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Telephone Ringing in the Labyrinth

3.68  ·  Rating details ·  275 ratings  ·  42 reviews
Telephone Ringing in the Labyrinth is one of Adrienne Rich's most unpredictable and evocative collections. In the folk/blues tradition behind "Rhyme," in the incantatory pattern of "Behind the Motel," in the voices from past and present in "Letters Censored, Shredded, Returned to Sender or Judged Unfit to Send," in the dystopic scenes and intimate encounters of "Draft # 20 ...more
Hardcover, 112 pages
Published October 17th 2007 by W. W. Norton Company
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Average rating 3.68  · 
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Julie Ehlers
Aug 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
So good. It's the second-to-last collection she ever published, and it's up there with her best.
Craig Werner
Jun 04, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
As Rich entered her 70s, she began looking back in a different way than she'd previously done. You could look at the book as a long conversation with/meditation on the ghosts/legacy of the Sixties and Seventies. In "Skeleton Key," she ends a section that begins "Cut me a skeleton key/ to that other time, that city/ talk starting up, deals and poetry," with an acknowledgement that she is "Exhuming the dead / Their questions." She circles back repeatedly to the sense that that era was, in fundamen ...more
Jennifer Collins
Dec 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
Adrienne Rich's poems are always gorgeous, provocative, and striking. In this collection in particular, though, there's a sort of haunting quality to many of the works. The political element that comes into her poetry so often, and which makes for some of my favorite poems, is turned more toward personal revelation and struggle here, focused more on characters and situations which readers will find strangely available and familiar, less documentary in a larger sense as opposed to a relatable, if ...more
Jan 23, 2013 rated it it was ok
Poetry is always hit or miss for me. I imagine these are very good poems - they are certainly dense. Not quite stream of consciousness, though sometimes the juxtaposition of words, and the line breaks, seem impressionistic. There's a vagueness in the settings for these poems, as though the material, concrete world just isn't that important a part of what Rich is trying to convey. Unfortunately, most of these poems were lost on me - I didn't understand them analytically, and they didn't light me ...more
Sep 28, 2009 rated it liked it
I felt like I just couldn't "get into" this collection at first. --In other words, I felt too stupid to really understand it.

The last couple of sections really drew me in, though, and wouldn't let me stop reading until far too late in the evening.

My favorite lines from the end of the first section of Three Elegies:

And beneath the skin of boredom
indecipherable fear

Apr 15, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: poetry
Really only 2½ stars. While I did like a few of the poems ("Rhyme", "Hubble Photographs: After Sappho", parts of "Draft #2006"), most left me either unmoved or confused. Perhaps I should have gotten an earlier collection, more similar to "Planetarium".
Jul 18, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: lady-poets
Meh. Not much here for me. She's a big name, so maybe the problem is me. But other reviewers have mentioned they found this collection difficult to understand. So I don't feel too bad.

"Rhyme" - It's a rhyming poem. : )
"Rereading The Dead Lecturer" - after a collection of poems by LeRoi Jones

