I was up for a while last night reading about the life (and reading some poems) of Adrienne Rich, who died yesterday. Delving into her biography caused me also to read some material about her partner, the writer Michelle Cliff.
Caroline wrote her senior English thesis on Rich when we were both at college. It was excellent, unorthodox, practically footnote-less work (I know because I was one of the team who stayed up all night typing it, as well as a final Dante paper for another course), helping her complete three credits and two years of gym requirements in the final twenty-four hours before graduation doomsday deadline.
She turned in the thesis just under the wire (I mean just; we greeted her professor arriving early at her office at 6 am on a beautiful, warm late May Swarthmore morning), and it was so well received that Caroline was honored with a “graduated with distinction” (a big deal at Swarthmore) designation that was actually inserted in the graduating students list by a member of the registrar's office gifted with astonishing and deft razorblade artistry.
I had forgotten a lot, but then remembered quite a bit. The facts of Rich’s life, many of them dramatic and bitter, I still find unsettling. I suspect they seem less so to her family and partner, but who’s to know? Poets don’t get covered as celebrities in People magazine very often and if they did, they’d probably look happy posed with their cat or dog. (That’s a great photographer trick for breaking the mask and getting people to look their best.)
Anyway, another event experienced in the middle of the night that stirs up the sea silt at the bottom of the ocean.