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Adrienne Rich on “comfortable poetry”

July 29, 2009

[Excerpts from “A Rich Life: Adrienne Rich on poetry, politics, and personal revelation” – an interview by Michael Klein: The Boston Phoenix, June 1999]

Adrienne Rich:

There’s a lot of what I would call comfortable poetry around. And I would have to say that some of that comfortable poetry is being written by gay and lesbian poets. I think you can probably find poets from any group who would come under the rubric of “diversity” who are writing comfortable poetry nowadays. But then there is all this other stuff going on — which is wilder, which is bristling; it’s juicier, it’s everything that you would want. And it’s not comfortable. That’s the kind of poetry that interests me — a field of energy. It’s intellectual and moral and political and sexual and sensual — all of that fermenting together. It can speak to people who have themselves felt like monsters and say: you are not alone, this is not monstrous. It can disturb and enrapture.

Q: What are you working on now?

A: Poems. And sometimes making notes for essays. I’m not really up for writing them yet. I feel this mistrust of there being an audience for the kind of essay I’d like to write, which is, again, not short and not comfortable. And maybe somewhat demanding.

Q: Critical?

A: Critical, political, or cultural. One of the things I have to say about this demon of the personal — and I have to take responsibility for my part in helping create this demon, as part of a women’s movement in which we celebrated personal experience and personal feelings — is that it has become a horribly commoditized version of humanity. It’s almost as though the personal life has been taken hostage in some way, and I’m shying away more and more from anything that would contribute to that.

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