Along with the Windows Sticky Notes I have on my desktop reminding me of important things like my government gateway password and the chinese word for "pervert" （色狼), I also keep my absolute favourite Adrienne Rich poems. If you don't know anything about Adrienne Rich ‒as I didn't, for a shockingly long time given that she comes up every time I google my own name (i.e. often) ‒ you should start at the obvious place. The short story here is that she was an incredible poet who had an incredible life, wrote "Compulsory Heterosexuality and Lesbian Existence" which is an important piece of feminist writing on the position of lesbians in the movement, and also wrote several decades worth of poetry books, the vast majority of which I have not yet read. This is a bit silly given that what I have read, I loved. There's just so much!
|A better Adrienne.|
You see a mantrying to think.You want to sayto everything:Keep off! Give him room!But you only watch,terrifiedthe old consolationswill get him at lastlike a fishhalf-dead from floppingand almost crawlingacross the shinglealmost breathingthe raw, agonizingairtill a wavepulls it back blind into the triumphantsea.
This is quite a pessimistic sentiment to start one's all-important "inspiring poetry" Sticky Note with, but I absolutely love it despite identifying with its situation depressingly often. Like every self-identifying feminist, I've dealt with my share of man-ostriches, armchair anthropologists, "egalitarians-not-feminists", outright sociopaths and otherwise awesome friends who just can't see how I could ever find love with hair on my legs, ew. When this all gets too much, it's nice to have words to fall back on as a sort of structured despair about the world. Yes, some men are terrible and even the good ones say terrible things. Forgive them, because you are asking something that the rest of the world makes almost impossible. Thinking is hard. Feminism is hard. Harden up, Adrienne! All will be well. Moving on.
The second, equally depressing thing is an excerpt from "My Dream of You":
What if I told you your homeis this continent of the homelessof children sold taken by forcedriven from their mothers' landkilled by their mothers to save from capture-this continent of changed names and mixed-up bloodof languages tabooeddiasporas unrecordedundocumented refugeesunderground railroads trails of tearsWhat if I tell you your homeis this planet of warworn childrenwomen and children standing in line or millingendlessly calling each others' namesWhat if I tell you, you are not differentit's the family albums that lie-will any of this comfort youand how should this comfort you?
I keep this one because it reminds me why I study development. I don't really have anything more to express about it, to be honest; the whys and wherefores of my development career path is a navel-gazing entry for another time.
Three is "Delta", which is somewhat more uplifting:
If you have taken this rubble for my pastraking through it for fragments you could sellknow that I long ago moved ondeeper into the heart of the matterIf you think you can grasp me, think again:my story flows in more than one directiona delta springing from the riverbedwith its five fingers spread
If "Ghost of a Chance" is a response to most men some of the time, this is a response to a few men all of the time. It is a reminder that sometimes people have useful criticism and provide chances to grow, and sometimes the chance to grow comes from learning who to ignore. In particular, I learned to ignore That One Guy who once told me I was obvious and predictable and he was deep and complex, and this was one of many reasons why he is going far in life and I am just wasting my own gifts. I expended more energy than I should have wrestling with this, and his other proclamations on my worth as a person. But in the end, it didn't matter whether it was wrong or right: the important part is that he was irrelevant. I long ago moved on. Thanks Adrienne Rich!
The final excerpt is probably that affected me most, because it's addressed to me! It's part of Contradictions, which is a long series of standalone stanzas dealing with love, life, pain and age (Rich had bad arthritis for a lot of her life).
Dear Adrienne:I'm calling you up tonightas I might call up a friend as I might call up a ghostto ask what you inted to dowith the rest of your life. Sometimes you actas if you have all the time there is.I worry about you when I see this.The prime of life, old agearen't what they used to be;making a good death isn't either,now you can walk around the corner of a walland see a lightthat already has blown your past away.Somewhere in Boston beautiful literatureis being read around the clockby writers to signifytheir dislike of this.I hope you've got something in mind.I hope you have some ideaabout the rest of your life.In sisterhood,Adrienne
Dear sister ghost: I don't know what I am going to do with the rest of my life. Neither did you, I assume. But in a small way, you make my choices and my path easier. So that is something for both of us. Thank you.
Oh, readers! Are you still here? Well, if Adrienne Rich was not your cup of tea, maybe try some Hollie McNish?