Santa Cruz High School will host the Adrienne Rich Memorial Reading Sunday.
I only met Adrienne Rich once, several years ago, but I was quickly struck by how she moved effortlessly between two worlds, the practical and the intellectual. On the one hand, she could spin off at any moment into a heavy, philosophical conversation. At the same time, somehow, she was remarkably down to earth.
“I don’t think the two were mutually exclusive, or contradictory,” says her son, Jacob Conrad. He thinks that her life here in Santa Cruz, where she passed away in March at the age of 82, allowed Rich to avoid being trapped within her fame as a literary figure.
“She knew the value of getting away from the ivory tower, and living in the real world,” he says. “That was her relationship with Santa Cruz, as well. She appreciated the opportunity to just exist as a neighbor, as a Santa Cruzan.”
At the same time, says Conrad, whenever he walked around town with her, he could sense how beloved she was, and felt that people here sort of conspired to take care of her, in a way.
“She had a very special relationship with this community,” he says.
That’s why Conrad feels so strongly about the memorial reading honoring his mother in Santa Cruz this Sunday, Dec. 2. Organized by Bookshop Santa Cruz and Poetry Santa Cruz, it’s a free reading at Santa Cruz High School featuring poets and activists such as Robert Hass, Bettina Aptheker, Brenda Hillman, Doren Robbins, Linda Janakos and more. Though he’s been invited to countless tributes this year, this will be the first such event he attends on the West Coast.
His brother, Pablo Conrad, will also be in attendance. He has gone to several Rich memorials over the past months, but feels that the Santa Cruz event is special.
“I think in some ways this is the most important one,” he says.
Tickets to the 7pm event are free, available at the information desk at Bookshop Santa Cruz (limit four per person). There will also be a standby line the evening of the event, and any seats not claimed by ticketholders at 6:45pm will be offered to those in line.
The first Adrienne Rich Memorial Reading is Dec. 2, at Santa Cruz High School at 7pm; free.