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Marge Piercy

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Following is a longer version of my entry to a contest sponsored by The Academy of American Poets. Entry rules and guidelines are posted at the bottom of this page. Deadline is March 15th.

In 1970 I separated from my husband and was poised to join the growing ranks of single mothers with newly raised consciousness. It was a turbulent time, with my husband and me alternating between threats and promises, seething hatred and fretful love.

Poetry was among several of my recent new discoveries, part of a personal evolution that instigated the breakup in the first place. One night, frightened and lonely, worrying about raising kids alone and surviving without a man to take care of me, I opened one of the new literary journals to which I’d subscribed, and read a poetic tribute to Janis Joplin, “Burying Blues for Janis.”

…Never do we feel so alive, so in character
as when we’re walking the floor with the all-night blues.
When some man not being there who’s better gone
becomes a lack that swells up to a gaseous balloon
and flattens from us all thinking and sensing and purpose…

That poem reached me on many levels. It was like a mirror in which I saw myself reflected, a challenge to look inside to find strength, and, finally, a comfort to know that another woman felt the same way I did. I cried in sorrow and in joy, and the next day bought a book by the poem’s author, Marge Piercy.

Since then I’ve read every one of Piercy’s books, both poetry and novels. I’ve seen her read in public twice, interviewed her once, and reviewed several of her novels. I even wrote to her, enclosing two of my poems, to which she responded with generosity.

Seldom has she disappointed me; it’s uncanny how her poems continue to speak to and for me, no matter how much my life changes. To her I also owe my immersion in the work of other poets like Pablo Neruda, Denise Levertov and Adrienne Rich. In my life, the friends and lovers come and go—but Marge Piercy endures.

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My Favorites: Gone To Soldiers (novel); Circles on the Water (poetry); City of Darkness, City of Light (novel).

The Contest:
Do you carry Dickinson’s stanzas in your pocket? Do you recite Auden at the dinner table—without any prompting? Do you download more poems to your iPod than songs? Perhaps you’re the person who celebrates National Poetry Month all year long—and in a way we can only imagine! In anticipation of National Poetry Month 2007, The Academy of American Poets is looking for America’s biggest poetry fans: people who demonstrate a passion for poetry that goes beyond the usual. We’ll select America’s biggest poetry fans to receive prize packages including poetry books, CDs, t-shirts and tote bags. In addition, selected fans will have their submissions and profiles posted on Poets.org. We’re hoping to choose one winner for each of the most popular poets on Poets.org:

Emily Dickinson
Walt Whitman
Langston Hughes
William Carlos Williams
Sylvia Plath
Pablo Neruda
William Shakespeare
Dylan Thomas
E. E. Cummings
Robert Frost
W.H. Auden

You don’t see your favorite poet on the list? You can still enter. Write to us about your favorite poet. In addition to those above, we’ll select a fan of one other poet listed on Poets.org. (Note: you can’t vote for yourself.)

How to Enter

Email a short essay to ebleakney@poets.org by March 15, 2007 describing in 250 words or less why you (or you and a friend—or, if you are a teacher, you and your class) are the number one fan or fans of the poet you have chosen.We’re looking for the most compelling and creative entries and welcome the use of supporting materials such as photographs or videos after you have submitted your essay. Just mention you would like to submit supporting material in your email and an invitation to post on our flickr.com or youtube.com group pages will be emailed to you.

Complete entries are due by 11:59 p.m. EST, March 15, 2007. Winners will be announced in April on Poets.org.

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2 responses »

  1. Loved and identified with your notes on Piercy and the Burying Blues for Janis: it was THE poem that liberated me finally from that tendency to “hang on the meat hook and call it love.” She changed my life. I see you also “do” Joni Mitchell. We are natural sisters!!!
    I do have a lame poorly maintained Blog but can never remember the url. It’s mostly intellectual book reviews anyway. Later. Just wanted to say thank you!

  2. Thank you for stopping by and commenting, hermana! I’m thrilled to hear that someone else had my same experience with “Burying Blues for Janis,” and you also love Joni M.

    I bet your blog isn’t so lame. Go catch the URL and come back to post it for me.

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