In 1994, when I was an undergraduate English major in California, I had the opportunity to interview Adrienne Rich, whose poetry was the subject of my senior thesis. I was nervous. I wanted to know about the influence of T. S. Eliot upon her poetry. Ever courteous, looking me in the eye, Rich was definite. Eliot’s anti-Semitism, his New Critical impersonality, and his declared self-definition as “classicist in literature, royalist in politics, and anglo-catholic in religion,” had made him dangerous, dated, or, at best, irrelevant to Rich at this moment in her life. While she had been “raised in the school of Eliot,” now, as a radical lesbian poet, she found that “Eliot was useless to me.”
Here presented, the latest dollop of responses and provocations; we plan to run at least one more grouping, as well as rejoinders from issue contributors. If you’re interested in joining the conversation, do let me know!
—Debra Rae Cohen