Pioneering feminist poet Adrienne Rich dead at 82

Thu Mar 29, 2012 12:48pm EDT
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By Steve Gorman

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Poet and essayist Adrienne Rich, a feminist literary figure celebrated as much for deeply personal reflections on her own life as for sometimes-biting social commentary, has died at age 82, family members said on Wednesday.

Rich, who received a galaxy of honors, including the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize and National Book Award, for a body of work that spanned seven decades and ranks among the most anthologized of the 20th century, died on Tuesday at her home in Santa Cruz, California, daughter-in-law Diana Horowitz said.

Horowitz said Rich succumbed to complications from rheumatoid arthritis, from which she suffered for many years.

Rich, who lived and wrote openly as a lesbian for most of her adult life, starting in an era when homosexuality was widely condemned in American society, became a pioneering champion for women's rights and the rights of others who were disadvantaged.

"She accomplished in verse what Betty Friedan, author of 'The Feminine Mystique,' did in prose," Margalit Fox wrote of the pioneering feminist bard in The New York Times obituary.

The Poetry Foundation's website called her "one of America's foremost public intellectuals."

Rich was perhaps best known for her politically charged work during the Vietnam war era, as typified by her 1973 masterpiece collection "Diving into the Wreck: Poems 1971-1972," which won the National Book Award.

Later in the life, in 1997, she created a stir by refusing the National Medal of Arts, the highest honor awarded by the U.S. government to artists and artistic patrons, on political grounds.   Continued...