"Look: with all my fear I'm here with you, trying what it means, to stand fast; what it means to move." In these astonishing new poems, Adrienne Rich dares to look and to extend her poetic language as witness to the treasures the midnight salvage we rescue from fear and fragmentation. Rich's work has long challenged social plausibilities built on violence and demoralizing power. In Midnight Salvage, she continues her explorations at the end of the century, trying, as she has said, "to face the terrible with hope, in language as complex as necessary, as communicative as possible a poetics which can work as antidote to complacency, self-involvement, and despair. I have wanted to assume a theater of voices rather than the restricted I. To write for both readers I know exist and those I can only imagine, finding their own salvaged beauty as I have found mine." "In her vision of warning and her celebration of life, Adrienne Rich is the Blake of American letters." Nadine Gordimer"
Ever since her first volume of poetry in 1951, A Change of World, was selected by Auden for the Yale Younger Poets, Rich has enjoyed a wide and mostly laudatory readership, though it has changed over the years, from admirers of her modest, formal pleasures to believers in her often strident, anti-male rhetoric. Age seems to find her more mellow in these poems from the last three years, though her sociopolitical concerns remain the same, as they have for many of her 19 or so books: a committed radical, Rich engages her readers directly, anticipating objections to her sense of art as intervention and witness. "A Long Conversation" is just that: a lengthy dialogue, performed for her public, with no lesser figures than Marx, Wittgenstein, Enzensberger, and Guevera - all duly and dully quoted in service of Rich's self-aggrandizing bits of comradely memory. Having long abandoned the jaded views of Auden for the democratic vistas of Whitman, Rich the prophet struggles with Rich the proselytizer: she strolls an urban dreamscape in "'The Night Has a Thousand Eyes'," and summons the ghosts of Hart Crane, Muriel Rukeyser, and Paul Goodman, among others. Other poems celebrate - despite her admitted tendency to "iconize" - activists and artists, Rene Char and Tina Modotti. Everywhere Rich bleeds history, whether imagining those hiding from Nazis, or sorting out her own dead mother's personal effects. Best when plaintive and sensitive to the modest pleasures of her sounds, Rich's "I"-less lines, with their pretentious denial of ego, sound more like the breathless phrases of George Bush. (Kirkus Reviews)