Art and Anger

Poetry can sometimes offer to the young a piercingly accurate formulation of their inchoate suffering. I remember reading, at twenty-three, two lines in a new book:  For to be young Was always to live in other people’s houses.  Perhaps some poet had said it before, but if so, I hadn’t come across it. I learned from those lines what I was — a provincial girl in a house constituted by persons so alien to me that they were in effect “other people.” It had not occurred to me that one could think of one’s parents as “other people.” It was not “our house” — it was “their house.” And where, then, was my house, and how could I find it? And who were my people, if not those in the house with me?  The poem containing those lines was “The Middle-Aged,” written in her twenties by Adrienne Rich. It is spoken in the plural “we” by newly adult siblings, as they consider the house in which they grew up — its values, its conditions of “belonging,” its rules, its “people.” That house of their childhood was established by what the title estrangingly refers to as “the middle-aged,” the parents now being judged by the altered eyes of their altered young.  When I read those revelatory lines in Rich’s second book, The Diamond Cutters, I knew almost nothing of her life. I hadn’t the slightest notion, before reading her lines, of how to frame the defects — always felt — of my life as a child, but I learned from the lightning-bolt of her page that my life was being lived in some other people’s house, and they did not understand me, nor I them. Later, reading about Rich’s early life (she was born in 1929 and died in 2012), I

Already have an account? Log in

Want to keep reading? Join our community:


Support great writing by becoming a full subscriber to Liberties Journal.

Subscribe Today

Free Preview

Sign up with your email address, and access two free articles per month.

We hope you've enjoyed your free articles!

Become a full subscriber for only $50/year, (33% off cover price).

Thank you for supporting great writing.

Subscribe Today
Log In Subscribe

Sign Up For Free

Read 2 free articles a month after you register below.

Register now