Re-Visiting Adrienne Rich

Adrienne Rich, the poet, essayist, and feminist, died last week. When I learned of her death, I was, of course, sadden, and then her words about revision—“[r]e-vision—the act of looking back, of seeing with fresh eyes, of entering an old text from a new critical direction…”[1] came to mind. It wasn’t too odd that her words came to me, because these words from her essay “When We Dead Awaken: Writing as Re-Vision” are never too far from my mind. It was through Rich’s essay that I really understood the meaning of revision as a continuous process.

Although Rich’s work has influenced my work as a feminist writer on many levels and in many ways, it is this concept of re-seeing or re-visioning that I carry into the writing classroom. I work to move my students away from thinking that drafting and revision are about getting to the perfect text as quickly as possible. I ask them to think of the texts they create as never done; to see their work as ever-changing pieces of writing. I encourage my students to acknowledge, to articulate, to examine the eyes they see, read, and understand with. I do this by writing “revision” on the board as “Re-Vision.” I do this by designing exercises that ask them to re-see what they have written.  I do this by paraphrasing Rich—Remember, revision is not about fixing or correcting. It’s about the act of re-seeing.   

If you haven’t read “When We Dead Awaken: Writing as Re-Vision” (of if you haven’t read it in a while) I encourage you to do so. You will find the piece in many anthologies, but also here at this link:

 As Rich invites us to return to “old texts” with fresh eyes, I invite you to share your “old texts,” here, with all of us. If there is a text that has influenced your work as a writer and a teacher of writing, please share it with us.   


[1] From Adrienne Rich’s essay “When We Dead Awaken: Writing as Re-Vision” from On Lies, Secret, and Silence: Selected Prose 1966-1978

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *