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Adrienne Rich’s Manuscript of “Aunt Jennifer’s Tigers,” 1950

ISSUE:  Winter 2015

In our Summer 1950 issue, Radcliffe College senior Adrienne Cecile Rich published three poems in traditional rhyme—AABB, ABBA, and AABB. They were included in her first collection, A Change of World (1951), which was selected by W. H. Auden for the Yale Series of Younger Poets award. In his foreword, Auden said the twenty-one-year-old’s poems “are neatly and modestly dressed, speak quietly but do not mumble, respect their elders but are not cowed by them.” Certainly, neither she nor her poems were cowed. By the early 1960s, Rich had largely abandoned formal verse and developed a personal, often confessional, narrative voice. For The Fact of a Doorframe: Selected Poems 1950–2001, Rich only retained four poems from her first book—one of them was “Aunt Jennifer’s Tigers.” Her manuscripts are in the VQR archives in the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library at the University of Virginia.


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