Award-winning poet Rich offers a new volume of collected essays (Blood, Bread, and Poetry, 1986, etc.) that feature her distinct blend of feminist polemics and sharp-sighted analysis of the American condition, spiced with verses from a range of kindred spirits. Poetry is as necessary as food, shelter, education, and other human basics, Rich asserts, exploring the relationship between a poet's social responsibility and the world of experience that provides poetry's raw material. The notion of artist-activists remains primary even as Rich acknowledges that poetry, with limited ``value'' in a market economy as entrenched as ours, has been effectively marginalized. The struggle for political power through poetic expression is an engagement on many fronts, as minority voices speak out along with oppressed women, the poor along with the gay community. Quoting Muriel Rukeyser, June Jordan, and others to emphasize that poetry can convey valuable messages of social redemption, Rich also draws on sources from Trotsky to Wallace Stevens to illustrate her own educational path. Her understanding that racism and sexism are integral parts of the social landscape wasn't attained overnight, and the painful process of emergence from an early life of privileged narrowness into a fuller awareness is recounted at length. The transformative, conjuring power of poetry is reaffirmed throughout, with its potential impact enhanced as it finds its rightful place in the cultural mainstream. Challenging and rewarding as always, although at times the essays serve as little more than venues for the poetry and words of others. In giving access to lesser-known but like-minded writers, Rich has reduced her own presence--a disappointing trade-off.