Adrienne Rich quotes:

  • The mother's battle for her child with sickness, with poverty, with war, with all the forces of exploitation and callousness that cheapen human life needs to become a common human battle, waged in love and in the passion for survival.

  • I keep coming back to you in my head, but you couldn't know that, and I have no carbons.

  • Lesbian existence comprises both the breaking of a taboo and the rejection of a compulsory way of life. It is also a direct or indirect attack on the male right of access to women.

  • The connections between and among women are the most feared, the most problematic, and the most potentially transforming force on the planet.

  • It's exhilarating to be alive in a time of awakening consciousness; it can also be confusing, disorienting, and painful.

  • Poetry is above all a concentration of the power of language, which is the power of our ultimate relationship to everything in the universe.

  • We might possess every technological resource... but if our language is inadequate, our vision remains formless, our thinking and feeling are still running in the old cycles, our process may be 'revolutionary' but not transformative.

  • The worker can unionize, go out on strike; mothers are divided from each other in homes, tied to their children by compassionate bonds; our wildcat strikes have most often taken the form of physical or mental breakdown.

  • Responsibility to yourself means refusing to let others do your thinking, talking, and naming for you; it means learning to respect and use your own brains and instincts; hence, grappling with hard work.

  • Every journey into the past is complicated by delusions, false memories, false namings of real events.

  • If you think you can grasp me, think again: my story flows in more than one direction, a delta springing from the river bed with its five fingers spread.

  • Pride is a tricky, glorious, double-edged feeling.

  • I keep coming back to you in my head, but you couldn't know that, and I have no carbons."

  • An honorable human relationship ... is a process, delicate, violent, often terrifying to both persons involved, a process of refining the truths they can tell each other.

  • They can rule the world while they can persuade us our pain belongs in some order is death by famine worse than death by suicide, than a life of famine and suicide?

  • The repossession by women of our bodies will bring far more essential change to human society than the seizing of the means of production by workers.

  • False history gets made all day, any day, the truth of the new is never on the news.

  • As her sons have seen her: the mother in patriarchy: controlling, erotic, castrating, heart-suffering, guilt-ridden, and guilt-provoking; a marble brow, a huge breast, an avid cave; between her legs snakes, swamp-grass, or teeth; on her lap a helpless infant or a martyred son. She exists for one purpose: to bear and nourish the son.

  • To write as if your life depended on it; to write across the chalkboard, putting up there in public the words you have dredged; sieved up in dreams, from behind screen memories, out of silence-- words you have dreaded and needed in order to know you exist.

  • TV has created a kind of false collectivity.

  • A thinking woman sleeps with monsters.

  • The liar often suffers from amnesia. Amnesia is the silence of the unconscious.

  • ... in a history of spiritual rupture, a social compact built on fantasy and collective secrets, poetry becomes more necessary than ever: it keeps the underground aquifers flowing; it is the liquid voice that can wear through stone.

  • Art, whose honesty must work through artifice, cannot avoid cheating truth.

  • When a woman tells the truth she is creating the possibility for more truth around her.

  • It is the suffering of ambivalence: the murderous alternation between bitter resentment and raw-edged nerves, and blissful gratification and tenderness

  • My children cause me the most exquisite suffering of which I have any experience. It is the suffering of ambivalence: the murderous alternation between bitter resentment and raw-edged nerves, and blissful gratification and tenderness. Sometimes I seem to myself, in my feelings toward these tiny guiltless beings, a monster of selfishness and intolerance.

  • False history gets made all day, any day, the truth of the new is never on the news False history gets written every day ... the lesbian archaeologist watches herself sifting her own life out from the shards she's piecing, asking the clay all questions but her own.

  • Life on the planet is born of woman.

  • We lie under the sheetafter making love, speakingof lonelinessrelieved in a bookrelived in a bookso on that pagethe clot and fissureof it appearswords of a manin paina naked wordentering the clota hand graspingthrough bars:deliveranceWhat happens between ushas happened for centurieswe know it from literaturestill it happenssexual jealousyoutflung handbeating beddryness of mouth after pantingthere are books that describe all thisand they are useless

  • The danger lies in forgetting what we had. The flow between generations becomes a trickle, grandchildren tape-recording grandparents' memories on special occasions perhaps-no casual storytelling jogged by daily life, there being no shared daily life what with migrations, exiles, diasporas, rendings, the search for work. Or there is a shared daily life riddled with holes of silence.

