Impassioned polemical essays from a radical lesbian-feminist perspective by an esteemed poet, co-winner of the 1976 National Book Award (Diving Into the Wreck) and first recipient of the prestigious Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize. Although Rich has revised most of the essays and lectures collected here, she in no way has pulled the punch of these intensely provocative works. As her combative mind roams over a wide territory--aside front sexual politics per se, she examines racism, anti-Semitism, education, literary criticism, the role of the poet, and socialism--the base to which she always returns is an uncompromising and inflexible radical feminism. The core essay here, by dint of its length as well as its extremity, is ""Compulsory Heterosexuality and Lesbian Existence,"" a paranoid masterpiece in which Rich lashes into heterosexuality as a prime weapon of the male power structure. As she turns a raging intelligence on heterosexuality and lesbianism through history and in the individual life, she argues forcefully about society's repression of the ""lesbian continuum""; unfortunately, her often telling points are blunted, as is the effect of this collection as a whole, by a fierce self-righteousness and a McCarthy-like eagerness to see a macho/chauvinist conspiracy in every societal structure and under every conjugal bed. Finally, her storming--wild enough to tell an academic gathering that ""I believe there is a critical mass in this community--not only lesbians--who recognize the intellectual and moral sterility of heterosexuality""--becomes tedious and predictable. Rich is no literary slouch; she writes with breathtaking skill here. But because of her misdirected anger and lack of common sense, these pieces fail as polemic, and will alienate all but a few.