Tuesday, May 16, 2006

In Which I Somehow Manage to Contain Myself While Writing About My Favorite Poet

Today is the 77th birthday of my favorite poet, Adrienne Rich. Why is she my favorite? Because she is complicated. Because she never takes the easy way out. Because she believes in the power of words and poetry. Because she searches for what is true within and without. Because she believes in people and the commonalities that bind us together no matter where we are from. She tends to write complex poems that have multiple parts, each successive part building on the one that came before. This makes her difficult to quote. However, I have found a short poem she wrote in 2002 that, while it isn't her best or even most representative, it gives you a flavor. From her book The School Among the Ruins, I give you:

Variations on Lines from a Canadian Poet I needed a genre for the times I go phantom. I needed a genre to rampage Liberty, haunt the foul freedom of silence. I needed a genre to pry loose Liberty from an impacted marriage with the soil. I needed a genre to gloss me ancestress' complicity...
--Lisa Robertson, XEclogue (1993)
I need a gloss for the silence implicit in my legacy for phantom Liberty standing bridal at my harbor I need a gauze to slow the hemorrhaging of my history I need an ancestor complicit in my undercover prying I need soil that whirls and spirals upward somewhere else I need dustbowl, sand dune, dustdevils for roots I need the border-crossing eye of a tornado I need an ancestor fleeing into Canada to rampage freedom there or keep fleeing to keep on fleeing or invent a genre to distemper ideology
I love all of Rich's books, but I am most attached to one of her older ones, The Dream of a Common Language. She also writes fantastic prose which I highly recommend particularly Blood, Bread, and Poetry as well as What is Found There and Arts of the Possible. You won't be disappointed.