17 June 2012

Adrienne Rich

I want to write a post about Adrienne Rich.
In fact, I've been trying to write it for two weeks now since I heard of her death this past 27th of March. She was 82 years old.

First, I'm pissed off that I'm just hearing the news now. This is a writer who, according to the New Yorker, comes from "a moment not so long ago when poetry and poets played a central role in our cultural and political life."  Whose obituary was started on the front page of the New York Times. Yet, I heard of her passing as an aside in an article I was reading about something else.  I do not live under a rock. I read the "news" and thus, unwillingly know the most minute of details about the lives of every pop tartlette flavour of the day.  Yet I did not hear of Rich's death. This makes me very sad.

Since hearing the news, I've been struggling with why it matters so much to me. Rich wrote fiercely polemic poems in striking language, all in the name of "living through a time/that needs to be lived through us." She was writing at a time, when such things were literally life and death, about civil rights, coming out as gay, being marginalized in America.  I am neither lesbian, nor black, nor Jewish, nor American - all subjects of her work. I am not a poetry scholar. I admit lack of knowledge of some of the history and context of her work. So why does her passing pain me so much?
Many of the articles and reviews I've been reading these past few weeks speak of how Adrienne Rich, though not a confessional poet, believed that the personal is political. This is something with which I agree. Is it a woman thing, this lack of distinction between the "life" and the "work"?  For the daily life is the work. The living tasks, the caring, the choices. This is why we strive.  This is what we defend as important.
So, in the end, it is only on the personal level that I can write about my experience reading Rich's work.  She quite simply wrote my favourite line in my favourite poem. Ever. 
In "I Dream I'm The Death of Orpheus" from 1971's The Will To Change, she writes,

"I am a woman...
sworn to lucidity"

Simple, right?
But think about it.  Think about the word, lucidity.  It is;
  • the quality, state, or art of clarity in thought and style
  • the ability to see things clearly; rationality; sanity, clarity
  • free from obscurity; completely intelligible; the comprehensibility of clear expression 
Now swear to that.  You can't.  And neither can I.  On my very best day, I will never be able to turn a phrase, create an object, express or understand a concept in a state that is completely sworn to lucidity. Living in the comprehensibility of clear expression is something I deeply desire and aspire toward yet can never fully achieve. Adrienne Rich did achieve it.  For years.
Hence, I mourn her passing. R.I.P.

07 June 2012

Wishing Cakes

Today was my birthday.

Flashback. My fortieth birthday was a piercing disaster.  Downright painful. Skipping the details, I can say that it was the point at which I went from expecting little, to expecting nothing. Not a nice place to be. The beginning of the end of my marriage?  If I had to put money on it, I'd say, yes, it was.
Since then, every year, I've felt a mixture of nerves and ambivalence toward my approaching birthday.  I usually ignore the day all together. My therapist used to tell me I had to reclaim the celebration of my birth. Ask for what I want. This year I decided to do it. Face that sucker down hard. But what is it exactly, that I want? 
I want recognition and well wishes. I want nice thoughts and good Karma.  So I bought two dozen grocery store cupcakes, a pack of dollar store candles and a lighter.  I brought them to work and later to knit night.  I handed out lit candle decorated cupcakes and asked people to make sincere wishes on my behalf while blowing them out.  The knitters got it immediately.  "What a great idea!", I heard more than once.  The co-workers, though confused,  played along too. The Beautiful Daughter sent out a breakfast wish this morning with cupcake and tea. I feel the warm energy of all those good thoughts tonight. I really do.

Peace. Success. Love. Health. Kisses. Silk. Creativity. Friendship.
These are the wishes I sent out into the air today.
One lovely knitter told me that while she was blowing out her candle, she thought the words, 'Cashmere' and 'Free". 

Happy Birthday.