Sunday, December 21, 2008

The Nexus of Art and Activism

This absolutely blew my mind.

In 1990, poet Adrienne Rich was chosen for the National Medal of the Arts and she refused it based on the disconnect between her work and the "work" of the Clinton Administration.  Her poems are literary celebrations of art as a human birthright and the kinship of humanity, and thus she felt she could not accept an award from a president and a government whose America was comically unequal, entrenched in corporate greed and had set a disturbing precedent for the dismantling of arts funding.

The actual refusal letter to the NEA is at the bottom of the webpage, but the letter she wrote describing her reasoning is at the top and is pretty long.  Long and amazing.  Read it here.

My parents gave me a copy of Dark Fields of the Republic when I was in high school.  I had just taken my first poetry class.  I just read some of it again, now that I am a little more prepared for understanding it, and that led me to her letter from the 90's.  Unbelievable that something so resonant today should be found today, unearthed after 15-odd years.