Marge Piercy

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Marge Piercy (born March 31, 1936) is an American poet, novelist, and social activist.


  • I said, I like my life. If I
    have to give it back, if they
    take it from me, let me only
    not feel I wasted any, let me
    not feel I forgot to love anyone
    I meant to love, that I forgot
    to give what I held in my hands,
    that I forgot to do some little
    piece of the work that wanted
    to come through.
    • "If they come in the night", in The Twelve-Spoked Wheel Flashing (1978); reprinted in Sleeping with Cats: A Memoir (2002).
  • We are past the point where critics, whether reviewing a few poetry books in the London Times or New York Times, or for literary magazines, editors, teachers of literature and male poets themselves can pontificate about poetry and mean only the work of twenty or thirty white male writers.
    • Introduction to Early Ripening: American Women's Poetry Now (1987)
  • Good work in a field breeds interest and makes room for more good practitioners. We are not rivals but workers building something whose final shape we are not able even to fantasize.
    • Introduction to Early Ripening: American Women's Poetry Now (1987)

Interview with Jewish Womens Archive (2017)[edit]

  • As for the political and corporate aspects, as one of the founders of the North American Congress on Latin America, I spent a couple of year doing power structure research. I was extrapolating from current trends – which have progressed today to the point where every cabinet post under Trump is run by an official from the corporations that the departments are supposed to regulate.
  • Reconstructionism, which is my branch of Judaism, is strongly concerned with the environment
  • (What advice would you give to young people who are currently concerned about the state of the world and who want to fight against environmental destruction and big business?) There are endless organizations that have sprung up since Trump entered office to fight many of his terrible decisions and appointments.There are also environmental organizations that have been around since the seventies. Join a group that appeals to you and work on the issue that most alarms or impinges on you. No one else can tell you what to join or what to work on. It has to be something that actually gets you excited, angry, and passionate, not something you think you should care about.

Interview in Fooling with Words: A Celebration of Poets and Their Craft by Bill Moyers (1999)[edit]

  • Everything to me is connected-religion, the body, politics, our relation to each other and all other living beings, the environment. Life is of a piece. To me it's all one vision, and poetry is at the center.
  • I've been amazed at the number of unions that tell me how helpful "To be of use" is to them in their organizing work.
  • I am an intensely curious person, nosy, insatiable. As a poet, everything you experience, whether personally or vicariously or virtuously or virtually, for that matter, is your stuff. Imagery can't really be taught. You can lecture about the different kinds of imagery in different sorts of poems, but the truth is, imagery is the most personal core of a poet. What you know and what you feel becomes your imagery.
  • You have to stay open and curious and keep learning as you go. Poems come from a whole variety of sources. When you're younger, you believe in inspiration. As you get older, you believe most in receptivity and work.
  • We have been living in times in which human cruelty is all around us. Yet the world is very beautiful.
  • To be a poet is to open your eyes to everything around you. I love the beauty of the world, but I get angry at the cruelty in the world. How can we not get angry at the tremendous cruelty that is built into our system?
  • From the third grade on, women are trained to mistrust their natural bodies and to try to make them conform with body types belonging to two percent of the population.
  • Lots of people are angry and just can't figure out where to aim their anger. We forget how to do anything political. Every generation has to start all over again-people have to figure out what's happened, but you have to start with two, three at a time, and organize. In the meantime, we need the poems-if not for the politicians then for the people the politicians ignore.
  • I want my poems to give voice to something in the experience of a life. To find ourselves spoken for in art gives dignity to our pain, our anger, our losses.
  • The farther you are from the centers of power in this society, the less likely you are to find validation of your experiences, your insights and ideas, your life. It is more important to you to find in art that validation, that respect for your experiences that no minority except the thin, white, and wealthy can count on.
  • Poems told me there were other people who felt the way I felt. That was validation for the person I was. Poems can mean survival.
  • If you're female in this society, culture tells you that you've had it if you're not twenty-two, blond, and weigh about ninety-two pounds. Then, even if you are twenty-two, blond, and weigh ninety-two pounds, you're still going to fail because you're going to get old. Women are destined to age into failure even if when they're young they are what society defines as perfect. Poems about women who are not twenty-two, blond, and ninety-two pounds can remind us of reality.
  • We have to know how connected we are. It's quite remarkable, the very strange notion of the self today. We think the self stops right here. But my self doesn't stop here. It flows out into the people I love, into the people I have loved, the people I come from, the people I speak to. Sometimes, in dream or in vision, we encounter each other without boundaries. Being strong means being strong together.

"The Grand Coolie Damn" (1969)[edit]

Anthologized in Sisterhood Is Powerful edited by Robin Morgan

  • The Movement is supposed to be for human liberation: how come the condition of women inside it is no better than outside?
  • Repression brings hardening.
  • If the rewards are concentrated at the top, the shitwork is concentrated at the bottom.
  • If you have contempt for people and think they cannot know what they want and need, who the hell is the revolution for?
  • We are oppressed, and we will achieve our liberation by fighting for it the same as any other oppressed group. Nobody is going to give it to us because we ask, however eloquently.
  • A tendency to believe quite literally in the rhetoric of Movement males is a form of naiveté that no woman can afford.
  • There are a lot of lonely and a lot of horny women.
  • The use of women as props for a sagging ego is accepted socially. Everybody sees it and everybody agrees that they don't.
  • The importance of male solidarity to enforce discrimination and contempt for women cannot be overemphasized.
  • Certain of any oppressed group can always rise from that group by incorporating the manners and value system of the oppressed, and outwitting them at their own rigged game. We want Something Else. We are told that our sense of oppression is not legitimate. We are told women's liberation is a secondary issue, to be dealt with after the war is won. But the basis of women's oppression is economic in a sense that far predates capitalism and the market economy and that is woven through the whole fabric of socialization. Our claims are the most radical, for they entail restructuring even the nuclear family. Nowhere on earth are women free now, although in some places things are marginally better. What we want we will have to invent ourselves.
  • There is much anger here at Movement Men, but I know they have been warped and programmed by the same society that has damn near crippled us. My anger is because they have created in the Movement a microcosm of that oppression and are proud of it. Manipulation and careerism and competition will not evaporate of themselves. Sisters, what we do, we have to do together, and we will see about them.

Quotes about Marge Piercy[edit]

  • Remember to weave real connections, wrote Marge Piercy: “create real nodes, build real houses/Live a life you can endure; make love that is loving/Connections are made slowly, sometimes they grow underground/You cannot tell always by looking what is happening/More than half a tree is spread out in the soil under your feet.”
    • Bettina Aptheker Tapestries of Life: Women's Work, Women's Consciousness, and the Meaning of Daily Experience (1989)
  • Marge Piercy is shameless; that is, she is that rarity, a free person. Her freedom enables her to write about her brilliant, fascinating life with honesty and gusto. She is magnificent on the subject of cats.
  • Marge Piercy is a literary icon-novelist, poet, social activist.
  • (her poems) are Marge Piercy at her most telling. The author is a fearless and exciting woman
  • In the women's consciousness-raising groups I belonged to in the early 1970s, we shared personal and very emotional stories of what it had really been like for us to live as women, examining our experiences with men and with other women in our families, sexual relationships, workplaces and schools, in the health care system and in surviving the general societal contempt and violence toward women. As we told our stories we found validation that our experiences and our reactions to them were common to many women, that our perceptions, thoughts, and feelings made sense to other women. We then used that shared experience as a source of authority. Where our lives did not match official knowledge, we trusted our lives and used the collective and mutually validated body of stories to critique those official versions of reality. This was theory born of an activist need, and the feminist literature we read, from articles like "The Politics of Housework" and "The Myth of the Vaginal Orgasm" to the poetry of Susan Griffin, Marge Piercy, Alta, Judy Grahn, and others, rose out of the same mass phenomenon of truth-telling from personal knowledge.
  • Some critics may wince at her politics, but no one can doubt whose voice is speaking, or that the language comes from a fully engaged life. Not that politics is her only subject. She writes about planting tomatoes, making love, remodeling the kitchen, and dying. Her avid followers know that she can be just as tough about herself and as humorous-as about the world's absurdities. At heart, Marge Piercy is a utopian, possessing what Margaret Atwood describes as "a view of human possibility-harmony between the sexes, among races, and between humankind and nature-that makes the present state of affairs clearly unacceptable by comparison."
    • Bill Moyers Fooling with Words: A Celebration of Poets and Their Craft (1999)
  • one of our finest novelists and poets
  • Marge Piercy is very dear to me-a person who puts her life where her mouth is...I'm always interested in what Marge [Piercy] does. I mean we have our differences about several things, and approaches to writing-what and who and how-but she's an amazing woman and a true writer, and she does a tremendous amount of work and is very particular about what she's doing. She's doing a certain kind of chronicling of our time. She has a book called The High Cost of Living. I think it's really a wonderful book. It's not well-known. And it's one of her shortest things. I think she thinks she just tossed it off.
    • 1981 interview in Conversations with Grace Paley edited by Gerhard Bach and Blaine Hall (1997)
  • I remember Marge Piercy saying at the Aspen Conference that she had "an aesthetics of clarity." And I thought, hmm, that's not bad.
    • 1993 interview in Conversations with Grace Paley edited by Gerhard Bach and Blaine Hall (1997)
  • A lot of the young women in the peace movement were really just pushed around by SDS (the student organization). That is, Meredith Tax or Marge Piercy were pushed around by these guys, these young fellows in these student movements, who were really not shallow because they were very smart, but callow and full of male beans and ambition and so forth. And accustomed to or forced to play a certain role. I think the women's movement has done a lot for men, a tremendous lot for them. For men who paid attention it has taken some of the burden of machoism off their backs, which is a terrible burden to bear. If you think about it, it's horrible. It's horrible to have to be that kind of person in order to be a person.
    • 1995 interview in Conversations with Grace Paley edited by Gerhard Bach and Blaine Hall (1997)

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