Our Dark Art

Feminism was my dark art in college–I was apprentice to Adrienne Rich. In a literature class, the professor taught us “Aunt Jennifer’s Tigers” and “Diving into the Wreck” side by side to demonstrate how Rich’s work was transformed by her growing feminism. Although the first poem was dazzling, the nerviness of “Diving into the Wreck” entranced me. The poem’s images and syntax were fraught with mythos and possibility. Like the speaker in the poem, I was searching for a lineage; Rich would be my point of departure.

I wrote imitations of her poems, read her essays, filled my copies of her books with earnest marginalia. Her work taught me howto construct a rigorous feminist subjectivity, and those lessons areimprinted on the poems I write today. The legacy of her aesthetics and politics is staggering, and, most importantly, wide-reaching. So many of us work to write in the “book of myths in which our names do not appear,” the book she claimed for us.