My Dean left a message on my cell phone this morning while I was teaching, so I picked up my messages while I was driving home. This is what he said: "We would like you to introduce Adrienne Rich next March, if you can. She's one of the speakers in the President's Lecture Series ... " I almost drove off the road.
Adrienne Rich is a rock star to me. I was first introduced to her work in 1980, as a freshman in college, and as someone just coming out. The Dream of a Common Language was poetry that spoke directly to me (especially the floating poem, unnumbered, in 21 Love Poems, and if you don't know what I mean, I feel sorry for you).
Aside from being a fine poet and essayist, Rich also puts her money where her mouth is. Her professed politics and her actions are in synch. She turned down the National Book Award when she was offered it; instead, she allowed two other women poets to join her in accepting the award on behalf of all silenced women. Even Ole Bill Clinton was not liberal enough for her, and in 1997 she refused the National Medal of Arts, saying the aims of art weren't compatible with the cynical policies of the White House. But she slammed Dubya too. In 2003, she, along with a few other poets, refused to attend a White House symposium on "Poetry and the American Voice" because they opposed the Iraq War.
Rich is a highly respected poet and writer of international acclaim and it is simply an honor to be asked to introduce her. Now let's pray I don't pass out at the podium.