Yeats titled a poem “After Long Silence,” and went one to say “it is right.” He was writing about a different subject, but I have always liked the quote. It seems appropriate here as I begin to put words out into public after many years of keeping them to myself.
I have been thinking about Adrienne Rich over the last several months, particularly this week as her collected poems are published and reviewed. I first heard of her when I went to a poetry reading she did at Harvard (Lowell House, I think) when I was an undergraduate in 1967 or 1968. In those days, I was an English major and went to hear as many poets reading as I could. I knew nothing about her except that we shared a May 16 birthdate, hers 18 years before mine.
She seemed tiny to me, standing next to a grand piano reading her words. She read clearly, somewhat shyly I thought. I remember nothing about her poems, just her presence which was compelling in a way I could not have understood.
She has accompanied me for years since, snippets of her poems’ ideas and bits of lines running around my mind. Right now, in this poisonous political climate, I recall “Transcendental Etude,” from her 1978 volume Dream of a Common Language. “But there come times—perhaps this is one of them when we have to take ourselves more seriously or die”