Among the most celebrated American poets of the past half century, Adrienne Rich was the recipient of awards ranging from the Bollingen Prize, to the National Book Award, to the Lannan Lifetime Achievement Award. In Understanding Adrienne Rich, Jeannette E. Riley assesses the full scope of Rich's long career from 1957 to her death in 2012 through a chronological exploration of her poetry and prose. Beginning with Rich's first two formally traditional collections, published in the late 1950s, then moving to the increasingly radical collections of the 1960s and 1970s, Riley details the evolution of Rich's feminist poetics as she investigated issues of identity, sexuality, gender, the desire to reclaim women's history, the dream of a common language, and a separate community for women. Riley then tracks how Rich's writing shifted outward from the 1980s and 1990s to the end of her career as she evaluated her own life and place within her society. Rich examined her country's history as well, asking readers to consider what responsibility each person has--individually and communally--for changing the conditions under which we live. This book documents Rich's developing charge that poetry carries the ability to create social change and engage people in the democratic process. Throughout, Understanding Adrienne Rich interweaves explications of Rich's poetry with her prose, offering a close look at the development of the author's voice from formalist poet, to feminist visionary, to citizen poet. In doing so, this volume provides a survey of Rich's career and her impact on American literature and politics.