If adrienne rich had only written her first two books or continued in that vein, she would no doubt have had a successful academic career and won more prizes, but her poetry would not have had the strong and lasting impact it has produced on a couple of generations so far. Her early verse was formal, a bit distant, a bit chilly, and you could read through all of it without knowing she was Jewish or through most of it that she was female.

Beginning with Snapshots of a Daughter-in-Law (1963), her poetry slowly transformed. She began to confront the enforced limitations of being female, of marriage, of what was expected of her. The first sign of this came for me in “September 21,” the last two lines of which imagines the winter solstice closing in:

“names and voices drown without reflection. /...

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