One week after the death of Canadian poet Jay Macpherson, the Los Angeles Times is reporting the death of yet another important and influential poet. Adrienne Rich, the American writer, feminist, and essayist, is dead at age 82.
The recipient of such literary awards as the Yale Young Poets prize, the National Book Award, the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize and the Dorothea Tanning Award given by the Academy of American Poets, Rich died Tuesday at her home in Santa Cruz of complications from long-term rheumatoid arthritis, said a son, Pablo Conrad.
She came of age during the social upheavals of the 1960s and ’70s and was best known as an advocate of women’s rights, which she wrote about in both her poetry and prose. But she also wrote passionate antiwar poetry and took up the causes of the marginalized and underprivileged.
Rich won the 1974 National Book Award for her collection Diving Into the Wreck, an award she accepted “on behalf of all women.” In 1997, Rich turned down the National Medal for the Arts in protest over the Clinton administration’s policies. “I am not against government in general,” Rich told The New York Times at the time, “but I am against a government where so much power is concentrated in so few hands.”
Cary Nelson, editor of the Oxford University Press’ Anthology of Modern American Poetry, called Rich “one of the most widely read and influential poets of the second half of the 20th century.”