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A Rich Life

Shivah Stars

by
Marc Tracy
March 29, 2012
Adrienne Rich at 57.(Neil Boenzi/NYT)

Adrienne Rich at 57.(Neil Boenzi/NYT)

Each week, we select the most interesting Jewish obituary. This week, it’s that of Adrienne Rich, the great poet who died last night at 82. Rich made poetry matter in a time—the second half of the 20th century—when it wasn’t clear whether that was possible anymore. And she did so by insisting on composing verse with unabashed political content, but political on her own, “personal is political” terms: she wrote about herself, and she—”triply marginalized,” as Margalit Fox puts it in her obituary, “as a woman, a lesbian, and a Jew”—was political. She was also a National Book Award-winner, a MacArthur “genius,” and a literary bestseller. She kept writing near the end of her life, not shying away from the topics du jour, including the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan; yet in an appreciation published earlier this month, poetry critic David Kaufmann found that it was not those explicitly politicized events but rather “the biggest mysteries [which] suit her.”

Marc Tracy is a staff writer at The New Republic, and was previously a staff writer at Tablet. He tweets @marcatracy.