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“This is no place you ever knew me,” writes Adrienne Rich in her major new work, “…These are not the roads/you knew me by.” As always in her forty-year career, this major poet has mapped out new territory , astonishing and enlightening us with her penetrating insight into our lives amid the beauties and cruelties of our difficult world.
In this new collection Adrienne Rich confronts dislocations and upheavals in the United States at the beginning of the twenty-first century. The title poem, in a young schoolteacher’s voice, evokes the lessons that children (“Not of course here”) learn amid violence and hatred, “when the whole town flinches / blood on the undersole thickening to glass.” “Usonian Journals 2000” intercuts faces and conversations, building to a dystopic/utopic vision. Throughout these fierce and musical poems, Rich traces the imprint of a public crisis on individual experience: personal lives bent by collective realities, language itself held to account.
Adrienne Rich searches to reclaim—to discover —what has been forgotten, lost, or unexplored: “I came to explore the wreck. / The words are purposes. / The words of maps. / I came to see the damage that was done / and the treasures that prevail.” These provocative poems move with the power of Rich’s distinctive voice.
Relationships—partings/reconciliations, solidarities/ruptures, trust/betrayal, exposure/withdrawal—are the deep fabric of this forceful work.
In the intimate address of “Axel Avákar,” the black humor of “Quarto,” and the underground journey of “Powers of Recuperation,” compressed lyrics flash among larger scenarios where images, dialogues, blues, and song spiral into political visions. Adrienne Rich has said, “I believe almost everything I know, have come to understand, is somewhere in this book.”
There’s the poverty of wages wired for the funeral you
Can’t get to the poverty of bodies lying unburied
There’s the poverty of labor offered silently on the curb…[more]
“Look: with all my fear I’m here with you, trying what it means, to stand fast; what it means to move.” In these astonishing new poems, Adrienne Rich dares to look and to extend her poetic language as witness to the treasures-the midnight salvage-we rescue from fear and violence. Adrienne Rich’s work has long challenged social plausibilities built on violence and demoralizing power. In Midnight Salvage she continues her explorations at the end of the century, trying, as she has said, “to face the terrible with hope, in language as complex as necessary, as communicative as possible-a poetics which can work as antidote to complacency, self-involvement, and despair. I have wanted to assume a theater of voices rather than the restricted I. To write both for readers I know exist and those I can only imagine, finding their own salvaged beauty as I have found mine.” These are risky poems, infused with the cruelty of history, the presence of the body, the beauty of the natural world, with human love and longing.…[more]
The author of “Dreams of a Common Language”, “Your Native Land, Your Life” and “Snapshots of a Daughter-in-Law” presents a new collection of poetry which focuses on the power of time: memory and its contradictions, death, and the meaning of human responsibility.