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R.I.P. Adrienne Rich, Baltimore-born poet

By Dave Rosenthal

11:24 AM EDT, March 29, 2012

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Baltimore-born poet Adrienne Rich, whose poetry and essays were the foundations of modern feminism, has died at age 82. Here are some tidbits from her life here, as reflected in stories from The Sun:

Rich's father, a physician and professor at Johns Hopkins Hospital, used to give her poems to copy, and she was exposed to many of the great poets early in life.

She was a member of the Roland Park Country School Class of 1947. In the essay "Taking Women Students Seriously," published in her book" On Lies, Secrets and Silence," she wrote of the school: "We were taken to libraries, art museums, lectures ... given extra French or Latin reading. ... In a kind of cognitive dissonance, we knew [faculty members] were `old maids' and therefore supposed to be bitter and lonely; yet we saw them vigorously involved with life."

In 1993, she returned to the city for the first time in 15 years. She recalled the childhood trips to Lexington Market and eating crab cakes -- as well as the racism, homophobia and  closed social system that included well-bred gentiles and few others.

"This visit has really started me focusing on growing up in Baltimore," said Rich. "I had a wonderful childhood in many ways, but there was so much I just didn't know about.

"You know, I never heard the word 'lesbian' and the word 'homosexual' then, except for a few men who people called names and intimated there was something wrong with them. Well, of the eight to 10 people who were part of my regular high school group, three of us were gay."
Asked how she has maintained a passion for politics and poetry for so long, she said, "I see a lot of despair around me and it would be easy to succumb. But I also see much that makes me hopeful."

Here's a sampling of her work, from "On Edges," a 1968 poem about women's rights. (You also can hear some of her readings at Poets.org):


I'd rather

taste blood, yours or mine, flowing

from a sudden slash, than cut all day

with blunt scissors on dotted lines

like the teacher told.