970: Poems, 1968-70 Paperback – 1 Apr 1971

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About the Author

Widely read, widely anthologized, widely interviewed and widely taught, Adrienne Rich (1929-2012) was for decades among the most influential writers of the feminist movement and one of the best-known American public intellectuals. She wrote two dozen volumes of poetry and more than a half-dozen of prose. Her constellation of honors includes a National Book Award for poetry for Tonight, No Poetry Will Serve, a MacArthur Foundation "genius" grant in 1994, and a National Book Award for poetry in 1974 for Diving Into the Wreck. That volume, published in 1973, is considered her masterwork. Ms. Rich's other volumes of poetry include The Dream of a Common Language, A Wild Patience Has Taken Me This Far, An Atlas of the Difficult World, The School Among the Ruins, and Telephone Ringing in the Labyrinth. Her prose includes the essay collections On Lies, Secrets, and Silence; Blood, Bread, and Poetry; an influential essay, "Compulsory Heterosexuality and Lesbian Existence," and the nonfiction book Of Woman Born, which examines the institution of motherhood as a socio-historic construct. In 2006, Rich was awarded the Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters by the National Book Foundation. In 2010, she was honored with The Griffin Trust for Excellence in Poetry's Lifetime Recognition Award.

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"...the moment of change is the only poem" 22 Sept. 2012
By Althea - Published on
Format: Paperback
Generally, I don't believe that the value of poetry should be assessed according to what I know about the author's personal life or political choices. A good poem should be able to stand alone, without biography, and convince me of whatever it is attempting to convey. However, when reading Adrienne Rich it is almost impossible to separate her life from her poetry. Starting with this book, her poems began to get stubbornly personal, and to reflect her politics and her social concerns without apology. The poems in "The Will to Change" also seem to be thematic in nature and intended to be read as a progression--they don't always stand alone in brilliant fashion, but lean on and support each other.

Rich was in her early 40's when " The Will to Change" was published. During the writing of the poems she was raising three sons and was in the last phase of a failing marriage; she was also becoming increasing political and more vocal in the feminist movement, though she had not yet come out as a lesbian. The book reflects these shifts in her life, but does so somewhat obliquely and allusively; you almost feel that the poems are written with a clenched jaw and a cautious backwards glance. She appears determined to speak her mind but seems wary of making herself a target.
"...a woman feeling the fullness of her powers
at the precise moment when she must not use them..."

It was a time of inner strain and outer social upheaval, but she seemed to find grounding in imagery that was almost cinematic in detail, momentary "stills" captured as life unraveled and reshaped itself around her. There are many references to film, ("Pierrot le Fou"; "Images for Godard"; a 14 page sequence of poems called "Shooting Script") and sometimes there is an oddly detached perspective, as if she was dispassionately observing a film of herself and her world and was simply making notes for future reference.
"...the notes for the poem are the only poem... ...the moment of change is the only poem..."

We now have the advantage of looking back over six decades of Rich's extraordinary career and tracing her evolution, so we can see where these notations were leading. However, when these poems first appeared her observations seemed to be radically divergent from standard "poetics" and were considered experimental in form and approach. They revealed the tentative and necessary steps toward the changes that were beginning--not only for Rich personally but for America--in language, sociology, sexuality, politics, and in perception. They are valuable as intimations of what was to come, but are of limited oracular power compared to some of her work in the books that would follow.
"...the artists talking of freedom
in their chains"

This book is where Adrienne Rich really began to test her chains. She had not broken them, but she was strong in her belief that change was possible, and was willing to try to point the way, even if she herself was fumbling in the dark. If you're just starting to read her work I would recommend first reading "Diving into the Wreck" as it is a more realized effort, or one of her anthologies ("The Fact of a Doorframe, New Edition," would be a good place to begin.) However, if you want to understand who this brave and honest poet was and why her authentic and individual voice was so important to us, you'll find this book worthy of exploration.
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