Telephone Ringing in the Labyrinth: Poems, 2004-2006

~by Adrienne Rich

LibraryThing Early ReviewersTelephone Ringing in the Labyrinth is the first book for me to receive and review through LibraryThing's Early Reviewers Program. I was thrilled to be chosen and am very happy to participate. The advanced reading copy was mailed to me directly from W.W. Norton & Company and was accompanied by a lovely letter from Steve Colca, their marketing director.

In 2006, Adrienne Rich won the National Book Foundation's Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters. This is her first book of poetry to be published since receiving that particular award (she has also won many others). It consists of thirty poems which are divided amongst six different sections, although I'm uncertain as to the significance of that decision.

I found that very few of these poems spoke to me as a whole, although individual phrases would strike a chord with me; perhaps the only exception to this being "Hubble Photographs: After Sappho" which I liked so much I read it aloud to my roommate who simply responded, "Wow." Actually, I found that most of the poems in this collection worked better spoken aloud rather than silently read. Whether this is true for poetry in general, or even Rich's poetry in general, I'm not sure.

Much of the time I felt that I was missing something; that I was being left out. I've not studied poetry in depth, so it may have been that this was just inaccessible for someone without an extensive background in the subject. I did appreciate the notes on the poems, as it helped me to orient myself and give me some sort of clue as to what was going on in the poet's mind at the time of writing.

This certainly isn't a book to be read straight through in one sitting; it is more suited to being read (and re-read) a piece at a time. I found myself first reading quickly through a poem and then reading it again, paying more attention to its subtleties. It is obvious that Rich has talent, even if it is more than I can easily comprehend at the moment.