Today you can win a signed book by the late poet, Adrienne Rich. I have two, and I’m going to let the winner choose which one to receive. I’m also giving you another opportunity to win Geraldine Brooks tickets, after this beautiful guest post by Mary-Kaylor Hanger…Someday if someday comes we will agree that trust is not about safety that faith is not about decision…
-Adrienne Rich, from her poem, “Negotiations” in Time’s Power, Poems 1985-1988
Almost one year after her death, three women-poets united in her honor for the AWP Conference panel “Breaking the Silence: The Interior Life of the Poet. In Homage to Adrienne Rich.”
It is not enough for me to be humbled by the work of Lee Rosetti, or Kimiko Hahn, or Kathy Graber. It is not enough for me to be indebted to Adrienne Rich. I had to see these three speak about the latter, and the ways in which Rich has influenced their work. To say that I am following in the tradition of Kimiko Hahn is to say that I am also following in the tradition of Adrienne Rich, even when I do not consciously realize this.
For those of you unfamiliar with Rich’s work, she was a woman-poet, both a pioneer and prophet, and, as the panelists recounted, she has given many the imperative to witness and to speak.The beauty of it was the guilt. It entered us, quick schnapps, forked tongue of ice. The guilt made us feel innocent again.
-Adrienne Rich, from her poem, “Innocence: 1945” in Dark Fields of the Republic: Poems 1991-1995
Rosetti said of Rich’s work, “these poems reached for new articulation of processes for a woman to know herself.” Rich herself had said that “the door makes no promises”, and her work was more than a door into women’s stories. It was, Rosetti claims, engaging with the larger political environment. Of Rich’s profound influence on her work, Rosetti concluded that Rich’s words “led to a sense that life could be my own”, citing her “presiding genius of her own body” and mantra that “genius knows itself.”
Kimiko Hahn (I was star-struck when she walked past me into the room!!) spoke more directly to “political” poetry, reminding us that “political” can alter with context. Political poetry does not automatically equal bad poetry. Political poetry can be quiet, subtle—it doesn’t need to be brash and soapbox-y. For this quiet subtlety to work in a poem, and by work I, and Hahn, mean for a poem to be heard and not dismissed as angry or harsh, the poet needs to pay even more particular attention to the old adage of “showing, not telling” in the work.
In “21 Love Poems,” a sonnet sequence, Rich writes that “every real poem is the breaking of existing silence.” Hahn reminded us, the whole packed room of us (at least 300!), that our own silence is the first silence to break. Too, being political is not a bad thing. Hahn doesn’t mean that Rich’s poems are Republican, or Democratic, or Libertarian, or Green Party, or anything else. Political poetry, to Rich and to Hahn, is inevitable. We all form opinions, and what we choose to write about, over what we choose to not write about, is political in itself. Years after her death, Rich’s words rang resonant in the crowded, drafty conference room: “The moment when a feeling enters the body is political.”
Kathy Graber took us home with Rich’s relentless seriousness in her work, calling Rich poems “consistently earnest and weighty.” Not only did Rich seek to make meaning in her work, she sought to make self as well as create a world in which she’d want to live. “The problem”Rich stated (in Section 18 of 29 of “Contradictions”), “unstated until now is how to live in a damaged body.” Rich did not only think—she felt. To move past the uncomfortable, through it, in it—this is why Graber counts Rich as a member of her tribe.
“The body’s pain and the pain on the streets are not the same, but you can learn from the edges that blur.” It’s statements like this, blunt, heartwrenching, and insightful, that draw all of us to Rich. This pain is political, and we should not be ashamed. Echoing Hahn, Graber left us with the reminder that to be human is to be political. To write at all is to be political.
Mary-Kaylor Hanger is a native of Mechanicsburg, PA and is currently completing her MFA in Poetry at Chatham University in Pittsburgh.
Her work has previously appeared or is forthcoming in Weave, Blast Furnace, Lines + Stars, Stoneboat, Off the Coast, and lexicon.
She can be reached at email@example.com.
SO HOW ABOUT THAT SIGNED ADRIENNE RICH BOOK?
ENTER UP TO FOUR (4) TIMES!
1) Comment below on your favorite poem or quote by Adrienne Rich or another poet (this is National Poetry month, after all.)
2) Write a poem in the comments below: any length, style, rhyme-scheme…if you call it poetry, I won’t argue!
3) Follow this blog by email (there is a little box on the top right side of this post and at the bottom: “Get Traveling MarLa by email.”) Make sure to let me know in the comments below so
4) Retweet this post or share it on Facebook (let me know you did, so I can give you credit for it!)
SO HOW ABOUT THOSE TICKETS TO GERALDINE BROOKS?
I’m glad you asked! They are orchestra seats to a SOLD-OUT lecture at Carnegie Music Hall in Pittsburgh, PA.
TODAY YOU GET ONE MORE CHANCE TO ENTER (SEE YESTERDAY’S POST FOR MORE CHANCES):
1) Comment below (you can combine it with your comments for the Adrienne Rich entries, or make it separate) with one thing you didn’t know about Pittsburgh Arts and Lectures. Feel free to click on their link here and browse their site.
HAVE YOU ENTERED THE OTHER CONTESTS?
This is a full week of giveaways, so please go to the Contests and Promotions Page to see other giveaways you may want to enter to win!
P.S. A Necessary Ethics Note Due to an Increasing Number of Requests to Promote Books, Products, Organizations or People lately (Please see full ethics page here):
I don’t receive any compensation or freebies to promote books for writers, or to promote organizations or events. I often incorporate links and attention for the non-profit organizations that I already donate to, and the writers I read. The opinions expressed are mine, and the guest bloggers are ones I choose because I think they are interesting or have material my readers would like. I will never ask a writer to give me a book, and discourage writers from allowing their hard work to be taken advantage of by bloggers “in exchange for reviews.” I believe writers work too hard for too little money to be asked to give away their product.
Any organization may pay to advertise on this site, if it chooses, and I would clearly mark that as an advertisement. In other words, you’re simply reading my choices, my opinions, and my recommendations of things I enjoy reading, doing, supporting, and promoting.