Rich’s poems are full of warnings against forgetting the past, against pretending one has escaped it ... She urges a profound kind of ambivalence: Proceed with caution, looking over your shoulder, and somehow simultaneously with fierce abandon ... The notion of the outsider is central to Rich’s thinking, a key that opens subjects ranging from literature to feminism to politics, which...are all effortlessly—and necessarily—interwoven. Rich reframes classic literature through a feminist lens ... Rich offers me a powerful and necessary reminder of the continuous self-reflection required to fight ignorance—one’s own and others’. We need to reread [Rich], especially now ... the poems, with luminous metaphor and embodiment, lit the way through the historical darkness ... a piercingly clear and authoritative voice ... a summation of one of the great careers in American letters, a profound and beautiful call to think, and feel, and fight.
...one of the most startling aspects of her career as a whole was her ability to find, seemingly effortlessly, forms and idioms appropriate to each new phase of her development. The sheer eloquence of poem after poem, whatever style or decade they happened to be written in, can take one’s breath away ... The confluence of political and personal events charted in the poems collected in Leaflets (1969), The Will to Change (1971), and Diving into the Wreck (1973) enabled Rich to dramatize her experiences during those tumultuous and troubled years with the urgency and clarity of a great autobiography or documentary ... what is often striking about Rich’s concept of 'transformative writing,' to borrow Claudia Rankine’s formulation, is its Whitmanian inclusiveness, as well as its use of rhetorical strategies derived from one of her earliest enthusiasms, Wallace Stevens ... much of Rich’s poetry from the mid-1960s onward communicates an intoxicating sense of freedom and possibility ... It is the resilience and ebullience of Rich’s poetry that lingers in the mind, as much as her scathing diagnoses of the ills besetting the West.
...the size of this anthology is surprising for not only its quantity but also for the unflagging quality of its craft and vision ... though her poems often begin with granular, personal observations...they unfold into complex maps of wider awareness and realization ... An 'accurate dreamer' who voiced 'her own inward scream,' Rich is an indispensable poet, whose work parallels and brings into focus the transformative zeitgeist of her era. This magisterial compendium forcefully suggests that era has not yet passed.