A Wild Patience Has Taken Me This Far: Poems 1978-1981. Adrienne Rich.

A Wild Patience Has Taken Me This Far: Poems 1978-1981

New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1981. Rosalind Lorber (jacket design). First Edition (stated). Hardcover. Used - Fine. Green cloth boards with gilt lettering to spine. Corners sharp. Binding tight and square. Deckled edges. Clean, unmarked. Some toning from age. Light foxing to endpapers. 15 x 22 cm. Endnotes. 61 pp. / Very Good. Some discoloration to spine. Price clipped. Brodart protective cover applied. Item #9218

As reviewed in the New York Times by Le Anne Schreiber on Dec. 9, 1981:

IN 1951, W.H. Auden introduced Adrienne Rich's first volume of poetry by praising it for poems that ''are neatly and modestly dressed, speak quietly but do not mumble, respect their elders but are not cowed by them, and do not tell fibs.'' Thirty years later, Adrienne Rich still does not tell fibs, but that's about the only phrase that can be salvaged from Auden's once apt description. Miss Rich has long since proclaimed herself her own authority, and sometimes even takes on the role of elder stateswoman. She has written through youth, fame, marriage, motherhood, separation, solitude, political rage, feminist awakening and lesbianism. In its broad outlines, if not in its particulars, her progress through the decades has paralleled that of her generation of women; of the major poets among them, she is the one who has survived to tell the tale.

In ''Diving into the Wreck'' (1973), her voice was that of a solitary woman taking inventory of her wounds. In ''The Dream of a Common Language'' (1978), she was healing, scarred but still whole, ready to celebrate the possibility of a new beginning. Now, at age 52, the poet seems ready to imagine herself entering history, and therefore ready to embrace as her flesh and blood those who already have. False History

Many of the poems in ''A Wild Patience Has Taken Me This Far'' have their source in the letters, journals and diaries of earlier generations of American women. Women whose memories we have twice abused, first by long neglect, more recently by turning them into icons, unblemished and unreal. Miss Rich, who herself knows something of what it is to be treated like an icon, is now intent upon restoring these women to their particularity. ''Nostalgia is only amnesia turned around,'' she writes in ''Turning the Wheel,'' a long, eightpart poem about the making of ''false history:'' No room for nostalgia here. What would it look like? The imitation of a ghost mining town, the movie-set fa,cade of a false Spanish arcade, the faceless pueblo with the usual faceless old woman grinding corn? It's all been done. ... so long as she merely symbolizes power she is kept helpless and conventional her true power routed backward into the past, we cannot touch or name her and, barred from participation by those who need her she stifles in unspeakable loneliness.

Several of the longer poems in this volume are conjuring acts in which the poet resurrects women like Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, Jane Addams, Emily Dickinson, and tries to release them from ''unspeakable loneliness.'' Setting up a kind of dialogue between her own poetry and quoted excerpts of their writing, she explores the limits of her empathy, knowing that where her identification with them ends, their particularity begins. In a poem for Ethel Rosenberg, who was executed for treason the week the poet was married, Adrienne Rich writes: ''If I have held her at arm's length till now if I have still believed it was my loyalty, my punishment at stake if I dare imagine her surviving I must be fair to what she must have lived through I must allow her to be at last political in her ways not in mine her urgencies perhaps impervious to mine

In ''Heroines,'' Miss Rich addresses the early suffragists: ''You draw your long skirts/ deviant/ across the nineteenth century.'' And asks in lines that stagger across the page: ''How can I fail to love/ your clarity and fury/ how can I give you/ all your due/ take courage from your courage/ honor your exact/ legacy as it is/ recognizing/ as well/ that it is not enough?'' Edge of Possibility
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''A Wild Patience'' also contains more directly personal poems, about the poet trying to come to terms with increasing physical disability, about trying to find a way to talk to her mother-in-law, about trying to salvage something from the wreck of a love affair that went down in bitterness. With few exceptions, these are not poems of experience tamed, solutions grasped; rather they reach toward the edge of some possibility for a larger, truer, more humanly satisfying reckoning with things. They're the kind of poems that keep you up late at night and then enter your dreams.

In recent years, Miss Rich's candor has made it easy for those who are so inclined to label her. Feminist. Lesbian. And, of course, polemical, which is often used as a euphemism for the first two labels. But it would be a shame to cordon her off. Because she is a poet trying to see deeply, think clearly and speak plainly about our lives - our past, our prospects. As a self-consciously American poet, Adrienne Rich is - cannot help but be - a daughter of Emerson and Whitman. Like them, she is half-crazy with dreams of Self-Reliance, Transcendence and Democracy. It's just that she doesn't want to be the daughter of a culturally broken home. And so, belatedly, she is unearthing foremothers, revising history to suit her needs, turning Elizabeth Cady Stanton into not an icon but a poet. Taking her 19thcentury words and putting them into brand-new verse.

Whitman's barbaric yawp was for us all. So is Adrienne Rich's common language.

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