June 7, 2007

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Poetry and Commitment, by Adrienne Rich (W.W. Norton, 2007, 45 pages)
Reviewed by Dan Szczesny news@hippopress.com

Adrienne Rich knows a little something about the politics of poetry. This short book is the essay which served as the basis for her speech upon accepting the National Book Foundationís Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters in 2006.

In the course of seven sections, Rich explores the real life applications of poetry throughout the ages: the profitably of poetry, poetry in war, how poetry has been used in politics and leadership and the purpose and use of poetry in politics.

The essay is a bit academic, which is to be expected, and Rich backs her themes with examples of work from poets as popular as Whitman and as obscure as Scottish Marxist Hugh MacDiarmid. But the essayís passion and humor keep the critical questioning accessible and interesting.

For readers familiar with Rich, Poetry and Commitment is a welcome new perspective. For those unfamiliar with her work, this essay should generate interest in one of the countryís most distinguished poets.

Rich was introduced at the ceremony by poet Mark Doty, and his introduction in also included in this volume. A