Entertainment & Arts

Poet Adrienne Rich dies aged 82

Adrienne Rich
Image caption Rich famously turned down the National Medal of Arts in 1997 for political reasons

Award-winning American poet and essayist Adrienne Rich has died aged 82, a family member has confirmed.

The writer, who scooped the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize and National Book Award, had suffered from rheumatoid arthritis for many years.

During her career, which spanned seven decades, she became a pioneering champion for women's rights and the rights of the disadvantaged.

Fellow poet WS Merwin said she was "very courageous and very outspoken".

The Pulitzer Prize-winning poet added: "She was a real original, and whatever she said came straight out of herself".

The Poetry Foundation's website called her "one of America's foremost public intellectuals."

'Cynical politics'

Rich did not shy away from exploring controversial topics, such as racism, sexuality, economic justice and homosexuality.

Rich published more than a dozen volumes of poetry and five collections of nonfiction.

Her collection of poems, Diving into the Wreck, won her the National Book Award and in 2004 she scooped the National Book Critics Circle Award in Poetry for The School Among the Ruins.

In 1997, the writer refused to accept the National Medal of Arts from the then president, Bill Clinton, saying she did not agree with his "cynical politics".

Writing to his administration, she said: "The radical disparities of wealth and power in America are widening at a devastating rate.

"A president cannot meaningfully honour certain token artists while the people at large are so dishonoured."

Married with three sons, she left her husband in 1970, who killed himself. She eventually lived with her partner, writer and editor Michelle Cliff.