Adrienne Rich’s poetry weaves a cultural and emotional tapestry that is bold, sometimes uneven, but always innovative and profoundly original and powerful. Certain strands persist throughout—a commitment to lucidity, authentic communication, community and social change; other threads—revolutionary anger, political activism are also the main concerns of Adrienne Rich. In Rich’s poetry, reader is all the time with a woman who is sensitive, romantic, easy to be influenced on the one hand but on the other hand this woman is bold enough to criticize and discard the male defined—culture and civilization.
She is a poetess who feels with woman and becomes the voice of most deprived regiment of the society. Her “Aunt Jennifer’s Tiger is externalization of a woman who is under the male dominant social set up. Her “Final Notations” presents the confidence of woman in her love. “Gabriel” is an expression of religionist mind, and strong faith in God is hallmark of this poem. Here, Rich has shifted from particular to general trends of twentieth century which are full of social injustices and modern commercialism and are a source of tragic feelings of angel and of poetess. “Diving into the Wreck” is an epic of modern times and it offers woman new horizons in the sky of relations. So in the collection of poems prescribed in the syllabus in particular and in her poetry in general Adrienne Rich is a great champion of woman rights.
Adrienne Rich’s poetry provides a chronicle of the evolving consciousness of the modern woman. Composed in a period of rapid and dramatic social change, her work explores the experience of women who reject patriarchal definitions of feminity by separating themselves from the political and social reality that trivializes and subordinates females. She herself avers that a patriarchal society is one in:
“Which men are dominant and determine what part females shall and shall not play, and in which capabilities assigned to women are related generally to the mystic and aesthetic and excluded from the practical and political realms”.
As a feminist poet, Rich insists on the importance of the “imaginative identification with all women” and commits herself to the recreation of a female community that is dedicated to a nurturing ethos and a reverence of life.
At the award ceremony of her famous book “Diving into the Wreck” she dedicated the occasion to the community of women that transcends race and class:
“The poet, the housewife, the lesbian, the mathematician, the mother, the dishwasher, the pregnant teenager, the teacher, the grand mother, the prostitute the philosopher, the waitress.
This community of women, Rich hopes, will not only resist the damaging and dripping effects of patriarchy but also create a culture in which women have equal economic, social, and political rights with men. Rich has given a new idea of woman state, which is never ever a utopian ideal. She not only dreams for it rather she is also one of the exponents of her idea. In her poetry she has not totally discarded male members of the society but her attraction towards them is marred by their own attitude which is callous and clinical. In “The Final Notations” apparently beloved is bold enough that she can live even without her lover but underlying tone of poignant feelings shows herself a pretty hopeful woman from her love.
Rich in her poetry has given a great deal of individualism to the woman of modern age. Her main concern is that woman of modern age must be considered the effective, dynamic and functional part of the society. For example, Aunt Jennifer is representing the whole community of women. She is repressed physically under the weight of “Uncle’s Wedding Band” but she is free in her mind and soul that is why she is fearful but her creation ‘tigers’ are not afraid of men. This freedom of mind and soul, which is one of the basic rights of every individual are denied to woman under the male defined culture. Rich is against pre set standards of male and female relations and dives deep into the wreck of relation and brings on the surface a new yet free relationship between female and female “I am he, I am she” is the ultimate message of Rich’s struggle.
Rich’s vision of a perfect peaceful society for woman is very attractive and ideal one. Her heroine is always a perfection of feelings incarnate but a mature and confident lady. Her heroin celebrates the ancient mysterious of blood and birth, but no longer she will be defined solely by her reproductive functions; her understanding and experience of life will give her a vision as effective and as commanding as history has known;
“As a city is occupied, as a bed is occupied
It will take all your flesh, it will not be simple”.
It will take all your flesh, it will not be simple”.
Future superwoman will be in command of her body, her erotic and creative energies, and she will celebrate life, not death. No longer will she be an ornamental servant but autonomous, self-directing, and free from the patriarchal edict that anatomy is destiny. This new woman will not spring from the head of Zeus or from Adam’s rib; she must pass through the dangers of this life: she must survive and transcend a culture that can wound and kill her. Her strength and commanding power will depend on her capacity successfully to pass through or turn away from patriarchal domination.