Adrienne Rich Additional Biography


(Masterpieces of Women's Literature, Critical Edition)

ph_0111201274-Rich.jpg Adrienne Rich Published by Salem Press, Inc.

Author Profile

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 the body, . . . [s]exuality, politics, intelligence, power, work, motherhood, community, intimacy will develop new meanings; thinking itself will be transformed.”

Another key essay, “Compulsory Heterosexuality and Lesbian Existence” (1980), suggests that women who have strong relationships with other women apply a wider definition of the term “lesbian” to themselves as a challenge to the patriarchal mandate of “compulsory heterosexuality.”


Altieri, Charles. “Self-Reflection as Action: The Recent Work of Adrienne Rich.” In Self and Sensibility in...

(The entire section is 796 words.)


(Poets and Poetry in America)

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 later the same year, Conrad ended his life. Rich continued teaching at City College and then Rutgers University until 1979, when she moved to western Massachusetts. Poems of these years explore her lesbian relationships.

Rich eventually moved to northern California to continue her active career as poet, essayist, and sought-after speaker. Rich spent time in the 1980’s and early 1990’s at numerous California colleges and universities, acting as visiting professor and lecturer. Her stops included Scripps College, San Jose State University, and Stanford University. In 1992, she accepted the National Director of the National Writer’s Voice Project. In the 1990’s, she joined several advisory boards, including the Boston Woman’s Fund, National Writers Union, Sisterhood in Support of Sisters in South Africa, and New Jewish Agenda.


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical 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...

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(Poetry for Students)

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...

(The entire section is 486 words.)