  • Art means nothing if it simply decorates the dinner table of power which holds it hostage.

  • I am a feminist because I feel endangered, psychically and physically, by this society and because I believe that the women's movement is saying that we have come to an edge of history when men - insofar as they are embodiments of the patriarchal idea - have become dangerous to children and other living things, themselves included

  • Probably there is nothing in human nature more resonant with charges than the flow of energy between two biologically alike bodies, one of which has lain in amniotic bliss inside the other, one of which has labored to give birth to the other. The materials are here for the deepest mutuality and the most painful estrangement.

  • They can rule the world while they can persuade us our pain belongs in some order is death by famine worse than death by suicide, than a life of famine and suicide...?

  • Heterosexuality has been forcibly and subliminally imposed on women. Yet everywhere women have resisted it, often at the cost of physical torture, imprisonment, psychosurgery, social ostracism, and extreme poverty.

  • I am the androgyne, I am the living mind you fail to describe in your dead language the lost noun, the verb surviving only in the infinitive the letters of my name are written under the lids of the newborn child

  • Lying is done with words and also with silence.

  • The [Vietnam War Memorial] Wall became a magnet for citizens of every generation, class, race, and relationship to the war perhaps because it is the only great public monument that allows the anesthetized holes in the heart to fill with a truly national grief.

  • motherhood is the great mesh in which all human relations are entangled, in which lurk our most elemental assumptions about love and power.

  • There is no 'the truth','a truth' - truth is not one thing, or even a system. It is an increasing complexity. the pattern of the carpet is a surface. When we look closely, or when we become weavers, we learn of the tiny multiple threads unseen in the overall pattern, the knots on the underside of the carpet

  • You have to be free to play around with the notion that day might be night, love might be hate; nothing can be too sacred for the imagination to turn into its opposite or to call experimentally by another name. For writing is re-naming.

  • Mothers and daughters have always exchanged with each other - beyond the verbally transmitted lore of female survival - a knowledge that is subliminal, subversive, preverbal: the knowledge flowing between two alike bodies, one of which has spent nine months inside the other.

  • The mind's passion is all for singling out. Obscurity has another tale to tell.

  • The vixen I met at twilight on Route 5 south of Willoughby: long dead. She was an omen to me, surviving, herding her cubs in the silvery bend of the road in nineteen sixty-five.

  • The password is a flicker of an eyelash.

  • In order to live a fully human life we require not only control of our bodies (though control is a prerequisite); we must touch the unity and resonance of our physicality, our bond with the natural order, the corporeal grounds of our intelligence.

  • In [family snapshots] the flow of profane time has been stopped and a sacred interval of self-conscious revelation has been cut from it by the edge of the picture frame and the light of the sun or the flash.

  • I long to create something that can't be used to keep us passive: I want to write a script about plumbing, how every pipe is joined to every other.

  • When my dreams showed signs of becoming politically correct no unruly images escaping beyond borders ... then I began to wonder

  • I am an instrument in the shape/ of a woman trying to translate pulsations/ into images for the relief of the body/ and the reconstruction of the mind.

  • The word revolution itself has become not only a dead relic of Leftism, but a key to the deadendedness of male politics: the revolution of a wheel which returns in the end to the same place; the revolving door of a politics which has liberated women only to use them, and only within the limits of male tolerance.

  • There is nothing revolutionary whatsoever about the control of women's bodies by men. The woman's body is the terrain on which patriarchy is erected.

  • But nothing less than the most radical imagination will carry us beyond this place, beyond the mere struggle for survival, to that lucid recognition of our possibilities which will keep us impatient, and unresigned to mere survival.

  • There is no 'the truth,' 'a truth'--truth is not one thing, or even a system. It is an increasing complexity.

  • Lying is done with words, and also with silence.