- To think of her naked every day unfreezes me -
- "Letters Censored, Shredded, Returned to Sender, or Judged Unfit to Send"
Apr 30, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2019, poetry
After having read most of her previous work, and realizing this is one of her last collections, I can't stop thinking about how I would have liked to meet her. As an older woman she still wrote with so much life and strength and still tried new things. This collection was not my favorite but it was really good.
Caitlin Conlon
3.5 stars. honestly, not my type of poetry, so I don't feel completely comfortable rating this. I could really appreciate these poems, even if they weren't personally my favorite. Rich is clearly immensely talented.
Michael P.
Sep 05, 2017 rated it liked it
There are certainly some fine poems in this book, but either Rich's concerns are not my concerns or her way of expressing her concerns are sufficiently strange to me that I never felt she was speaking to me.
Abby Franks
May 08, 2018 rated it it was ok
Punctuation is needed and important! So difficult to read. A couple of gems, but frustrating overall.
May 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I'm currently reading a lot of Adrienne Rich. Very good poetry and prose in her numerous books.
Jul 23, 2019 rated it liked it
3.25 stars
Chang Garcia
Mar 03, 2020 rated it it was ok
Quite dull.
Lisa M.
Feb 25, 2013 rated it really liked it
I was sick while reading this book, and it really influenced my reading. I would pick up the book and put it down because my head hurt too much to concentrate. So, this will be a light review. This book had a few different themes. I really enjoyed the quotes Rich opens the collection with. She claims that the "I" and "you" in poetry are not necessarily real. The idea of misunderstood identity is carried out in the first half of the book, where appearances are not always what they seem. The last ...more
Story of Choice
Aug 02, 2013 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Story of Choice by: LibraryThing Early Reviewers
Telephone Ringing in the Labyrinth is not a linear narrative easily read in a few sittings, and unlike many novels and guidebooks, Rich's work cannot be quickly digested and encapsulated for another party. However, she wields language as a master craftswoman, uniquely reflects and validates my own experience, and invites me to expand myself with her observations of places unfamiliar to me, or, just as gratifying, with new observations of more familiar places. Rich is a keen and sympathetic obser ...more
Sep 13, 2007 rated it really liked it
If this wasn't Adrienne Rich, I would probably be singing this collection's praises. But the problem with having an amazing and lengthy career is that you have quite a body of work to compete with and frankly, I don't know that I'm the greatest fan of Ms. Rich's current work. However, there are some standout pieces and I love anyone who combines politics and poetry. There were a couple pieces that seemed to be inspired by the aftermath of Katrina. Moving, but not crucial like the rest of her wor ...more
Apr 02, 2010 rated it did not like it
Not to my taste, though initially I thought I might like these poems. Except for "Rhythm" and one or two others, this collection seems rambling and very disjointed. I had trouble following the flow of the poems, they didn't make sense to me, nor were they pleasing for the words or rhythm. It almost seemed like the author put too much effort into being "artsy" and clever, rather than letting the words speak for themselves. I just didn't get it or enjoy it. Oh well.
Jan 26, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Adrienne Rich offers us another journey into what it means to be a poet today in a crass and harsh society. This book is a must read for those who like experimental writing and progressive politics. She is pushing the bounderies of thought and song. My review of it for Z Magazine (Jan. 2008) can be found here: ...more
Oct 19, 2008 rated it liked it
Adrienne Rich is a magician when it comes to putting one-syllable words in a long row, each one heavy and full as a silver coin. All lined up, they are like a necklace without the string.

While for sound she is a genius, for meaning she veers towards the private. I am left out too much of the time for my taste.
Aug 18, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
I enjoy watching Rich's choices and the directions that her poetry takes --often evolving in response to current events. While this collection is varied in its references and in its resonance for me, it contains some remarkable passages and pieces. I am struck by what Rich has skillfully done without, and by the musical quality of the sparser poems.
Jan 09, 2012 rated it liked it
Kind of a let down. I feel this lacks the depth and beauty of Rich's better works. I was also expecting to see more detailed exploration of some of the great social tragedies we experienced in this era, at least in America (Bush Administration corruption, Hurricane Katrina and the Iraq War for example.) If those topics were addressed in here, I missed it.
Michael Vagnetti
Dec 05, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This are poems of political/dissident commitment sutured with personal extensions. The modalities are willful, loose physics of texture, time, and transformation. I am itched by the ability to simulate abstract expressionist effects through daubs of wispily connected sensual phrases.
Jul 04, 2012 rated it really liked it
The only possible way to comment on a book of poetry is to figure out which poem or poems are my favorite. In this collection, "Letters Censored Shredded Returned to Sender Or Judged Unfit to Send" is that poem, six pages of fragments of ideas that somehow work perfectly together.
Jul 12, 2015 rated it it was ok
A little too experimental for my taste. Some good stuff in here (After Sappho, Draft #2006, The University Reopens...) but overall I wasn't knocked out. Perhaps that's attributed to late style, but not quite my cup of tea.
Oct 28, 2007 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
I enjoyed this collection from Rich. Some of my favorites were "Skeleton key," "Melancholy Piano," okay, nevermind, I liked it all. But I do think my favorite was "Letters..."
I really didn't get a lot from this book. perhaps others will.
Aug 10, 2009 rated it liked it
I don't identify as strongly with Adrienne's latest poems, perhaps because I'm not near her stage in life. I suspect that when I am 60 or so, I will really appreciate this collection.
Kat Stromquist
Oct 07, 2010 rated it really liked it
Super-experimental and all-around awesome. Adrienne Rich: still a (literary) babe after all these years.
Oct 13, 2011 rated it it was ok
Shelves: poetry
A little too diffuse for my taste. If I had a guide walking me through Rich's references and life I might have gotten into it, but coming in cold it rarely moved me.
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Adrienne Cecile Rich was an American poet, essayist and feminist. Born to a middle-class family, Rich was educated by her parents until she entered public school in the fourth grade. She graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Radcliffe College in 1951, the same year her first book of poems, A Change of World, appeared. That volume, chosen by W. H. Auden for the Yale Series of Younger Poets Award, and her n ...more

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