MIDNIGHT SALVAGE by Adrienne Rich

MIDNIGHT SALVAGE

Poems 1995-1998
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KIRKUS REVIEW

Ever since her first volume of poetry in 1951, A Change of World, was selected by Auden for the Yale Younger Poets, Rich has enjoyed a wide and mostly laudatory readership, though it has changed over the years, from admirers of her modest, formal pleasures to believers in her often strident, anti-male rhetoric. Age seems to find her more mellow in these poems from the last three years, though her sociopolitical concerns remain the same, as they have for many of her 19 or so books: a committed radical, Rich engages her readers directly, anticipating objections to her sense of art as intervention and witness. “A Long Conversation” is just that: a lengthy dialogue, performed for her public, with no lesser figures than Marx, Wittgenstein, Enzensberger, and Guevera—all duly and dully quoted in service of Rich’s self-aggrandizing bits of comradely memory. Having long abandoned the jaded views of Auden for the democratic vistas of Whitman, Rich the prophet struggles with Rich the proselytizer: she strolls an urban dreamscape in “—The Night Has a Thousand Eyes—,” and summons the ghosts of Hart Crane, Muriel Rukeyser, and Paul Goodman, among others. Other poems celebrate—despite her admitted tendency to “iconize——activists and artists, Rene Char and Tina Modotti. Everywhere Rich bleeds history, whether imagining those hiding from Nazis, or sorting out her own dead mother’s personal effects. Best when plaintive and sensitive to the modest pleasures of her sounds, Rich’s “I——less lines, with their pretentious denial of ego, sound more like the breathless phrases of George Bush.

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1999
ISBN: 0-393-04682-6
Page count: 96pp
Publisher: Norton
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15th, 1999




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