Biography (Magill's Survey of American Literature, Revised Edition)
Adrienne Cecile Rich was born in Baltimore, Maryland, on May 16, 1929, the elder of two daughters. Her father, Dr. Arnold Rich, was a medical professor at John Hopkins University, and her mother, Helen Jones, was trained as a concert pianist though she abandoned this career to devote herself to her domestic responsibilities and to teach. Rich’s father, a man of science, was extremely well versed in the humanities and steeped Rich in the tradition of his favorite English poets, such as Alfred, Lord Tennyson, and John Keats. Her relationship with her father dominated both her upbringing and her subsequent poetic career.
While she was in her senior year at Radcliffe College, Rich’s first collection of poems, A Change of World (1951), was selected by W. H. Auden for the Yale Younger Poets Award. These early poems reflect tight formalist lyrics and, as Auden notes, the poems focus more on modest and discretionary content than her later poems.
After graduation, Rich was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship, which enabled her to travel in Europe. In 1953, she married Alfred Haskell Conrad, a Harvard economist six years her senior. They lived in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where their first son, David, was born in 1955. Rich published her second book of poetry, The Diamond Cutters, and Other Poems, the same year. This collection, which...
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Biography (Magill's Survey of American Literature, Revised Edition)
Taken in its entirety, Rich’s work may be viewed as what Albert Gelpi has called “a poetics of change,” a systematic attempt to explore and understand change through poetry. Rich gradually developed a poetic voice that is both personal and universal.
Her consummate works of poetry, The Will to Change, Diving into the Wreck, and The Dream of a Common Language, along with some of her prose works, are frequently quoted because they seem to express the essence of a female consciousness; many of her phrases articulate important human experiences in novel ways. Rich’s use of poetry to link abstract metaphysical questions to concrete daily life revitalizes poetry, facilitates understanding, and offers relevance to some of the unanswerable cultural questions of our time.
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As a child, Adrienne Rich was encouraged to write poetry by her father. At Radcliffe College, she continued to study the formal craft of poetry as practiced and taught by male teachers. In 1951, Rich’s first volume of poetry, A Change of World, was selected for the Yale Series of Younger Poets. Rich was praised as a fine poet and as a modest young woman who respected her elders. The poems in her first two collections are traditional in form, modeled on the male poets Rich studied.
At twenty-four, Rich married a Harvard professor. She had three children by the time she was thirty. The conflict between the traditional roles of mother and wife and her professional accomplishments left her frustrated. Snapshots of a Daughter-in-Law begins to express a woman’s point of view. Rich moved to New York City in 1966 and became involved in civil rights and antiwar campaigns. In 1969, she separated from her husband, who committed suicide in 1970. During the 1970’s, Rich became a radical feminist, active in the women’s rights movement. The collections published during these years express these political themes.
Rich came out as a lesbian in 1976, and her collection The Dream of a Common Language includes explicitly lesbian poems. In the early 1980’s, she moved to western Massachusetts with her companion, Michelle Cliff....
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Biography (Women's Issues (Ready Reference series))
Adrienne Rich’s poetry and essays reflect her experiences as a fairly traditional 1950’s wife and mother through her growing consciousness as a “woman-identified” feminist and lesbian. In her poems, Rich voices the conflicts, confusion, anger, and desire for wholeness felt by millions of women. In the title poem of Diving into the Wreck (1973), she describes American culture’s “book of myths/ in which/ our names do not appear.” The collection received a National Book Award; Rich declined the award personally but accepted in the name of all women. Her other books of poetry include The Will to Change (1971), The Dream of a Common Language (1978), and An Atlas of the Difficult World (1991).
In her essay “When We Dead Awaken: Writing as Re- Vision,” from On Lies, Secrets, and Silence (1979), Rich urges women to practice feminist “re-visioning” of literature, history, and myth to find the silenced experiences and voices of women. She sees the “act of looking back, of seeing with fresh eyes” as “an act of survival” for women. In Of Woman Born: Motherhood as Experience and Institution (1976), Rich ties this revisioning to women reclaiming ownership of their bodies. By thus learning to “think through...
