Adrienne Rich on the Needs of Art

“Art can never be totally legislated to any system, even those that reward obedience and send dissidents to hard labor and death; not can it, in our specifically compromised system, be really free. It may push up through cracked macadam, by the merest means, but it needs breathing space, cultivation, protection to fulfill itself, Just as people do. New artists, young or old, need education in their art, the tools of their craft, chances to study examples from the past and meet practitioners in the present, get the criticism and encouragement of mentors, learn that they are not alone. As the social compact withers, fewer and fewer people will be told Yes, you can do this; this also belongs to you. Like government, art needs the participation of the many in order not to become the property of a powerful and narrowly self-interested few.”

Excerpted from: Hunter, J, Paul, Alison Booth, and Kelly J. Mays. The Norton Introduction to Poetry, Ninth Edition. New York: Norton, 2007.

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