Adrienne Rich’s death last week brought me into a well of grief and appreciation for this woman, for all she did for women with her tireless work, the writing and the activism combined.
One of my favorite Rich essays is “Blood, Bread, and Poetry,” wherein she expounds on the (then new, perhaps radical) idea that “the personal is political.” In it, she asks, “What toll is taken of art when it is separated from the social fabric?” She describes her development as a poet and a feminist, writing, “I felt more and more urgently the dynamic between poetry as language and poetry as a kind of action, probing, burning, stripping, placing itself in dialogue with others out beyond the individual self.”
I don’t write a “political blog,” per se. Most of the people who drop in here don’t come by to read about politics, and may not even know that I’m quite political, a feminist, and spent over 2 years working in the Violence Against Women movement.
Nevertheless, this website, and every website, every blog, is political, whether purposefully or not. The things we choose not to speak about can say as much as the things we do write and say. We also make political statements indirectly. For instance, my summer writing ecourse is essentially geared towards women, and I’ve done that purposefully, because I believe that women have experienced silencing and loss of voice on a vastly greater scale than most men have. Our experience of being told not to speak, of being ignored, happens systematically and on a societal scale–that’s why I’m most interested in working with women on developing authenticity, honesty, and voice in their writing.
And so, I’m compelled to remind the readers and writers who visit this blog so faithfully, that the personal is indeed very political, and that we can’t assume that we live in a vacuum–our stories are part of a wider network of stories that, together, define the array of experiences of womanhood, and personhood as a whole: where are we similar? Where are we different? How did the larger world you live in help create this story?
This blog is purposefully an inspirational place–this post is out of character, but I think Adrienne Rich would have liked that. I know that readers come here for encouragement, not to hear my political views.
Yet, here is a perfect example of the personal becoming political. That quote (“the personal is political”) shaped me as a writer and activist in my twenties.
I couldn’t not write this post, and the post can’t not be political, by its very nature, because I’m writing in honor of such a political figure as Adrienne Rich, someone who held and expounded controversial views for most of her life.
A great poem is a diamond; it is priceless and we want to hold onto it forever. But it also can cut glass with ease and precision, and we cannot forget that power.
How do the words you choose to use/write (nor not use/write) make statements about the larger world around you? Do you shy away from discussing or writing about politics? Go through some of your essays or stories, poems or blog posts, and re-examine them: do they say something about the larger world? What message do they send?
I hope to live a long, long life. At the end of it, I want to have left a legacy I am proud of. What do you want your legacy to be?