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Posts Tagged ‘Adrienne Rich’

Happy Birthday, Adrienne Rich

May 16, 2013 | by

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“A thinking woman sleeps with monsters.” —Adrienne Rich, from “Snapshots of a Daughter-in-Law”

 

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Eugenides on Moshfegh

April 16, 2013 | by

THE PARIS REVIEW Spring Revel

Every year, at our Spring Revel, we give three honors: the Hadada Prize, the Plimpton Prize, and the Terry Southern Prize. This year, Jeffrey Eugenides presented the Plimpton Prize to Ottessa Moshfegh.

The Plimpton Prize for Fiction is a $10,000 prize awarded to an author who made his or her debut in our pages in the previous year. Moshfegh had two stories in the Review: “Disgust” (issue 202) and “Bettering Myself” (issue 204).

Nothing is harder for a writer than getting published for the first time. The road from the bypass to the byline is paved with misery. In fact, it’s not even paved—that’s the problem: you’re stuck knee-deep in a bog, and no one cares if you ever get out.

Of equal difficulty, on the other side of the equation, is the task of finding an unknown writer. Reading through the slush pile is like looking for tigers in the jungle: they’re camouflaged not only by their stripes but their surroundings. An editor has to be unflaggingly alert and discerning, alive to any perceptible movement in the shadows. Read More »

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Chamber of Secrets: The Sorcery of Angela Carter

October 17, 2012 | by

Illustration by Igor Karash

Fairy tales were reviled in the first stirrings of post-war liberation movements as part and parcel of the propaganda that kept women down. The American poet Anne Sexton, in a caustic sequence of poems called Transformations, scathingly evokes the corpselike helplessness of Sleeping Beauty and Snow White, and scorns, with fine irony, the Cinderella dream of bourgeois marriage and living happily ever after: boredom, torment, incest, death to the soul followed. Literary and social theorists joined in the battle against the Disney vision of female virtue (and desirability); Cinderella became a darker villain than her sisters, and for Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar, in their landmark study The Madwoman in the Attic, the evil stepmother in “Snow White” at least possesses mobility, will, and power—for which she is loathed and condemned. In the late sixties and early seventies, it wasn’t enough to rebel, and young writers and artists were dreaming of reshaping the world in the image of their desires. Simone de Beauvoir and Betty Friedan had done the work of analysis and exposure, but action—creative energy—was as necessary to build on the demolition site of the traditional values and definitions of gender.

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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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Announcing Issue 200!

February 27, 2012 | by

It’s The Paris Review’s 200th issue, and that’s a big deal.

As if two hundred volumes of fiction, poetry, belles-lettres, and iconic interviews weren’t reason enough to celebrate, this one is something special, including: fiction by Lorrie Moore, David Means, and Matt Sumell; poetry by Adrienne Rich, Rowan Ricardo Phillips, and Frederick Seidel; essays by David Searcy, Geoff Dyer, and John Jeremiah Sullivan; and literary paint chips by Leanne Shapton and Ben Schott.

The Spring issue also contains a blockbuster interview with Bret Easton Ellis:

American Psycho came out of a place of severe alienation and loneliness and self-loathing. I was pursuing a life—you could call it the Gentleman’s Quarterly way of living—that I knew was bullshit, and yet I couldn’t seem to help it. American Psycho is a book about becoming the man you feel you have to be, the man who is cool, slick, handsome, effortlessly moving through the world, modeling suits in Esquire, having babes on his arm … On the surface, like Patrick Bateman, I had everything a young man could possibly want to be ‘happy’ and yet I wasn’t.

Plus, Maggie Paley’s interview with Terry Southern—in the works since 1967. Southern, asked what he would do with unlimited financial resources, replied:

First I would engage a huge but clever and snakelike “Blowing Machine,” and I would have it loaded with one ton of dog hair each Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. It would be brought up East Seventy-second Street to the very end, where it would poise itself outside George Plimpton’s house like a great dragon. Then, exactly when Katherine the Char had finished one room, the powerful, darting snout of the machine would rise up to the third floor windows and send a terrific blast of dog hair into the room—a quarter ton per room. I would observe her reaction—I have friends opposite—with a spyglass, room by room. The entire place would be foot-deep in dog hair, most of which however has not yet settled and has the effect of an Arctic blizzard. Then I would drop in—casually, not really noticing her hysteria, or that anything at all was wrong, just sort of complaining in a vague way, occasionally brushing at my sleeve, et cetera, speaking with a kind of weary petulance: “Really, Katherine, I do think you might be more ... uh, well, I mean to say ...” voice trailing away, attention caught by something else, a picture on the wall: “I say, that is an amusing print—is it new?” fixing her with a deeply searching look, so there could be no doubt at all as to my interest in the print. If this didn’t snap her mind I would give her several hundred thousand dollars—all in pennies. “Mr. Plimpton asked me to give you this, Katherine—each coin represents the dark seed of his desire for you.”

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Adrienne Rich on ‘Tonight No Poetry Will Serve’

March 2, 2011 | by

Photograph by Robert Giard.

Adrienne Rich needs no introduction. One of the twentieth century’s most exhaustively celebrated poets and essayists, she counts among her many honors a National Book Award, a Book Critics Circle Award, and the Lannan Lifetime Achievement Award. Robert Hass has ascribed to her work the qualities of salt and darkness, praising its “relentless need to confront difficulty.” But Rich’s latest collection, Tonight No Poetry Will Serve, ranges from dismay to joy, the outraged to the erotic. Over e-mail, Rich shared her thoughts on poetry and power, the search for a more nuanced wartime aesthetic, and the meaning of the “woman citizen.”

Let’s start with the title, Tonight No Poetry Will Serve.

The book has an epigraph from Webster’s Dictionary: definitions of the verb “to serve.” It’s an interesting range of meanings, from the idea of obedient servitude to the authoritative (from law, the military, a prison sentence), to the meeting of another’s needs, to being of use. The title poem begins with an erotic moment registered in a world of torture and violence. It turns, midway, from the sensual and “poetic” to an official grammar, parsing violent policies as you might diagram a sentence in a classroom.

The poem was inflected, you could say, by interviews I was hearing on Amy Goodman’s program, Democracy Now!—about Guantánamo, waterboarding, official U.S. denials of torture, the “renditioning” of presumed terrorists to countries where they would inevitably be tortured. The line “Tonight I think no poetry will serve” suggests that no poetry can serve to mitigate such acts, they nullify language itself. One begins to write of the sensual body, but other bodies “elsewhere” are terribly present.

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