Marge Piercy

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


  • All in all, the world of He, She and It is becoming reality much faster than I imagined.
  • 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)
  • Drifting with things is a habit it takes almost dying to break.
    • Dance the Eagle to Sleep (1973)

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.

"Woman on the Edge of Time, 40 years on" Article (2016)[edit]

  • The point of creating futures is to get people to imagine what they want and don’t want to happen down the road – and maybe do something about it.
  • Feminist utopias were created out of a hunger for what we didn’t have, at a time when change felt not only possible but probable. Utopias came from the desire to imagine a better society when we dared to do so.
  • When I was a child, I first noticed that neither history as I was taught it, nor the stories I was told, seemed to lead to me. I began to fix them. I have been at it ever since. We need a past that leads to us. Similarly, what we imagine we are working toward does a lot to define what we will consider doable action aimed at producing the future we want and preventing the future we fear.
  • Utopia is born of the hunger for something better, but it relies on hope as the engine for imagining such a future. I wanted to take what I considered the most fruitful ideas of the various movements for social change and make them vivid and concrete – that was the real genesis of Woman on the Edge of Time.

My Life, My Body (2015)[edit]

  • It may be that television and the ever more aggressive investigative efforts of the news media have addled our ability to choose a leader wisely. Between sound bites and the seduction of images, we run a popularity contest every four years instead of an election. ("THE MORE WE SEE, THE LESS WE KNOW" , article originally from 2004)
  • The worst thing that a politician can be called is elitist-and what do we mean by that? In Iowa, Howard Dean was labeled that-a sushi eating, PBS watching, Volvo driving man-not macho enough, clearly, to win the vote of working men. But who determines the massive layoffs and the movement of corporations abroad that gut the economies of so many cities and drive families from comfort into chaos? Those are the members of the real elite ("THE MORE WE SEE, THE LESS WE KNOW")
  • Poetry was a way of keeping myself relatively sane and trying to make sense of the world I inhabited, which did not correspond to the world shown on the television we acquired the year we moved or the world that textbooks and school commended to us. The place I had grown up in was far more violent. Radical politics made sense to me. ("TOUCHED BY GINSBERG AT A (RELATIVELY) TENDER AGE")


  • Science fiction, speculative fiction, whatever you want to call it, is one of the ways to explore social issues in fiction. You can explore what it's going to be like if current trends continue. You can change a variable and see what that does.
  • The idea that poetry should be devoid of politics is a modern heresy designed to diminish any slight power we might have, to render us irrelevant. It is a notion that poets before about 1940 would have found really weird. Shakespeare's plays are rife with politics; same with Milton, Dryden, Pope, Wordsworth, [[Shelley, Byron, and that's only a few British poets. All the Irish poets had political ideas. Go back to the Romans. Find one without politics! Poets and novelists and memoirists and essayists are all citizens like your plumber or neighborhood cop or clergy. If you don't take an interest, politics may come down on your head, may take away your livelihood, pollute your air, give you cancer from the food you eat, teach your children garbage and false history, make you pay for wars you don't believe in and actually hate.
  • What interests me in history is how those periods influenced the present. In Sex Wars, one of the alarming aspects is that in the period after the Civil War they were dealing with the same problems and issues we are dealing with today: the rights of women and minorities, immigration, abortion, contraception, income inequality, prison reform, election manipulation.
  • The best way, we always say, to learn to write memoirs is to read memoirs and learn from those that don't work for you as well as from those who do. Look at how they did things. Separate out the craft elements. If you want to write detective stories, read them. If you want to write historical novels, read them.


  • Poetry changes with every generation, but it does not improve or progress. It just changes its styles, trappings and some of its obsessions, but we can still enjoy Sappho and Homer; they are today's news as much as when they were written or recited.
  • the most fruitful ways to approach the future for me are speculative fiction or utopian fiction. Isaac Asimov once said that all science fiction falls into three categories: What if, If only, and If this continues. I have written in all three categories.
  • Who wants equality? Those who do not have it.
  • (about putting time into trying to look young) It is certainly a replacement for educating your mind, developing your interests, becoming closer to other people. If you spent the amount of time a week you might spend on the pursuit of a prepubescent body on learning a foreign language, on writing something meaningful to yourself and to others, on practicing piano, on changing the society-this country would be a far different place.
  • Utopia is work that issues from pain: it is what we do not have that we crave.
  • It is by imagining what we truly desire that we begin to go there. That is the kind of thinking about the future that seems to me most fruitful, most rewarding. I want a future in which women are not punished for having women's bodies, are not punished for desire or the lack of it, are viewed as independent protagonists in their own adventures-spiritual, intellectual, romantic, sexual, and creative adventures. That's one reason I read and write speculative fiction.

