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5.0 out of 5 stars The most conflicted, most rewarding book from the #1 poet, 26 July 1998
By A Customer
As of this writing, *Your Native Land...* is ranked in the 250,000 range on Amazon's rankings of books bought. My suspicion is that most volumes of this book start in poetry classes or women's reading groups, and find their way to other people close to the readers' hearts.
This volume contains four poems--two long, two shorter--which have made a big impact on this reader and many others. The two long poems which bracket the volume are "Sources," which evokes Rich's conflicted Jewish heritage, and "Contradictions: Tracking Poems," which works outward from the poet's lifelong struggle with serious arthritic pain to propose connections between "the body's pain and the pain on the streets." In both of these long poems, Rich makes her particular experiences serve as a framework for addressing the struggles of a range of people, including her 1970s constituency of American women but moving outward to engage with people across the world. <! P>That the poet must do this is the message of her poem "North American Time," which readers of earlier Rich poems might see as a rebuke to those poems' assumed facts about people's experiences. North American Time makes clear that the poet's intentions in the moment of writing may not last, but that the effects of those words does last: "we move/ but our words stand/ become responsible//and this is verbal privilege." In this poem, Rich makes her "privilege" one of a continuous witnessing of the lives of those around her (and far away, in other countries), in which the poet's language has to reflect these specifics.
In "In the Wake of Home," though, Rich gives a painfully sad and affecting picture of American middle-class home life and its losses. At the heart of home, she writes, is a "hole torn and patched over again." The connections Rich makes between this kind of pain "in the wake of home" and the much ! larger-scale violences of slavery and homelessness are not ! as convincing as similar connections made elsewhere in the volume; still, this poem shows Rich's conflicted approach to the problems of poetry she works to define throughout the volume, an approach of immense responsibility and power.
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Your Native Land, Your Life: Poems
Your Native Land, Your Life: Poems by A Rich (Paperback - 23 July 1986)
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