Polly Heins

Document Type

Thesis - Open Access

Award Date


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department / School


First Advisor

Ruth Alexander


Adrienne Rich is a woman and a poet. Her striving to define and to integrate these two aspects of her life have caused her during the more producing changes poetry to undergo a profound metamorphosis than 30 years that she has been writing, in both the style and content of her work. In style, Rich progresses from a traditional metered rhyme scheme through a series of experimental forms that reflect her changing perception of self and society. She finally arrives at a fluid free verse that mirrors her acceptance of her own power as woman and poet. In content, Rich's poems change even more radically. Her poetic concerns echo her personal growth and the development of her awareness as a woman in a male-controlled society. Albert and Barbara Charlesworth Gelpi simplify this arduous evolution when they state that, from the beginning Rich's theme, personal and collective, has been woman in the patriarchy: her own .identity , the identity of woman on man's established terms; and, more and more urgently, the possibility of identity on her own, on woman's terms (Introduction xi). Actually, Adrienne Rich's work advances through three distinct phases, and it is not until the second phase, ear1y in the 1960's, that “woman in the patriarchy” emerges as the controlling focus of Rich's work. This new focus marks her divergence from the mainstream of accepted women poets of that time and initiates her significant influence on the changing themes in women's writing. This paper details the evolution of Adrienne Rich's poetry through the three stages of her creative maturation. It examines those personal and societal influences that have caused her to make major changes in the form and content of her work. The development of her major themes of women, history, and language are closely documented since her unique place in literature stems from her expansion of these topics. This thesis points out the connections between these themes and emphasizes the method of restoration that Rich has refined.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Subjects Rich, Adrienne, 1929-2012 -- Criticism and interpretation
Rich, Adrienne, 1929-2012 -- Characters -- Women
Poetry -- Women authors
Women in literature



Number of Pages



South Dakota State University


No Copyright - United State