Sleeping with Cats (2001)[edit]

  • From the time I arrived on the Cape, one of the things I chose explicitly was to put my writing first. Everything else in my life waxed and waned, but writing, I discovered during my restructuring, was my real core.
  • At that time, a pregnant woman could not get an abortion in Massachusetts -- but a cat could.
  • I love silence but I fear emptiness.


  • I’ve always felt that in order to change things, you have to understand the forces and choices that created the PRESENT, therefore I write about times in the past that I find very relevant.
  • My political ideas changed when feminism of the second wave developed. I had read Simone de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex partly in French, then far more easily in English as soon as it came out. But there was almost no context then for my feminist leanings until in 1967, we began to organize in women’s liberation. I learned a lot from Marxism but probably lean more toward syndicalist anarchism
  • When you remove religion from the golem, you get Superman.
  • Religions have done far more damage over the centuries than good. Religion may help individuals to bear hard times and trouble and loss, but institutionalized religion of all stripes quickly becomes dangerous. Established religion always seems to breed a them vs us mentality that has lead to crusades, pogroms, ethnic cleansing, the Inquisition, genocide, civil war, and legal discrimination.

"Life of Prose and Poetry — An Inspiring Combination" (December 20, 1999)[edit]

  • Poems start from a phrase, an image, an idea, a rhythm insistent in the back of the brain...Some poems are a journey of discovery and exploration for the writer as well as the reader. I find out where I am going when I finally arrive, which may take years.
  • The mind wraps itself around a poem.
  • Each good novel has a vision of its world that informs what is put in and what is left out.
  • For me the gifts of the novelist are empathy and imagination.
  • I think poetry ultimately is a more communal activity than fiction, but I love both equally.

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.

He, She and It (1991)[edit]