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Biography (Critical Survey of Poetry: American Poets)
Adrienne Cecile Rich was born in 1929, into a white, middle-class southern family. Her Jewish father, Arnold Rice Rich, taught medicine at The Johns Hopkins University. Her southern Protestant mother, Helen Jones Rich, was trained as a composer and concert pianist but gave up her career to devote herself to her husband and two daughters. She carried out their early education at home, until the girls began to attend school in fourth grade. Her father encouraged his daughter to read and to write poetry. In his library, she found the work of such writers as Matthew Arnold, William Blake, Thomas Carlyle, John Keats, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, and Alfred, Lord Tennyson. Rich graduated from Radcliffe College in 1951, the year her first volume of poetry was published. She traveled in Europe and England on a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1952-1953.
Rich married Alfred H. Conrad in 1953 and in the next few years gave birth to three sons, David (1955), Paul (1957), and Jacob (1959). She lived with her family in Cambridge, Massachusetts, from 1953 to 1966, but spent 1961-1962 in the Netherlands on another Guggenheim Fellowship. In 1964, Rich began her involvement in the New Left, initiating a period of personal and political growth and crisis. In 1966, the family moved to New York, where Conrad taught at City College of New York. Rich also began to teach at City College, where she worked for the first time with disadvantaged students. In 1970, Rich ended her marriage, and...
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Biography (Cyclopedia of World Authors, Fourth Revised Edition)
The daughter of a gentile mother, Helen Jones, who was an accomplished pianist, and a Jewish doctor of pathology at The Johns Hopkins University, Arnold Rich, Adrienne Cecile Rich has written poetry that is important to the women’s movement in the United States and to many of the social and political changes it engendered. Her mother instilled in her a love for the lyrical and the rhythmical, and her father, acting as tutor, encouraged her to master complicated poetic meters and rhyme schemes.
Rich attended Radcliffe College, from which she graduated in 1951, the same year in which her first book of poetry, A Change of World, was chosen by W. H. Auden for the Yale Younger Poets Award. Although she was later to be known for her feminist perspective, the poems in this volume were modeled after such famous and influential twentieth century male poets as William Butler Yeats, Wallace Stevens, and Robert Frost. In many of the poems she used a male persona.
During 1952 and 1953, as the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, Rich traveled in England and Europe. After returning to the United States, she married Alfred H. Conrad, an economist at Harvard University, and they lived in Cambridge, Massachusetts, until 1966. In 1955 the first of three sons, David Conrad, was born, and Rich published her second book of poetry, The Diamond...
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Rich was born in 1929, in Baltimore, Maryland, to a well-to-do family. Her father was a physician, and her mother had aspirations of being a professional composer. Rich was homeschooled until the fourth grade and began to write poetry at an early age. After high school, she attended Radcliffe College, where she studied and was influenced by the work of the dominant male poets of the time: Robert Frost, T. S. Eliot, and W. H. Auden. She graduated in 1951, and that year, she published A Change of World, her first book of poetry, which Auden selected for the Yale Younger Poets Award and praised generously. In 1953, Rich married Alfred Conrad, a Harvard economist. Over the next six years the couple had three sons. Rich’s poetry during this time, for example in her 1955 collection The Diamond Cutters and Other Poems, continued in the male-centered tradition she learned as an undergraduate. However, Snapshots of a Daughter-in-Law (1963) began to reflect her growing political involvement and interest in women’s social and political roles. In 1966, Rich moved to New York and became involved in activities protesting the Vietnam War. Her political views became apparent in her work, and her poetic style began to change. She broke from the tight form and metrics of her early works and produced poetry characterized by greater improvisation. Examples of this change were seen in Necessities of Life (1966) and Leaflets (1969).
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