Adrienne Rich, who died a couple of weeks ago.
Last night around 20 of us turned up at Meow, armed with books of Rich's poetry, and read to each other some of our favourites. Some people talked about her life, and what she and her work had meant to them. I had only recently discovered her 'Twenty-one Love Poems' and was struck by them. I chose to read III, which had stood out for me. I'm a sucker for a good love poem, by which I mean a genuine love poem. I also kind of wanted to read XIII, but was a bit shy to read two. Actually, I had kind of wanted to read 'Diving into the Wreck', but it's very long and I wasn't brave enough. But I was really pleased when Harvey Molloy did, because I wanted to hear it.
In the second part of the evening we read a long poem together. It was a later poem I think, and not one I'd come across before. A quick Google search of the lines I remember suggests that it was 'An Atlas of the Difficult World'. Everyone who wanted to participate read a section before passing the book on to the next person. It was a really lovely and collaborative thing to do. And the poem had a killer ending.
After she died, I had realised that, while I've read her poems (though mostly some years ago) and a collection of her essays, I was actually not as familiar with her work as I thought I was. Hearing other people's favourites made me want to read more of her work. So I will.
The other thing it made quite a few of us want to do, was something similar. Perhaps celebrate the work of another poet, possibly someone who is still alive. Though I have to say I have been having fantasies of a collaborative reading of 'The Waste Land' (ha, I started typing 'The Waster Land'), because that's probably the poem more than any other that I love to hear out loud (except perhaps 'The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock').
Thanks so much to the organisers, Maria McMillan and Cathy Blakely, for coming up with the idea, bringing it to fruition, and bringing us together.