Adrienne Cecile Rich (; May 16, 1929 – March 27, 2012) was an American poet, essayist and feminist. She was called "one of the most widely read and influential poets of the second half of the 20th century", and was credited with bringing "the oppression of women and lesbians to the forefront of poetic discourse." Rich criticized rigid forms of feminist identities, and valorized what she coined the "lesbian continuum"; which is a female continuum of solidarity and creativity which has impacted and even filled women's lives.Her first collection of poetry, A Change of World, was selected by renowned poet W. H. Auden for the Yale Series of Younger Poets Award. Auden went on to write the introduction to the published volume. She famously declined the National Medal of Arts, protesting the vote by House Speaker Newt Gingrich to end funding for the National Endowment for the Arts.
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I know of no woman — virgin, mother, lesbian, married, celibate, whether she earns her keep as a housewife, a cocktail waitress, or a scanner of brain waves — for whom the body is not a fundamental problem: its clouded meanings, its fertility, its desire, its so-called frigidity, its bloody speech, its silences, its changes and mutilations, its rapes and ripenings.
When someone with the authority of a teacher, say, describes the world and you are not in it, there is a moment of psychic disequilibrium, as if you looked into a mirror and saw nothing. Yet you know you exist and others like you, that this is a game done with mirrors. It takes some strength of soul — and not just individual strength, but collective understanding — to resist this void . . . and to stand up, demanding to be seen and heard.
War is bestowed like electroshock on the depressive nation: thousands of volts jolting the system, an artificial galvanizing, one effect of which is loss of memory. War comes . . . as absolute failure of imagination, scientific and political. That a war can be represented as helping a people to "feel good" about themselves, their country, is a measure of that failure.
During those years, I had, as the boys in the back room would say, a swell racket. I was rewarded with honors, medals, and promotions. Looking back on it, I feel that I might have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was to operate a racket in three city districts. The Marines operated on three continents.
The paths by which people journey toward happiness lie in part through the world about them and in part through the experience of their souls. On the one hand, there is the happiness which comes from wealth, honor, the enjoyment of life, from health, culture, science, or art; and, on the other hand, there is the happiness which is to be found in a good conscience, in virtue, work, philanthropy, religion, devotion to great ideas and great deeds.