In Fox: Poems 1998-2000 (WW. Norton & Co., $21) Adrienne Rich can no longer be accused of favoring a feminist polemic over the art of poetry. As she writes in “Terza Rima,” a poem from this newest volume: “How I’ve hated speaking’ as a woman”/ for mere continuation/ when the broken is what I saw.” Yet she is still exploring issues of war, poverty, and justice.
The title poem has been sleeping inside of Rich for decades. The fox, first appearing in her 1969 collection Leaflets, is sometimes male, sometimes female, always alive, sensual, “fire-eyed.” In Rich’s metaphor, the fox is a stand-in for truth. Yet whereas in her earlier years she made a claim for truth gained through the present experience, the poems in this collection—trained on the past and the future—seem to favor knowledge achieved through age and maturation. Not surprising, considering this is Rich’s eighteenth book of poetry and her 72nd year Rich does not deal directly with her Jewish identity, as she did in Snapshots of a Daughter-in-Law and An Atlas of the Difficult World. Less angry than many of her earlier collections, Fox is filled with what appear to be apologies, clarifications, questions, and responses.
Rebecca Metzger is a freelance writer, arts publicist and poet, living in Brooklyn.