Queer feminist poet and essayist Adrienne Rich dies aged 82

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The pioneering feminist poet, Adrienne Rich, who consistently challenged the myths of the American dream, has died, aged 82.  

Rich, who had been in a relationship with the Jamaican-American author Michelle Cliff since 1976, was the recipient of, among others, the Yale Young Poets prize, the National Book Award, and the Dorothea Tanning Award, the latter awarded by the Academy of American Poets.

She died yesterday at her home in Santa Cruz of complications due to rheumatoid arthritis, according to her son, Peter Conrad, the LA Times reports.

The poet was best known as an advocate of women’s rights, which formed the dominant motif of both her prose and poetry, but also engaged with sexual politics and foreign policy, especially in her strong anti-war stance. She was a native of Baltimore, and attended Radcliffe College.

Rich was also selected for the National Medal for the Arts in 1997, which she refused. “The radical disparities of wealth and power in America are widening at a devastating rate,” she wrote in a letter addressed to then-President Clinton. “A president cannot meaningfully honor (sic) certain token artists while the people at large are so dishonored (sic).”

She also won the 2003 Yale Bollingen Prize for American Poetry, and was applauded by the panel of judges for her “honesty at once ferocious, humane, her deep learning, and her continuous poetic exploration and awareness of multiple selves.”

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