cover image Outward: Adrienne Rich’s Expanding Solitudes

Outward: Adrienne Rich’s Expanding Solitudes

Ed Pavlic. Univ. of Minnesota, $24.95 trade paper (232p) ISBN 978-1-5179-1078-5

Poet Pavlic (Let It Be Broke) charts the evolution of the late Adrienne Rich’s poetry in this thorough and attentive analysis. Rich mentored Pavlic, and the two kept up a correspondence for a dozen years, which Pavlic makes great use of in his illuminating analysis. Beginning with Rich’s first published work, 1951’s A Change of World, Pavlic examines “identifiable stages” of solitude in Rich’s life and work, categorizing them as relational, social, fugitive, dissident, and radical. (The chapter on the “relational,” for example, takes a look at Rich’s “feminist solitude,” as opposed to “masculine isolation.”) Along the way, he spotlights pivotal experiences in Rich’s life, including motherhood, which “radicalized” her, and the psychotherapy she underwent as she wrote “The Burning of Paper Instead of Children” and explored the boundaries of language. Rich’s poems, Pavlic notes, are “rarely direct and never simple,” and he delivers some behind-the-scenes insight into his subject’s artistic choices: the poem “Diving into the Wreck,” for instance, came from Rich’s “terror at the prospect of descending stairways.” While the level of granularity make this best suited for scholars, this will nonetheless provide that crowd with a new framework for understanding the celebrated poet. (June)