Adrienne Rich was the winner of the 1996 Wallace Stevens Award, a $100,000 award given to recognize outstanding and proven mastery in the art of poetry. The judges for the 1996 Wallace Stevens Award were Thom Gunn, Marilyn Hacker, Daniel Hoffman, Rosanna Warren, and David Wagoner, who wrote the following citation.

The poems of Adrienne Rich since the 1950s have helped lead many other poets in this country through a series of important changes. She has helped them make their way into areas of new growth, has brought them further into the heart of American speech and helped them express a wider range of social, moral, and spiritual concerns. Here, near the end of a productive half century, her poems, both old and new, are providing the same illumination for the latest generation of our poets. At every stage of her development, she has not simply pleased her admirers, but has surprised them. Her ingenuity in structure and diction, the variety and intensity of her forms and voices, and the emotional depth they have enabled her to reach—all the while maintaining an integrity of purpose and an unpredictable originality—have made her lifetime of work a demonstration of what the Tanning Prize [Wallace Stevens Award] was meant to reward: mastery.