Adrienne Rich: Teaching the walk

Prolific poet and feminist activist Adrienne Rich passed away last week on March 27.  Years ago as a freshman undergraduate, I attended by chance a poetry reading she was giving at my campus.  The reading was held in a large auditorium – large enough to hold maybe 500 attendees.  As I recall, the room was quite full.  In the midst of her reading, a young baby began crying – loudly.  Adrienne Rich read on, accompanied by the wails of the baby.  A number of attendees began craning their necks in growing annoyance.  Where was that baby?  Why didn’t the mother have the decency to get up and leave?  The nerve – we’re here to listen to poetry!

The baby continued crying, and more attendees were visibly looking this way and that, searching for that baby.  At last, a young woman, red-faced, stood up with the fussing baby – of course they were in the middle of the auditorium and in the middle of a very long row.  The mother began slowly inching her way down the long row, headed for the exit aisle, swaying from the weight of the wriggling and fussing baby in her arms.

While reciting, Adrienne Rich noticed the standing woman and her baby, and immediately stopped reading her poem.  Urgently, she said into her microphone:

“Stop!  Don’t leave!”

The atmosphere throughout the auditorium was electrified.  The anonymous young woman indeed stopped in her tracks, extremely shocked to be addressed directly by the famous poet.  We all stared dumbly at Adrienne Rich, who also seemed a bit embarrassed by her own outburst.

She explained earnestly, urgently, in words I will never forget:

“I mean, if you are leaving because of your baby, DON’T.  Because your baby isn’t bothering anyone.”

The audience was momentarily stunned.  Of course, the baby had been bothering quite a few attendees.  But in a second, Adrienne Rich had taught us all a vital lesson.  A split second later, the whole auditorium went wild with cheers and a standing ovation.

I remember this lesson frequently.  I certainly remembered it when I was a single parent struggling with my own crying baby at public events and lectures I desperately wanted to attend.  I thought of it again when I learned of Adrienne Rich’s death.  She really was a poet and feminist who talked the talk, walked the walk, and in surprising ways taught the walk to all of us who could listen, reflect, and understand.  Rest in peace, Adrienne Rich.

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From Poetry Everywhere (Public Television)

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Selected Books by Adrienne Rich in the Library:

  • Tonight no poetry will serve: Poems, 2007-2010
  • Telephone ringing in the labyrinth: Poems, 2004-2006
  • The School among the ruins: Poems, 2000-2004
  • The Fact of a doorframe: Selected Poems, 1950-2001
  • Arts of the possible: Essays and conversations
  • Midnight salvage:  Poems, 1995-1998
  • Dark fields of the republic: Poems, 1991-1995
  • An atlas of the difficult world: Poems, 1988-1991
  • Time’s power: Poems 1985-1988
  • Diving into the wreck: Poems, 1971-1972
  • What is found there: Notebooks on poetry and politics
  • Collected early poems: 1950-1970

Adrienne Rich – Selected Multimedia in the Library:

  • Spoken Word: American Poets (Audio CD:  Media Collection – Disc 008 016)
  • Readings & Conversations: Reading by Adrienne Rich (Video: Media Collection – VIDE 003 699)
  • Adrienne Rich (Audio CD:  Media Collection SOUN 000 367)
  • The Language of life: A festival of poets, with Bill Moyers (Video: Media Collection – VIDE 002 143)

Periodicals Archive Online – Digital Humanities & Social Sciences

I’ve just begun exploring in one of the Library’s newer tools, Periodicals Archive Online, from ProQuest/Chadwyck Healy.  It’s an index that leads to full-text articles in the arts, humanities, & social sciences.

One of the first things I noticed is that you can change the search interface to one of 6 different languages, including French (below), Spanish, German, Italian, and Portuguese – and of course the default is English.  This can make for a nice immersive experience for language students, and is also useful of course for researchers who prefer to search in one of these languages.  So, big bonus points from the beginning from me!

The next obvious question is what’s in here?  Here’s a useful list of titles that I found online at the ProQuest website – wow!  (Currently, the Library subscribes only to only some of the collections – see the title list for Collections 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 to know exactly what’s available.)

What breadth in terms of subject areas, in terms of international perspectives, languages, and in terms of years!

Broad subjects include art; drama; history; economics; folklore; literature, poetry, and literary studies; geography; religion; psychology; linguistics & psycholinguistics; education; African American studies; law; Cuban studies; music; anthropology; philosophy; sociology, women’s studies, and more.

International perspectives?  Cultural studies?  Race & ethnic studies?  I see Islamic studies in English and in German; African and African American titles; South Asian & Middle Eastern studies; many titles in French, German, and Spanish, with some in Dutch; Japanese religious studies; Latin American and peninsular Spanish studies; Korean and Chinese studies…

What about years?  This depends on the titles themselves, of course.  I do see some titles dating back to the 19th century, such as Geographische Zeitschrift (coverage in PAO from 1895 through 2000), Nederlands archief voor kerkgeschiedenis (1885-2000), Orientalistische Literaturzeitung (1898-2000), and Proceedings of the American Antiquarian Society (1813-2000), to grab a few titles just at random.  Most journals seem solidly rooted in the 20th century, with the most recent coverage year apparently 2000.  The search interface does indicate you can search by date, with 1665 (!) being the first year listed through 2000.   Amazing!

I also definitely appreciate the built-in flexibility for researchers.  PAO lets you refine or filter your search results by language, by journal, date, and by subject.  Marked references can be exported into EndNote or other bibliographic management software packages.

TO test drive the index, I did some sample searching totally off the top of my head.  For starters, I did a search on medieval author Christine de Pisan (alternatively spelled Christine de Pizan), and found great articles in English and in French listed under both spellings.

Christine de Pisan

(No, Periodicals Archive Online does not seem to include images.  This illustration of Christine de Pisan “lecturing men” is courtesy of Wikipedia – love it!) But the index did very quickly find a number of focused and interesting full-text research articles that I wouldn’t have been able to easily find in any other single index, save for Quick Search.

Aside: Pisan was one of the earliest women writers to be able to support herself and her children through her prolific writings.  She was also a feminist, writing her ground-breaking Le Livre de la Cité des Dames in 1405 as a protest against the misogynistic leanings in the renowned Roman de la Rose.

Well, you can see I quickly got into source material of great interest to me – which is of course the job of any good index – to get you where you want to go.  Periodicals Archive Online is so flexible and so broad, it’s likely to include materials you’re interested in too.  Give it a try and see where it leads you!

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