Joan E. Biren (born 1944) Digital inkjet print, 1981
Adrienne Rich was part of the great generation of post–World War II American poets and its most important woman. Her poetic beginnings were extraordinarily precocious but conventional enough in terms of style, as she positioned herself in the lineage of modernist Anglo-American poets.
But a conventional poetic career, as well as a conventional career as a middle-class woman in 1950s America, increasingly did not answer for Rich. Recognizing her lesbianism, she realized that her thoughts and feelings as a woman (and poet) did not mesh with the external world.
As the gap between inner and outer grew larger, Rich turned inward (she described herself at one point as “paralyzed”) to reemerge as the poetic voice of American feminism.
I came to explore the wreck. The words are purposes. The words are maps. I came to see the damage that was done and the treasures that prevail.Adrienne Rich From “Diving into the Wreck,” 1973