My introduction to the poetry of Adrienne Rich occurred during a time when I needed her words in my life as much as I needed money for rent, food for myself and my baby, sleep and time and a job. “The Dream of a Common Language,” was my lifeline then.
As a young mother with an uncertain future, a baby on my hip and a book of poetry in my free hand while I paced the floor at night, Rich’s voice matched the rhythms in my head, resonating with the joy of self discovery one moment, lonely desperation in another. I was not alone when I had Rich’s words in my head, her voice in my heart.
No one lives in this room / without confronting the whiteness of the wall /behind the poems,/ planks of books, /photographs of dead heroines. /Without contemplating last and late /the true nature of poetry. The drive /to connect. The dream of a common language.
from “Origins and History of Consciousness”
Thirty years after first discovering this book of poems, I am still enthralled with how much material in this slim volume remains to be uncovered as if for the first time. Tonight, there is this:
No one ever told us we had to study our lives, / make of our lives a study, as if learning natural history / or music, that we should begin/ with the simple exercises first/ and slowly go on trying / the hard ones, practicing till strength / and accuracy became one with the daring/ to leap into transcendence, take the chance of breaking down in the wild arpeggio / or faulting the full sentence of the fugue.
from “Transcendental Etude”
Adrienne Rich is coming to my town next week. It will be an honor to sit in her presence and listen to her voice.