  • I keep coming back to you in my head, but you couldn't know that, and I have no carbons

  • I don't trust them but I'm learning to use them.

  • A decade of cutting away dead flesh, cauterizing old scars ripped open over and over and still it is not enough.

  • It is the thirtieth of May, the thirtieth of November, a beginning or an end, we are moving into the solstice and there is so much here I still do not understand.

  • Each feminist work has tended to be received as if it emerged from nowhere; as if each one of us had lived, thought, and worked without any historical past or contextual present. This is one of the ways in which women's work and thinking has been made to seem sporadic, errant, orphaned of any tradition of its own.

  • Your mind now, moldering like wedding-cake, heavy with useless experience, rich with suspicion, rumour, fantasy, crumbling to pieces under the knife-edge of mere fact. In the prime of your life.

  • I feel more helpless with you than without you.

  • I came to explore the wreck.

  • When someone with the authority of a teacher, say, describes the world and you are not in it, there is a moment of psychic disequilibrium, as if you looked into a mirror and saw nothing. Yet you know you exist and others like you, that this is a game with mirrors. It takes some strength of soul--and not just individual strength, but collective understanding--to resist this void, this nonbeing, into which are thrust, and to stand up, demanding to be seen and heard.

  • An honorable human relationship- that is, one in which two people have the right to use the word "love"- is a process, delicate, violent, often terrifying to both persons involved, a process of refining the truths they can tell each other. It is important to do this because it breaks down human self-delusion and isolation. It is important to do this because in doing so we do justice to our own complexity. It is important to do this because we can count on so few people to go that hard way with us.

  • My heart is moved by all I cannot save: so much has been destroyed I have to cast my lot with those who age after age, perversely, with no extraordinary power, reconstitute the world.

  • The beauty of darkness is how it lets you see.

  • Change is not a threat to your life, but an invitation to live.

  • We need to imagine a world in which every woman is the presiding genius of her own body. In such a world women will truly create new life, bringing forth not only children if and as we choose but the visions, and the thinking, necessary to sustain, console and alter human existence-a new relationship to the universe. Sexuality, politics, intelligence, power, motherhood, work, community, intimacy will develop new meanings; thinking itself will be transformed. This is where we have to begin.

  • There must be those among whom we can sit down and weep and still be counted as warriors.

  • Most women have not even been able to touch this anger, except to drive it inward like a rusted nail.

  • We must use what we have to invent what we desire.

  • If you are trying to transform a brutalized society into one where people can live in dignity and hope, you begin with the empowering of the most powerless. You build from the ground up.

  • Language is power... Language can be used as a means of changing reality.

  • Responsibility to yourself means that you don't fall for shallow and easy solutions-it means that you refuse to sell your talents and aspirations short.

  • Until we know the assumptions in which we are drenched, we cannot know ourselves.

  • It will take all your heart, it will take all your breath It will be short, it will not be simple

  • One of the great functions of art is to help us imagine what it is like to be not ourselves, what it is like to be someone or something else, what it is like to live in another skin, what it is like to live in another body, and in that sense to surpass ourselves, to go out beyond ourselves.

  • The longer I live the more I mistrust theatricality, the false glamour cast by performance, the more I know its poverty beside the truths we are salvaging from the splitting-open of our lives. -from "Transcendental Etude

  • Courage is not defined by those who fought and did not fall, but by those who fought, fell and rose again.

  • We can count on so few people to go that hard way with us.

  • War is an absolute failure of imagination, scientific and political. That a war can be represented as helping a people to 'feel good' about themselves, or their country, is a measure of that failure.

  • Abortion is violence; a deep, desperate violence inflicted by a woman upon, first of all, herself.

  • As a society in turmoil, we are going to see more, and more various, attempts to simulate order through repression; and art is a historical target for such efforts.

  • How we dwelt in two worlds the daughters and the mothers in the kingdom of the sons.

  • The words are purposes./The words are maps./I came to see the damage that was done/and the treasures that prevail.

