The bonsai tree
in the attractive pot
could have grown eighty feet tall
on the side of a mountain
till split by lightning.
But a gardener
carefully pruned it.
It is nine inches high.
Every day as he
whittles back the branches
the gardener croons,
It is your nature
to be small and cozy,
domestic and weak;
how lucky, little tree,
to have a pot to grow in.
With living creatures
one must begin very early
to dwarf their growth:
the bound feet,
the crippled brain,
the hair in curlers,
the hands you
love to touch.

Analysis, meaning and summary of Marge Piercy's poem A Work Of Artifice


  1. behnam says:

    I think the poem clearly talks about women and their subordination to men in the time.At the end of the poem we see that poet refers to four characteristics of woman towards man or even life. Bound feet refers to incapability of woman.Crippled brain shows the intellectual disability of woman.The hair in curlers also refers to the lack of entering women to the society.And finally in the line 23and 24,the hands you love to touch illustrates the sexual women as a sex objects

  2. Ayden says:

    Thnx Terri, you gave me my primary discourse for this poem. English homework done! haha no rly your analysis of the poem went much further then my first impression.

  3. Terri says:

    In this poem, Marge Piercy uses extended metaphor throughout the entire poem to describe the oppression of women. Is explaining that the gardener does not let the tree (woman) reach its full potential in life. He continually keeps cutting her down and not letting her grow. By using the gardener to represent man, and the tree to represent women, Piercy is showing the classic ”male dominance” idea.

    I really like this poem and I admire Marge Piercy for bringing her ideas into this particular poem. I’m not saying that I am a feminist, but I think this is a brilliant poem from a feminist veiw point. It is easy to tell Marge put a lot of thought into this poem because she brings in lots of chinese history. Every line in this poem is important to Marge’s point in the poem.

  4. Anonymous says:

    While it may not be a masterpiece,Personally I thought it was a good poem, and her point is clearly, seen the potential of the plant was stunted because “he”(the gardener) wanted the plant to be pretty.And I would be interested to see a four year old write something like that. Whoever that four year old is, they must be a very talented child.

  5. Stephanie says:

    I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised that a male (“John”) would be so defensive about a poem expressing the experience of so many women who have been and continue to be bound and stunted by the control and sexism practiced by men in our society, past and present. If you believe Piercy could be sexist especially considering she’s married to a man and has been for quite some time, perhaps you should be reflecting on your treatment of women in your life and why you feel so offended by Piercy telling the truths of women who may not be able to voice it themselves. Get with the program! Your comments themselves lessen women’s chances of attaining equality in the world. Strength and support to the women in your life because they’re gonna need it!

  6. Ashley says:

    The poem was good, except at the end it throws you off. It was written many years ago and it emphasizes the struggles of women. The bonsai tree is just a metaphor she used because it can be shaped to ones liking… I don’t think she was trying to go into the “herbology” of it.

  7. Joe says:

    Marge Piercy appears to be both ignorant and sexist.

    First of all, the tree would never grow 80ft on the side of a moutain. As a herbologist, I think she may be suffering from a serious head injury.

    I highly doubt that she called the gardener a “he” without trying to imply anything. She should stop whining about men imposing things on women because I’ve never heard of men telling women to put curlers in her hair. Perhaps women are imposing some of these expectations on themselves.

    • Ayiana says:

      Actually she is not ignorant nor is she sexist, this poem was written in 1973, when Marge was 63. She grew up during a time where women were considered weaker then males, she is not accusing every male to be sexist but you have to understand that such a time ago and today still whether you have witnessed it or not, women were not held to high expectations like becoming president of the United States. Women were usually just suppose to housewives while the men were out working. Maybe if you had analyzed a bit more you would have seen that she was not implying that women were told to put curlers in their hair but that was a big part of the beauty routine during her time, lots of women styled their hair using curlers. May I also just say that you have probably made some sexist remarks about women and you have probably heard them as well and are choosing not to admit the truth you probably are sexist. Why would women tell themselves that we aren’t enough when that who mentality was fed to us since we were born medieval times, women weren’t allowed to fight in the war, they assumed we could’t fight and weren’t strong enough, we were stay at home mothers, and we had been manipulated for so long we started to believe. Deborah Sampson disguised herself as a man to get the opportunity to fight in the revolutionary war. She was the Only woman to earn a full paid pension.

  8. Jessica says:

    This is one of the worst poems I have ever read… A four-year old could write that

  9. Jose Yamil Roman (Puerto Rico) says:

    When I first read the poem I understood that Piercy was exagerating, but when I analyze it I found that she was gu=iving an advice to woman. She used three diferent tones of voice through the poem whichw explain her frustation of how men try to economize women.

  10. Hannah Karla L. Zoleta says:

    The poem was really good it talks about the situation of women today. most of the time our men tend to economize our growth as a peron for reasons of insecurities..

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Do you have any comments, criticism, paraphrasis or analysis of this poem that you feel would assist other visitors in understanding the meaning or the theme of this poem by Marge Piercy better? If accepted, your analysis will be added to this page of American Poems. Together we can build a wealth of information, but it will take some discipline and determination.