“like everybody else, we thought of ourselves as special”


The death of Adrienne Rich marks not only the end of a long and transcendent literary career—thirty books of poetry and prose, prizes beyond counting—but the end of a kind of poetry that mattered in the world beyond poetry. It is hard to believe, given the plethora of articles with titles like “Is Poetry Dead?,” that there was a moment not so long ago when poetry and poets played a central role in our cultural and political life. Robert Frost and T. S. Eliot were iconic figures, even to people who never cracked a book, and so, in her old age, was Marianne Moore; what Robert Lowell wrote about the war in Vietnam or black civil rights or his marriage or his madness was news. It was proper, and gratifying, that the New York Timesbegan its obituary of Adrienne Rich on the front page, but it made me wonder if an American poet would ever be honored that way again.

Adrienne Rich’s News in Verse


“When I think of a landscape I am thinking of a time. When I talk of taking a trip I mean forever.”

Adrienne Rich最近去世了。2004年到2007年之间,我过得非常糟糕,自觉和外面的世界格格不入,读她的诗和短文变成了一种疗伤的方式。很奇妙的,一个美国人用另外一种语言安慰了自己。那个时候我遇见了伯克利,她告诉我她年轻的时候曾经翻译过Adrienne Rich的书。这种细微的联系让我觉得世界突然明亮了起来。后来我几次三番去旧金山,多少是出于对往事转折的怀念。虽然我想伯克利觉得我有点烦和莫名奇妙。每个人都要成长,过自己的生活,不能总是沉陷在往事之中。

出国之后的生活变得简单。我也不大读闲书。倒是在波士顿的一年,常常可以看到Adrienne Rich在那里留下的痕迹。Grolier Poetry Book Shop的墙上挂着她的照片,大小书店里总是有她的集子以及关于她私事的八卦。不知道她是不是喜欢这个城市。她在这里度过了无忧的学生时代,也经历了家庭的变故。 她的新作品越来越政治化。在尊敬她的同时,我也很怀念她以前写的友谊爱情等待。


A Valediction Forbidding Mourning 

My swirling wants. Your frozen lips.
The grammar turned and attacked me.
Themes, written under duress.
Emptiness of the notations.

They gave me a drug that slowed the healing of wounds.

I want you to see this before I leave:
the experience of repetition as death
the failure of criticism to locate the pain
the poster in the bus that said:
my bleeding is under control

A red plant in a cemetary of plastic wreaths.

A last attempt: the language is a dialect called metaphor.
These images go unglossed: hair, glacier, flashlight.
When I think of a landscape I am thinking of a time.
When I talk of taking a trip I mean forever.
I could say: those mountains have a meaning
but further than that I could not say.

To do something very common, in my own way.