Sunday, November 12, 2006

Reader's Diary #187- Adrienne Rich: Your Native Land, Your Life (FINISHED)

A common theme running through most of the poems in the latter sections of this book is isolation. Many of these are self exploratory as Rich seems to list off reasons (real or imagined depends on your degree of cynicism) as to why she feels separate from others in her country (including men, non-Jews, the healthy, and the straight).

I'm not usually a fan of political poems, but I do like these. Rather than the preachy, holier-than-though, patronizing political poems of someone like Milton Acorn, Rich is more reflective in the process. Her humility towards these issues are probably a little surprising to those who would paint her as a "militant feminist". In fact, the strongest poems in this entire collection are those which show Rich's reluctance as a hero. In "North American Time" Rich writes, "Everything we write/ will be used against us." personally, I find this approach more effective in relaying a political message. I find it hard to trust anyone who is too set in their convictions.

My favourite section is the third, "Contradictions: Tracking Poems". Here Rich's sense of separation seems to jump to the next logical conclusion, loneliness. You know how people talk about money- that it doesn't buy happiness? Rich, in my mind, delivers a similar message about success. Few poets make it to her level, yet she can start poems with "You who think I find words for everything" indicating so much: that she's somewhat resentful of the expectations, of her own illusion, and of the challenge of maintaining that image. Yet, far from depressing me, I actually think I find it all a little hopeful. I remarked in a recent poem about my own feelings of isolation as a poet. It's nice to see that I am not alone. Rich creates her own camaraderie when she writes directly to the reader (in this case, me), "You for whom I write this". No, I'm not that deranged fan who thinks he's being spoken to, but I do feel Rich was reaching out to her reader's with such a singular wording. Poetry, while isolating, can also have the opposite effect. Maybe even more so- because when you make a connection, it's very personal. Salvation through poetry? Maybe, maybe not. But for the time being, that works for me.


Barbara Bruederlin said...

It sounds as those Rich quite surprised you with the scope and the sensitivity of her poems. I guess I would imagined them to be more strident and angry, but I'm glad to hear she avoided that obvious path.

John Mutford said...

Yes, she was a pleasant surprise. Goes to show we can't judge things through someone else's eyes I guess.