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Adrienne Rich on Anne Sexton

In the most recent issue of American Poetry Review, Lynn Emanuel, a former student of Adrienne Rich at City College in New York, shares a speech given by Rich during the year of Anne Sexton’s death. “The speech is typed on onionskin,” says Emanuel, “and stained by the tape I used for many years to attach it to the wall above my various desks.”

Emanuel says that 1974 was a “tumultuous year for Rich and her students.” It was the year Sexton killed herself, and it was about the time that Rich published her work Diving into the Wreck as well as came out as a lesbian feminist. Rich’s speech, given to the women in her college workshop, begins:

“Anne Sexton was a poet and a suicide. She was not in any narrow or politically ‘correct’ sense a feminist, but she did some things far ahead of the rebirth of the feminist movement. She wrote poems alluding to abortion, masturbation, menopause, and the painful love of a powerless mother for her daughters, long before such themes became validated by a collective of consciousness of women, and while writing and publishing under the scrutiny of the male literary establishment . . .”

The rest of the speech is printed in American Poetry Review, the November/December 2012 issue.

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