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Adrienne Rich, U.S. Poet, Feminist Activist, Dies at Age 82

Adrienne Rich, U.S. Poet, Feminist Activist, Dies at Age 82
U.S. poet Adrienne Rich, seen here in 1991. Photographer: Nancy R. Schiff/Getty Images

Adrienne Rich, a U.S. poet who influenced the feminist and gay-rights movements, has died at the age of 82.

Rich suffered complications caused by rheumatoid arthritis, the Associated Press reported, citing her son, Pablo Conrad.

Her work challenged the American dream and was quoted by anti-war protesters.

Rich was born on May 16, 1929, in Baltimore and published her first book of poems in 1951, while still a student at Radcliffe College.

Before her graduation, her poetry was chosen by W.H. Auden for publication in the Yale Younger Poets series.

“The resulting volume, ‘A Change of World’ (1951), reflected her formal mastery,” according to “Webster’s New Explorer Dictionary of American Writers.”

Her next two collections -- “The Diamond Cutters” (1955) and “Snapshots of a Daughter-in-Law” (1963) -- became looser and more personal in style. Her fourth book, “Necessities of Life,” was written almost wholly in free verse.

Her work in the 1960s and 1970s showed her increasing commitment to the women’s movement and to a lesbian-feminist perspective, critics said.

Dark Fields

Her books included “Leaflets” (1969); “Diving Into the Wreck” (1973, National Book Award); “The Dream of a Common Language” (1978) and “Dark Fields of the Republic” (1995).

She also wrote criticism, including: “Of Woman Born,” on motherhood (1976, National Book Award); “On Lies, Secrets and Silence” (1979) and “Blood, Bread and Poetry” (1986.)

Her poem “The Roofwalker,” written for Denise Levertov, captured her role in life as a poet. In it, she begins by describing builders on the roof of some “half-finished houses” as darkness falls. They look like “shadows on a burning deck.” Then she writes:

“A life I didn’t choose

chose me: even

my tools are the wrong ones

for what I have to do.”

(Mark Beech and James Pressley write for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are their own.)

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