Blog # 10: Rich Morality # 3

Blog # 10: Rich Morality #3

[This posting, the third in a four-part posting about Adrienne Rich and morality, describes how I responded to Adrienne Rich’s rejection of my permission request.]

I had not anticipated refusal, and it took me more than a day to get over the shock. My immediate response was to acquiesce, to give in to the refusal, and accordingly I sent a short note to the permissions manager expressing regret and acceptance. I was disconsolate. I was depressed. At the best of times I have trouble sleeping, and that night I slept very little. Rich really had come to seem important to my project, and without her my project seemed greatly diminished.

Some time during the long night, an idea came to me. The idea seemed straightforward and brilliant in its simplicity. Ms. Rich had refused Patremoir Press permission to use her pieces, yet the writing of the biography and of the introductions was my own. I didn’t have to throw my babblings out with her birthings. I could keep my writing and simply refer the reader of Fathers: A Literary Anthology to her original publications or to other legitimately published sources. Accordingly, I sent Ms. Rich the following letter:

Dear Adrienne Rich,

I’m sorry to learn that you have refused me permission to use your pieces in Fathers: A Literary Anthology. In the absence of such permission, I have decided to keep my introductions to both your pieces and to accompany them by statements on the facing pages. The statement for the essay will read “Adrienne Rich has declined permission for ‘Split at the Root: An Essay on Jewish Identity’ to be used in this anthology. Those interested in reading this essay can find it in Blood, Bread, and Poetry: Selected Prose 1979-1985.” “After Dark” will be accompanied by a similar statement.

It occurs to me that your refusal was perhaps partly motivated by discomfort or dissatisfaction with my introductions. While I want to call attention to your work in the context of my anthology, I do not want to cause you undue distress. If any part of my introductions or my impressionistic thumbnail biography is painful or upsetting to you, I will (within reason) try to revise it to your satisfaction.

If your concerns have more to do with the quality of the anthology and its self-published status, I can gladly send you a publisher’s proof. I think you will be pleasantly impressed.

Sincerely,

Andre Gerard

I have to confess that my letter was slightly disingenuous. I didn’t state what I thought was perhaps the most important cause of her rejection. I didn’t talk about how she must feel to read an interpretation of her life and work based on her relationship with her father. Thinking about Adrienne and her life, I really wasn’t surprised by her reaction. It was one thing for her to analyze and interpret the influence of her father on her life. It was quite another to have a stranger interpret much of her life and her work as a reaction against her father’s influence.

[The next posting and final posting in this four-part blog will expose my moral contortions]

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