Poet and feminist Adrienne Rich died at her home aged 82 on BrowseBiography

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Poet and feminist Adrienne Rich died at her home aged 82

Rich's works:
Of Woman Born: Motherhood as Experience and Institution
On Lies, Secrets and Silence: Selected Prose
Blood, Bread, and Poetry: Selected Prose
What Is Found There: Notebooks on Poetry and Politics
Arts of the Possible: Essays and Conversations
Poetry and Commitment: An Essay
A Human Eye: Essays on Art in Society

Adrienne Rich, one of America's most honored and influential poets, whose finely tuned verse explored her identity as a feminist, a lesbian and an agent for political change, died March 27 at her home in Santa Cruz, Calif. She was 82. According to her son Pablo Conrad she was suffering from complications of rheumatoid arthitis.

Through her 60 years as a published poet, Ms. Rich examined and explored the evolving lives of women in modern society and embodied many of those changes herself. She was a precocious child of a privileged Baltimore family, then a young wife and mother, and later dedicated herself to the ideals of feminism. In the 1970's she became one of the first mainstream poets to write from an avowedly lesbian point of view. Her subtle poems and uncompromising essays brought Ms. Rich a loyal following that extended far beyond the measured world of poetry.

No other living poet . . . has made such a profound impression on American intellectual life, Dana Gioia, a poet and former director of the National Endowment for the Arts, wrote back in 1999. Once released her first volume of poetry in 1951, Ms. Rich was praised by W.H. Auden. In the 1950s, she was a friend of writer Sylvia Plath, who described her as all vibrant short black hair, great sparking black eyes . . . honest, frank, forthright and . . . opinionated.

But as she began to chafe at the traditional role of mother and housewife, her writing took on a sharper edge. Her 1963 collection, Snapshots of a Daughter-in-Law, represented one of the country's first literary nods to feminism. Married to Alfred Conrad in 1953, a Harvard University economist they had three sons together. She left him in 1970 and and eventually lived with her partner, writer and editor Michelle Cliff. Using her experiences as a mother to write Of Woman Born, her groundbreaking feminist critique of pregnancy, childbirth and motherhood, published in 1976.

Rich has published more than a dozen volumes of poetry and five collections of nonfiction. One of Ms. Rich's most celebrated books of poetry, Diving Into the Wreck (1973), won the National Book Award and put her in the front rank of American poets.

The title poem, with its layers of meaning about treasure hunting, failed relationships and male-female hierarchies, is one of the most beautiful poems to come out of the women's movement, literary scholar Cheryl Walker wrote in the Nation.

Poet and feminist Adrienne Rich died at her home aged 82

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