A poet in 1997 refuses to accept a National Medal for the Arts and writes an open letter to President Clinton to explain why. She cares, she explains, about “the relationship of art to justice;” she names a dozen of the many webs of injustice in her society by a government in which both major political parties “display a crude affinity for the interests of corporate power, while deserting the majority of the people, especially the most vulnerable”; she prefers not to accept a gift from a government that is, in fact, hostile to the arts. In 1991 in the extraordinary collage-poem “Atlas of the Difficult World,” she had stated, “A patriot is one who wrestles for the soul of her country / as she wrestles for her own soul.” But by that time, Adrienne Rich had been refining her moves as a wrestler...

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