  • The difficulty of saying I-a phrase from the East German novelist Christa Wolf. But once having said it, as we realize the necessity to go further, isn't there a difficulty of saying 'we'? You cannot speak for me. I cannot speak for you. Two thoughts: there is no liberation that only knows how to say 'I'; there is no collective movement that speaks for each of us all the way through.

  • Every poem breaks a silence that had to be overcome.

  • No woman is really an insider in the institutions fathered by masculine consciousness. When we allow ourselves to believe we are, we lose touch with parts of ourselves defined as unacceptable by that consciousness; with the vital toughness and visionary strength of the angry grandmothers, the fierce market women of the Ibo's Women's War, the marriage-resisting women silk workers of pre-Revolutionary China, the millions of widows, midwives, and the women healers tortured and burned as witches for three centuries in Europe.

  • It iscrucial that we understand lesbian/feminism in the deepest, most radical sense: as that love for ourselves and other women, that commitment to the freedom of all of us, which transcends the category of "sexual preference" and the issue of civil rights, to become a politics of asking women's questions, demanding a world in which the integrity of all women--not a chosen few--shall be honored and validated in every respect of culture.

  • The more I live, the more I think, two people together is a miracle.

  • Whatever is unnamed, undepicted in images, whatever is omitted from biography, censored in collections of letters, whatever is misnamed as something else, made difficult-to-come-by, whatever is buried in the memory by the collapse of meaning under an inadequate or lying language - this will become, not merely unspoken, but unspeakable.

  • To seek visions, to dream dreams, is essential, and it is also essential to try new ways of living, to make room for serious experimentation, to respect the effort even where it fails.

  • I believe that words can help us move or keep us paralyzed, and that our choices of language and verbal tone have something - a great deal - to do with how we live our lives.

  • I choose to love this time for once with all my intelligence -from "Splittings

  • The moment of change is the only poem.

  • All new learning looks at first like chaos.

  • Grief held back from the lips wears at the heart; the drop that refused to join the river dried up in the dust.

  • We move but our words stand become responsible for more than we intended and this is verbal privilege

  • In the interstices of language lie powerful secrets of the culture.

  • and I ask myself and you, which of our visions will claim us which will we claim how will we go on living how will we touch, what will we know what will we say to each other.

  • I am a citizen of a country that has just undergone a thieved election, a country deeply and dangerously divided between rich and poor, but also between rich and middle class. What I believe in and what my government represents are not the same thing.

  • Art and literature have given so many people the relief of feeling connected - pulled us out of isolation. It has let us know that somebody else breathed and dreamed and had sex and loved and raged and knew loneliness the way we do.

  • Sleeping. Turning in turn like planets rotating in their midnight meadow: a touch is enough to let us know we're not alone in the universe, even in sleep.

  • That's why I want to speak to you now. To say: no person, trying to take responsibility for her or his identity, should have to be so alone. There must be those among whom we can sit down and weep, and still be counted as warriors. (I make up this strange, angry packet for you, threaded with love.) I think you thought there was no such place for you, and perhaps there was none then, and perhaps there is none now; but we will have to make it, we who want an end to suffering, who want to change the laws of history, if we are not to give ourselves away.

  • A revolutionary poem will not tell you who or when to kill, what and when to burn, or even how to theorize. It reminds you... where and when and how you are living and might live, it is a wick of desire.

  • Poetry is the liquid voice that can wear through stone.

  • The serious revolutionary, like the serious artist, can't afford to lead a sentimental or self-deceiving life.

  • For now, poetry has the capacity - in its own ways and by its own means - to remind us of something we are forbidden to see.

  • The unconscious wants truth. It ceases to speak to those who want something else more than truth.

  • Poems are like dreams: in them you put what you don't know you know.

  • One does not give birth in a void, but rather in a cultural and political context. Laws, professional codes, religious sanctions, and ethnic traditions all affect women's choices concerning childbirth.

  • We who were loved will never unlive that crippling fever.

  • You must write, and read, as if your life depended on it.

  • A patriot is one who wrestles for the soul of her country as she wrestles for her own being.

  • I touch you knowing we weren't born tomorrow, and somehow, each of us will help the other live, and somewhere, each of us must help the other die.