In these powerful, often funny, sometimes lyrical, and down-to-earth poems, Marge Piercy writes of her “crooked inheritance”—physical and personality traits from wildly mismatched parents, and in a larger sense the marvelous half-broken world we inherit. Even her hometown Detroit provides a double legacy—a slum girlhood that breeds in her both wild ambition and, where you would least expect it, a love of nature, which she discovers in the city’s elms, “the thing of beauty on grimy smoke-bleared streets.”
Some of Piercy’s strongest poems have always been political, and here are important new verses raging against the war in Iraq, the abandonment of Katrina’s victims (“People penned to die in our instant / concentration camps, just add water”), and the ongoing attempts to suppress women—their rights, their bodies, their minds, their very being: “The CIA should hire as spies / only women over fifty, because we are the truly invisible.”
Other poems are about her life on Cape Cod, where she finds sanctuary in the long natural rhythms of the year’s cycle—gardening, making pesto, hearing coyotes in the winter “yelping in chorus after a kill,” a place where after weeks of rain and snow, the “sun gives birth to rosebushes,” and “everything revealed is magical, splendid in its ordinary shining.” Here, too, are wonderful love songs, about friends, lovers, a beautiful day, animals, making bread.
Deep connections to Jewish life and ritual reveal themselves in poems about her Lithuanian grandmother, about holidays, about the peace in a time of war that ceremony can bring, “an evening of honey on the tongue . . . a puddle of amber light . . . faces of friends . . . darkness walling off the room from what lies outside.”
These marvelous poems remind us anew of the breadth and strength of Marge Piercy’s poetic vision. A superb collection to read and treasure.