"[Art] means nothing if it simply decorates the dinner table of the power which holds it hostage."

--Adrienne Rich, 1997 when refusing the National Medal of Arts

To try and do right, and tell truth, and accept that you might come across as the crazy woman in the room because too many people are too wary of splashing the dirty water we all stand in. Adrienne Rich and so many other writers who believe art never was and never will be a simple matter of aesthetics or hypothetically neutral differences make gains for all of us. We need her. We need all of them. 

Adrienne Rich understood that she was one of many, that it could never be all about her. Surely hard to do when you are that prolific and famous. I wouldn't know, but I have seen how power, even in the hands of writers, corrupts. She shared her prizes, constantly referenced other writers and operated in community. In her constant promoting of writers of color, it seems she recognized not only their brilliance, but that sometimes the best way to support someone is to lift them up. From what I have read, this does not seem tokenizing. Rather, it was a natural extension of her friendships and her witnessing of injustices. It was a result of her understanding of the work white people must also do so we can all be free. 


I wrote the above for possible inclusion in the forthcoming VONA newsletter. We were asked to speak about Adrienne Rich as an influence on writers of color. I'm not sure it will be included, but since I am by no means an expert on the poet and essayist, I was pretty happy with what I came up with. 

No comments: