In San Francisco for work this week, in an old Army barracks in the Presidio, where sheets of mist rained down on a grass so green I had to squint, I thought about Adrienne Rich. Look any good little feminist English major, I read a lot of Rich in college. I have notes scrawled in my copies of her books, the "used" stickers from my college bookstore still yellow, still peeling, and tonight I will pull them off my shelves and page through them, re-reading my favorites, wondering what I was thinking when I scribbled things like "A nostalgic look at her mother" or "A love poem I'll never write, because I have no connections to machines." I have no idea what I meant back then.
So I read the news on a 10-minute break during my conference and thought, this can't be right, what are people talking about, where are the tears? There was no announcement made, no CNN breaking news alert. Then I realized so few of us care about poets, let alone feminist poets, which is not something I'm sad about necessarily, because it's just a thing that is, like my curly hair, like my mom's anxiety over flying.
I lived off campus senior year and have a distinct memory of my Rich experiences. I cut across the campus, and there's that green grass again, only this time in New Jersey, and walked into Bliss Hall, the door landing heavy behind me, the English and Women's Studies offices on my right and left, and carried Diving into the Wreck with me into a class, where I presented on Rich to what felt like, at the time, thunderous applause. And she deserved it.
The New Yorker said it best: "The ringing, defiant poetry of Adrienne Rich, who died yesterday, at eighty-two, articulated the frustrations of women who came of age along clipped paths in the nineteen-forties and fifties, only to discover in the sixties and seventies the extent of their longing to tear up the grass." And if anyone ever needed proof that I'll always identify more with the second wave of feminism than the third, it's right here, in the fact that I feel like a woman in this quote, despite being born in 1979.