by Jeannette E. Riley
University of South Carolina Press, 2016
114 pp., hardcover.
This is the most up-to-date study of Adrienne Rich’s work. Riley assesses the full scope of Rich’s career from 1951 to her death in 2012 through a chronological exploration of the poetry and prose.
Beginning with Rich’s first two formally traditional collections, published in the mid 1950s, then moving to the increasingly radical collections of the 1960s and 1970s, Riley details the evolution of Rich’s feminist poetics as she investigated issues of identity, sexuality, gender, the desire to reclaim woman’s history, the dream of a common language, and a separate community for women. Throughout, Understanding Adrienne Rich interweaves explications of Rich’s poetry with her prose, offering a close look at the development of the author’s voice from formalist poet, to feminist visionary to citizen poet. In doing so this volume provides an essential survey of Rich’s career and her impact on American literature and politics.