Blessing and Cursing: Self-Object Needs and Politics in the Poetry of Adrienne Rich

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Therapeutic and political aims are implicated in each other in the poetry of Adrienne Rich. Drawing on Heinz Kohut's idea of self-object needs, I point out that her poetry consistently makes use of an address to a “you” which in turn helps Rich to consolidate her sense of identity and purpose as a poet. By reflecting on how I as a reader respond to Rich's various and demanding calls to that “you,” I seek to demonstrate that a central aspect of the political dimension of her work is that it does not seek to speak in the same tones to all readers. The essay explores poems of Rich's that are engaged with feminism, anti-war protest, and the impact of AIDS on her poetic community.


This article was originally published in the Journal of Poetry Therapy, volume 24, issue 4, in 2011. DOI: 10.1080/08893675.2011.625202


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