I have never before had such a sense of the intensity of an attention which was not really trying to elicit anything but which therefore was able to receive the whole message.”What came out in those therapy sessions would surprise nearly everyone Rich had ever known.It changed her life, her poetry, and her politics—a transformation that has hardly been traced before, because Rich herself often avoided direct discussion of the subject.
“Touching her, I felt no fear,” Rich wrote in a letter, “but what I did immediately feel was that something very serious had happened to me, something I had better fight—that I couldn’t let myself in for a life of being helped up and down staircases.”When she got back to New York, her fear spread to the three subway entrances near the apartment, on Central Park West, where she lived with her three sons and her husband.
These she had descended many times—sometimes in great pain and limitation from the arthritis that plagued her from her twenties on.
This "re-visioning the literature" phase is to work on both an intellectual and psychological level, something that Rich thinks has to be done in order to ensure that there is a complete acknowledgement of voice and not a socially imposed silencing of it.
One day in November 1969, Adrienne Rich, a poet known to other poets but not yet to the wider world, paused at the top of the steps in her sister’s house in Boston, overwhelmed by a sense of peril, until her sister came to help.
Her feminist politics bloomed suddenly into a very explicit sort of radicalism, the kind unafraid to march onto the pages of intellectual journals and complain that “the way we live in a patriarchal society is dangerous for humanity.” She also became famous. It was her ninth book of poetry, but its mixture of anguish and strength of conviction vaulted it past all her previous work.
Many of these poems were explicitly feminist in concern, as with “Trying to Talk With a Man,”With this book she won the National Book Award for poetry, tied with Allen Ginsberg.
In the years that followed, Rich began to cut ties with old friends, including some of her closest confidants.
She left New York for the West Coast, where she would live for the rest of her life. She began to write more prose, revealing a talent for polemic.
By the time of her death in 2012, Rich was a towering figure, an abstracted Great Poet and Important Feminist, whom The New York Times eulogized as “a poet of towering reputation and towering rage.” Some of this praise has made her sound like a statue, not a person.
Her radical feminist beliefs had a curiously distancing effect, often thought too blunt, too simplistic.