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Adrienne Rich

March 29, 2012 | by

Photo by Robert Giard.

Adrienne Rich’s first poem in The Paris Review was “The Snow Queen,” which appeared in the magazine’s second issue (Summer 1953). Her last, “Itinerary,” was published this spring in our two-hundredth. Rich was twenty-three when she wrote “The Snow Queen,” but she had already been discovered. Her first book, A Change of World, was chosen by W. H. Auden for the Yale Younger Poets prize in 1951. Rich’s early work is formally impeccable, its ideas and idioms rooted in the poetry of Yeats and Stevens (“The Snow Queen” can be read as a variation on Stevens’s “The Snow Man”). But Rich quickly moved beyond her early style. She found its virtuosity too prim, too imitative—“exercises in style,” as she once put it. In her early thirties, she was already looking back at her accomplishments and measuring their limitations. “Necessities of Life,” the title poem of her 1966 collection, was first published in The Paris Review as “Thirty-Three” (Winter-Spring, 1964), which was Rich’s age when she wrote it. It is a poem of retrospection and prophecy. It begins,

Piece by piece I seem
to re-enter the world: I first began

a small, fixed dot, still see
that old myself, a dark blue thumbtack

pushed into the scene,
a hard little head protruding

from the pointillist’s buzz and bloom.
after a time the dot

begins to ooze. Certain heats
melt it.

“The pointillist’s buzz and bloom” is still Stevensian, but the oozing and heat—here signaling the onset of adolescence—are heralds of Rich's mature poetry. Her great work of the sixties and seventies, the period in which she came out as a lesbian and a radical feminist, are poems of Eros. Not merely eroticism, though there is plenty of that—and it is important—but a poetry of passionate relation and reinvention. It is also a poetry that values plainspokenness over rhetorical expertise. “Now and again to name / over the bare necessities,” as she instructs herself in “Necessities of Life.” Read More »

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A Tote for 200!

March 12, 2012 | by

Our 200th Issue tote!

We are thrilled to offer you what may be the coolest tote bag in Paris Review history! When you renew or subscribe to The Paris Review, you’ll receive this 11'' x 13'' eco-canvas tote, which takes its design from the cover of our two-hundredth issue (itself an adaptation of our very first cover, in 1953). And, as if it needs saying, a full year of fiction, poetry, interviews, and essays. All for $40.

Subscribe now!

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On Press with The Paris Review

March 1, 2012 | by

How good is our two-hundredth issue? So good that Matt, an operator at the Sheridan Press, accidentally let about five hundred sheets slip from one of the presses after he sat down—get this—to read a few pages from our interview with Bret Easton Ellis. “I grabbed a sheet from the stack and forgot to look up,” he explained. “I didn’t know he’d written so many books!”

(We can’t blame you, Matt. It’s a damn fine interview.)

Managing editor Nicole Rudick and I are in Hanover, Pennsylvania, on our quarterly trip to Sheridan, where our latest issue is running hot off the presses. We usually hole up for the day in the “Library”—it’s far enough away from the actual printers that we can’t cause much trouble—but this time Todd, Sheridan’s prepress manager, was kind enough to take us around for a tour.


A Heidelberg press printing the cover of issue 200.

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