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Poet Adrienne Rich Dies at 82


Influential queer writer once refused Presidential medal

Adrienne Rich, the award-winning lesbian poet whose work was a staple of gender studies classes and who made a name for herself standing up for those less fortunate, has died at the age of 82.

Rich, a winner of the MacArthur Foundation's genius grant as well as a national book award, was a hugely influential and widely read poet whose work addressed life as a marginalized person. She died, according to her family, of complications stemming from rheumatoid arthritis.

No episode might encapsulate Rich's legacy so much as her refusal, in 1997, to accept the National Medal of Arts, the United States government's highest award for artists. In a letter to the chairwoman of the National Endowment for the Arts at the time, Rich declined the honor, citing the "increasingly brutal impact of racial and economic injustice," that idea that the awards would honor "a few token artists while the people at large are so dishonored."

You can reach more about Rich (pictured above with Audre Lorde, Meridel Lesueur, including some of her poetry, here and here.

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