Ange Mlinko Revisits Adrienne Rich’s Later Poems

Excerpt from Poetry Foundation:

Argument and commitment were central for Rich as a way of addressing injustice and inequality through the vehicle of the poem. Mlinko argues that Rich’s use of poetry has been a stumbling block for a generation of poets who locate greater value in play, indeterminacy, and the formal aspects of linguistic/poetic construction.

Read the full here.


3 thoughts on “Ange Mlinko Revisits Adrienne Rich’s Later Poems

  1. Mlinko’s piece was full of (to be generous) misinformation and, more shockingly, of deliberate manipulation. It was aesthetically obtuse, musically deaf, slanderous and shallow all at once, and those who care for poetry, including Cathy Hong, whom she misquotes at length in order to seem to be speaking for a generation, have reacted strongly. See also Carol Muske-Dukes in the Huffington Post, Marilyn Hacker, Linda Gardiner, Alfred Corn, Jennifer Greenberg, Jennifer Reed in the Nation, and tweets and blog posts everywhere (the Inbox at the Nation’s Letters dept. is probably now worth a million in autographs from major poets and editors writing in protest). It’s not a matter of opinion alone–though there are such things as a stupid opinion and a shallow motive, and editors with their heads screwed on tend to avoid them: the sins include falsification and insult. The only comfort I take in seeing this sort of slander circulated about a dead woman who can’t write back–one to whom women poets of the 21st century owe the very existence of their careers–is the bitterly mixed pleasure of seeing that Rich can still trouble people enough that they resort to such tactics. And publish them. And, like the Poetry Foundation, post them once they are published.

    • I agree that Mlinko’s reading of Rich is shallow and overlooks much, and I’m pleased that there has been an outcry against it. But I think, too, that there’s something to be said for wrestling with the meaning of a poet’s work, even against unpopular or “musically deaf” readings. And in that conversation, I think there are seeds for greater discussion and greater discovery–for each of us individually–of the importance of that work.

      In The Rumpus, David Biespiel responds that, while he reads Rich perhaps not so differently from Mlinko (and yet differently enough), he is “grateful for Mlinko’s review. It does what a good lukewarm review should do. It inspires attention to the poetry. It conveys enthusiasm for the art and the struggles that poet confronts. And it steers readers toward understanding not away from caring about the poet’s ambitions.”

      That we are still struggling with Rich’s work–that there is still so much to be said about her poems–that there is yet so much argument to be borne about her early work and her later work and the legacy she has left us: isn’t that worth something? We can disagree with each other, but I love that there is room yet to bring Rich urgently and strikingly into conversation.

      • I too love, as I said, that there is urgent conversation (trouble) about Rich’s work. I am lucky to live in/between worlds where it is never lacking, and need not be spurred by “lukewarm”–or arrogant, ignorant, insulting and mendacious reviews either–a poetry-positive English Department, and world of poets who like to think and argue–as opposed to poets who like to think it’s bad for their “art” or their digestion! What’s great is the striking response to Mlinko’s weirdly parochial and immature piece–which if it had tried seriously to compare a poet’s art with that elusive thing, Poetry, would have been just what you and perhaps David Biespiel want. Rightly. Allen Grossman has written wonderfully on that, better than anyone I’ve read. With an example like his in mind, I can’t summon generosity for a piece that had to lie to make it’s case. (Cathy Hong’s distances herself from Mlinko’s egregious misrepresentation in the Comments section on Carol Muske-Dukes’ Huffington Post counter-blast.)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s