Most critics focus mainly on Adrienne Rich’s feminism; however, she describes herself differently. In an interview with Michael Klein her first concern is with politics:
I came out first as a political poet, even before The Dream of a Common Language, under the taboo against so-called political poetry in the US, which was comparable to the taboo against homosexuality. In other words, it wasn't done. And this is, of course, the only country in the world where that has been true. Go to Latin America, to the Middle East, to Asia, to Africa, to Europe, and you find the political poet and a poetry that addresses public affairs and public discourse, conflict, oppression, and resistance. That poetry is seen as normal. And it is honored (A Rich Life).
Even Diving into the Wreck plays a more general note of individuality than of feminism; in the words of Judith Lewin, ‘In Rich’s 1972 poem “Diving into the Wreck,” the lyrical voice is that of a diver, who, as her body descends in the water, resists the distraction of undersea life in order to pursue her goal, both the exploration of a sunken ship and the exploration of self’(54).
Nevertheless it is the feminist side of Rich that provokes most discussion. Monica Fagan presents Rich’s belief in a kind of feminine bonding asserting that in her essay "Compulsory Heterosexuality and Lesbian Existence" Rich argues that whether or not girls and women desire physical genital contact with one another, friendship and camaraderie can fuse with eroticism to form an intimate bonding among them. Rich suggests that this "lesbian continuum," as she refers to the bonding, has "many more forms of primary intensity among women, including the bonding against male tyranny, the sharing of a rich inner life, the giving and receiving of political and practical support as well as sexual desire (54). This feminism is very radical and most critics deem Rich’s predecessors not radical enough to have influenced her; however, Artemis Michailidou believes Rich to be indebted to Edna St Vincent Millay and compares the two poets and “analyses how Millay’s attempts to challenge commonplace definitions of female sexuality impacted on Rich’s articulation of sexual desire” (39). Rich herself says of Millay, “I spent months, at sixteen, memorizing and writing imitations of Millay's sonnets and in notebooks of that period I find what are obviously attempts to imitate Dickinson's metrics and verbal compression” (qtd. in Erkkila 546).
Fagan also presents Rich’s belief in a sort of identification on the part of girls as they grow older and asserts that Rich concurs with Kathleen Barry and both believe that a girl leaves behind her childhood relationships with girls as she begins to act upon heterosexual impulses. Her own identity also assumes a secondary role as these relationships shrink in importance in her life, and she grows into a male identification. Girls gradually begin to value themselves according to which boys like them and see...