Not Oprah’s Book Club: Tonight No Poetry Will Serve

dark blue cover of Tonight No Poetry Will Serve by Adrienne Rich
Ever since reading “Diving into the Wreck” by Adrienne Rich, I’ve been a massive fan. These lines, alone, turned me into a convert:

I came to explore the wreck.
The words are purposes.
The words are maps.
I came to see the damage that was done
and the treasures that prevail.

I was thrilled to read her newest collection, Tonight No Poetry Will Serve (Poems 2007-2010), out from W.W. Norton. It’s a slim volume, filled with the pathos of the time–the ravages of war, struggled with authority, the decay of illness. The political undergirding isn’t surprising from this deeply political, feminist poet. For those who don’t know, in 1997,  Rich refused the prestigious National Medal of the Arts, stating: “I could not accept such an award from President Clinton or this White House because the very meaning of art, as I understand it, is incompatible with the cynical politics of this administration…Art means nothing if it simply decorates the dinner table of the power which holds it hostage.” As if that weren’t badass enough, when Rich won that National Book Award in 1974, she asked Alice Walker and Audre Lorde to come up and accept the award with her, on behalf of all women.

I find it difficult to review poetry, as I don’t necessarily experience it as something good or bad, better or worse, but something as–almost always–inherently worthwhile. I tend to just let the words wash over me and see what sticks to my skin. This is what stuck (not one poem, but line from many different ones):

all new learning looks at first/ like chaos

Pain taught her the language root of radical/she walked on knives to gain a voice/fished hte lake of lost/messages gulping up/from far below and long ago

There is a price/for every gift/and all advice

Join the Conversation

  • Serenity

    N00b with a question/criticism.
    Why is this segment called “Not Oprah’s Book Club”? I’ve tried to scan back, but there doesnt seem to be a quick way to get back to the column’s origin.
    I feel annoyed when I see this headline, every time. I am not an ardent Oprah fan, and I almost never watch her show. But she is not an enemy. Her selections may not always be high-brow, but her book club has brought many new readers to bookstores and libraries.
    As I look now at her list of previous selections ( I’m impressed at the bredth and diversity of the authors, topics, and genres.
    I would be interested to know why the book club here is named what it is.

  • J.Victoria

    Thanks for the heads up. I love Adrienne Rich and I’m excited that she’s got a new collection out. I love that anecdote about her inviting Alice Walker and Audre Lorde to join her. She is the BEST.

  • Marian

    I will always remember meeting A. Rich. She had amazing presence and presence of mind, and definitely ranks as one of my feminist heroes and artistic favorites. Can’t wait to dive into this next book. Thanks for featuring her!