In Those Years


Rich, Adrienne




Poet Adrienne Rich was one of the most popular poets of the twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. During her career, Rich published more than sixteen volumes of poetry and five of critical prose. She won many literary honors, including the 2006 National Book Foundation's Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters.

"In Those Years" explores themes of community, individuality, and bonds between people. What connects us? How do we stay connected? What breaks those bonds?

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Identity and Community

Big Questions

Is your sense of individual identity ever in conflict with your community? How?What makes a community strong? What makes it weak?

Sample Discussion Questions

  1. Who is “we” in this poem? Who is “I”? Who is “you”?
  2. What does the speaker mean by “the whole thing became silly, ironic, terrible”?
  3. What do you make of the “great dark birds of history”?
  4. What does it entail to understand the meaning of we? How do we lose track of that meaning?
  5. How do we balance our personal lives and sense of self with our connections to others?
  6. Are the we and I mutually exclusive? Do we have to give up individuality to be part of a community?
  7. How do outside forces – political, social, economic, etc. – inhibit our connections? Foster them?
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