LITERATURE

The Power of Adrienne Rich: A Biography

Nan A. Talese: Doubleday. Nov. 2020. 496p. ISBN 9780385541503. $30. LIT
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Holladay (American Hipster) conceives of a comprehensive and richly told biography of award-winning American poet and activist Adrienne Rich (1929–2012). Synthesizing a treasure trove of Rich’s letters, journals, testimonials, and published writings to chronicle a complicated and impactful life, Holladay takes readers through Rich’s unorthodox and at times turbulent upbringing, her early years of professional and academic success at Radcliffe College in Cambridge, her frustrations as a mother of three young sons with a demanding family life, and her later years as a prominent feminist activist and writer in New York and California. Holladay shows Rich’s relevance today through mining meaning from her poems, which reflect both an earlier time as well as our current political moment, and help to tell the story of her life, which Holladay interprets through events happening to the poet at the time she was writing certain poems.
VERDICT Exceptionally well-researched and detailed, this is a definitive portrait of Rich that will be welcomed by aspiring writers and poets, Rich scholars, and devotees of 20th-century American poetry.

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