The New York Times

Game Changer

NEW COLLECTIONS BY THE LATE POET AND ESSAYIST ADRIENNE RICH, WHOSE INSIGHTS REMAIN AS URGENT AS EVER.

“Essential Essays: Culture, Politics and the Art of Poetry”

By Adrienne Rich

411 pages. W.W. Norton & Company. $27.95.

“Selected Poems: 1950-2012”

By Adrienne Rich

Edited by Albert Gelpi, Barbara Charlesworth Gelpi and Brett C. Millier

421 pages. W.W. Norton & Company. Paper, $17.95.

“I saw my mother’s menstrual blood before I saw my own. Hers was the first female body I ever looked at, to know what women were, what I was to be,” Adrienne Rich writes in “Motherhood and Daughterhood,” a 1976 essay. Female identity begins with the body: “I too shall have breasts, full hips, hair between my thighs. … I too shall marry, have children — but not like her. I shall find a way of doing it all differently.” Indeed she did, blazing a new path for herself and for other women, but not before doing it the same way, raising three boys in a heterosexual marriage subject to many of the confines “Mad Men” has allowed popular culture to revisit in recent years.

Rich came to consciousness as a poet — and person — of the 1950s, 20th-century America’s

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