Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Split by Lightning

The first time I read Marge Piercy, it was electrifying. Of course, I’d read and loved women poets before—Emily Dickinson, Sylvia Plath, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Christina Rossetti, Edna St. Vincent Millay—but they were always in a classroom setting. Stumbling across Piercy was different. She spoke to me in a voice much like my own (or what I wish my voice would be): contemporary, practical, fearless, and even a little bit silly.

I fell into her poems about women, about men and women, about sex and bodies and all of the concessions we make. Piercy writes triumphantly and incisively and inclusively, shedding light on the ordinary and the extraordinary in the ordinary. She rages little and large, and she does not shrink.

I can’t pick a favorite, so here is a collection of her work that is available on the internet. I encourage you to explore the full extent of that archive, but before you do, have a taste:

A Work of Artifice
by Marge Piercy

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.

…Give me more! More women poets! Tell me some of your favorites.


  1. Have you read Liesl Mueller? She's who I'm currently reading (I'm reading Alive Together).

  2. Not yet! I'll put her on my list.

  3. The poem that introduced me to Mueller was "Hope." It's quite lovely!