“Touching her, I felt no fear,” Rich wrote in a letter, “but what I did immediately feel was that something very serious had happened to me, something I had better fight—that I couldn’t let myself in for a life of being helped up and down staircases.”When she got back to New York, her fear spread to the three subway entrances near the apartment, on Central Park West, where she lived with her three sons and her husband.
These she had descended many times—sometimes in great pain and limitation from the arthritis that plagued her from her twenties on.
I have never before had such a sense of the intensity of an attention which was not really trying to elicit anything but which therefore was able to receive the whole message.”What came out in those therapy sessions would surprise nearly everyone Rich had ever known.
It changed her life, her poetry, and her politics—a transformation that has hardly been traced before, because Rich herself often avoided direct discussion of the subject.
Rich felt something “coming on very fast, capable of paralyzing my life.”The trouble seemed to pass quickly.
Rich found a psychiatrist known for his clientele of writers and artists, Leslie Farber.It seems hard for people to imagine that these ideas could be the result of a complex mind, a complicated experience.And like many artists, Rich was wary of those who wanted to connect her work too closely to the shape of her life.Farber told her he could give her medication but would prefer not to, that the best thing she could do was enter analysis and probe the sources of that deep compulsion.In their first sessions together, Rich felt she could “risk entering certain zones more immediately than I could ever have done with someone I loved …In the years that followed, Rich began to cut ties with old friends, including some of her closest confidants.She left New York for the West Coast, where she would live for the rest of her life. She began to write more prose, revealing a talent for polemic.For Rich, this argument is still present, but she also approaches education from the point of view that more women receive education and the question becomes what to do with it.Rich's belief is that where Woolf sought to equalize out opportunity, women in fact have to appropriate what is rightfully theirs within the social and education lexicon in order to establish their own identity.Her feminist politics bloomed suddenly into a very explicit sort of radicalism, the kind unafraid to march onto the pages of intellectual journals and complain that “the way we live in a patriarchal society is dangerous for humanity.” She also became famous. It was her ninth book of poetry, but its mixture of anguish and strength of conviction vaulted it past all her previous work.Many of these poems were explicitly feminist in concern, as with “Trying to Talk With a Man,”With this book she won the National Book Award for poetry, tied with Allen Ginsberg.