Saturday, March 31, 2012

Adrienne Rich - A Great Voice is Stilled

From: Portside Moderator [mailto:moderator@PORTSIDE.ORG]
Sent: Thursday, March 29, 2012 6:19 PM

Adrienne Rich - A Great Voice is Stilled

* Statement by Jews for Racial and Economic Justice
* Adrienne Rich accepts the JFREJ risk taker award (2007)
* Transparencies by Adrienne Rich


With deep sorrow, we mourn the passing of Adrienne Rich.
Since the earliest days of Jews for Racial and Economic Justice, Adrienne
was an unflinching, unconditional supporter of our work. She consistently
reached out on our behalf, bringing attention to the import and impact of
JFREJ, both locally and nationally. Whenever we needed her, Adrienne was
there. As JFREJ grew, Adrienne traveled along with us, supporting the
organization not just through deeds, but through intellectual connection and
analysis. She pushed forward the ideas that pushed forward our work. In
addition to being a visionary for the entire JFREJ community, Adrienne was a
great mentor and friend to many. It is hard to imagine what JFREJ would be
without the support and inspiration of Adrienne Rich.

JFREJ honored Adrienne at the 2007 Rabbi Marshall T. Meyer Risk-Taker
Awards. Below is the citation presented to her at the ceremony, followed by
Adrienne's acceptance speech. May her memory be for a blessing.

Marjorie Dove Kent
Executive Director
Jews for Racial and Economic Justice

When an artist has become one of the most respected
and admired voices of her generation, it's easy to
think of her as simply "part of the landscape."
Adrienne Rich has never let that happen. She has
been instead a model of engagement, wrestling with
politics as with poetry. From early revelations of
feminism, she yoked racism and sexism, mothering and
revolution, opposing war and occupation, persisting
in the will to change. From refusing the National
Medal of the Arts from then-President Bill Clinton
because, as she said, "the very meaning of art is
incompatible with the cynical politics of this
administration," to nurturing marginalized voices
and diving into the wreckage of history to salvage
new narratives of resistance, Adrienne Rich's every
poem rebuts the assumption that politics is not the
province of poetry. Her work has constantly
interrogated notions of identity , nation, and home,
asking: what does it mean to be a middle class
woman, a white North American, a lesbian Jew, a
Southerner, a citizen in a democracy?

Her successful blending of aesthetics, politics and
erotics has enriched contemporary poetry beyond
measure and strengthened progressive politics in
devastating times. For the unceasing beauty and
power of her art and her activism, her creative
demonstration of the power of art as activism, and
her thrilling model of activism through and beyond
art, JFREJ is honored to present Adrienne Rich with
the 2007 Rabbi Marshall T. Meyer Risk-Taker Award.


Adrienne Rich accepts the JFREJ risk taker award


[Adrienne Rich, Frances Goldin, and Debbie Almontaser at the
2007 Meyer Awards. Click on the link to watch Adrienne's
acceptance speech.]

This is the place where I realize I am at home, in this company of comrades,
friends and activists. In the presence of so many courageous activists of
the deed and the word, I feel like a minor risk-taker. My admiration for the
legacy of Rabbi Marshall Meyer and the work of JFREJ has been strong and
deep. I live in California but I count myself a member of JFREJ in diaspora.
I also have enormous admiration for the courageous self-organizing people
with whom JFREJ makes common cause in this city. So it's not just a figure
of speech to say that I am truly honored to be here, in the company of
NYCAHN, Debbie Almontaser, and the incomparable Frances Goldin. Accepting
this award has made me ponder the word "risk." And the concept of safety,
which lies behind it, and which has become an American mantra. The idea that
safety is a commodity some can buy for themselves and their children,
regardless of who else lives at risk. Safety and security. The debased
currency for which we're urged to sell our mental clarity, the facts of
history, our political imaginations, our possible solidarity with others.
JFREJ has seen past these deceptions and struggles to re-affirm and
reinvigorate the phrase "Tikkun Olam", and the phrase "New York Jews." I
thank you, with all my heart....

[listen to full speech and reading of two poems, the first by Audre Lorde,
and then her poem, Transparencies - ]



That the meek word like the righteous word can bully that an Israeli soldier
interviewed years after the first intifada could mourn on camera what under
orders he did, saw done, did not refuse that another leaving Beit Jala could
on a wall: We are truely sorry for the mess we made
is merely routine word that would cancel deed
That human equals innocent and guilty
That we grasp for innocence whether or no
is elementary That words can translate into broken bones
That the power to hurl words is a weapon That the body can be a weapon
any child on playground knows That asked your favorite
in a game you always named a thing,
a quality, freedom or river (never a pronoun, never God or War)

is taken for granted That word and body
are all we have to lay on the line
That words are windowpanes in a ransacked hut, smeared by time's dirty
rains, we might argue likewise that words are clear as glass till the sun
strikes it blinding

But that in a dark windowpane you have seen your face That when you wipe
your glasses the text grows clearer That the sound of crunching glass comes
at the height of the
wedding That I can look
through glass into my neighbor's house but not my neighbor's life That glass
is sometimes broken to save lives That a word can be crushed like a goblet
underfoot is only what it seems, part question, part answer: how
you live it.



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