  • Every artist creates with open eyes what she sees in her dream.
  • He fought her with full energy and intelligence, as she had wanted to be loved. (one: IN THE CORPORATE FORTRESS)
  • He's in Veecee Beecee, making those elaborate worlds people play at living in instead of worrying about the one we're all stuck with." (one: IN THE CORPORATE FORTRESS)
  • No one before the twenty-first century had ever loved flowers and fruiting trees and little birds and the simple beauty of green leaves as did those who lived after the Famine, for whom they were precious and rare and always endangered. (four: THROUGH THE BURNING LABYRINTH)
  • This was the home she had fled, not from an unhappy childhood but from too early and too intense love, paradise torn. (four: THROUGH THE BURNING LABYRINTH)
  • For years she had had this magic circle they could weave about themselves, luminous with Gadi's imagination, the place where she could never be lonely or bored. In that private world of play more intense, far more real than reality, she was whatever she longed for. (five: FIFTEEN YEARS BEFORE: THE DAY OF ALEF)
  • Malkah's love was strong but abrasive, scrubbing her clean. Gadi's love bore both roses and thorns... (five: FIFTEEN YEARS BEFORE: THE DAY OF ALEF)
  • His body was a city, vast, filling her head. (five: FIFTEEN YEARS BEFORE: THE DAY OF ALEF)
  • "You love too hard. It occupies the center and squeezes out your strength. If you work in the center and love to the side, you will love better in the long run, Shira. You will give more gracefully, without counting, and what you get, you will enjoy." (Malkah, six: WE KNOW TOO MUCH AND TOO LITTLE)
  • "...No one can stop children in love unless by exile. But you'll never grow up if you don't let go of each other." (Malkah, six: WE KNOW TOO MUCH AND TOO LITTLE)
  • She felt as if she were seventeen again, ignorant, fearful, a creature all gusty emotions and pain. (eight: HOW SHALL I ADDRESS YOU?)
  • "I never wanted to belong to anybody. I only wanted to borrow them for a while, for the fun of it, the tenderness, some laughs." (Malkah, nine: REVISING THE FAMILY ALBUM)
  • "Some people go on wanting [sex] as long as they live, but other people, they let it go as if it were a garment that had worn out." (Malkah, nine: REVISING THE FAMILY ALBUM)
  • "I still have insomnia, but now I tell myself stories instead of counting men." (Malkah nine: REVISING THE FAMILY ALBUM)
  • People had gone too far in destroying the earth, and now the earth was diminishing the number of people. (fourteen: BY THE LIGHT OF THE UNYELLOW MOON)
  • They ambled around the world through the Glops, into multi enclaves, onto the tubes and the zips, far more freely and safely than people or animals could. Shira watched it wistfully. That was true freedom, she thought, something now available only to special machines. (fourteen: BY THE LIGHT OF THE UNYELLOW MOON)
  • "One aspect of working with you, even of being with you, that I really appreciate is how hard you try to communicate. Human males don't often have that habit." (Shira to Yod, fourteen: BY THE LIGHT OF THE UNYELLOW MOON)
  • "Nobody at twenty-eight is a success or a failure. It's too early to figure out which way the tide's moving (Malkah, fifteen: THE SAME AS ME)
  • "Before you, the strongest feeling I knew was fear." (Yod, twenty-two: THE PRESENT)
  • We all of us go about, she meant to tell him but was too occupied, wanting to be wanted but unsure why anybody should bother. (twenty-two: THE PRESENT)
  • Riva said, "Most folks press the diodes of stimmies against their temples and experience some twit's tears and orgasms, while the few plug in and access information on a scale never before available. The many know less and less and the few more and more." (twenty-three: WINE IN THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT)
  • "They perceive whatever they don't control as hostile." (Avram, twenty-five: WHERE THE ELITE MEET)
  • "I used to wonder what I did wrong. But now I think that unless you grossly mistreat a child or spoil her or let her be injured, basically there's a given element in all of us, something from genes or the moment. From birth on, a child follows her own path. She learns, but she also unfolds from within." (Malkah, twenty-eight: HOW CAN WE TELL THE DANCER FROM THE DANCE?)
  • Most of life was bizarre when she stopped to examine it. (twenty-eight: HOW CAN WE TELL THE DANCER FROM THE DANCE?)
  • "There's too little pleasant in this nasty dying world. We all need to remember how to play, how to be children together for a little while." (Gadi, twenty-eight: HOW CAN WE TELL THE DANCER FROM THE DANCE?)
  • "He said to me once he had given up a normal life for the cyborgs. As if he could only create life if he gave up loving and living." (Yod about Avram, twenty-eight: HOW CAN WE TELL THE DANCER FROM THE DANCE?)

Gone to Soldiers (1987)[edit]

  • It is not sex that gives the pleasure, but the lover.
  • If you want to be listened to, you should put in time listening.
  • Life is the first gift, love is the second, and understanding the third.
  • Daniel felt a controlled importance, a fine passionate honing of his attention and intellect that made him impatient with his whole previous life.
  • not the dutiful, selfish and perfunctory love of an adolescent, but an understanding love that would lighten
  • In their minds we're not human...They don't hate us because we did something or said something. They make us stand for an evil they invent and then they want to kill it in us.

Parti-Colored Blocks for a Quilt (1983)[edit]

  • There is an attitude that has developed since about the 1890s that attempts to cast all politics and sociology out of poetry. I don't understand how anyone can seriously maintain this attitude. Actually, the attitude itself is political. Art which embodies the ideals of the ruling class in society isn't conceived as being political, and is simply judged by how well it is done. Art which contains ideas which threaten the position of that ruling class is silenced by critics: it is political, they say, and not art.

Conversation with Ira Wood[edit]

  • I like sex because it's one of the ways that people leave off operating so much with forebrain. If I like poetry because it ties all the different ways of knowing and being together, sex does the same thing.
  • The reason I am political is because I want there to be a juster apportionment of the world's pleasure and less unjust apportionment of the world's pain. Power per se is fairly uninteresting to me, except as I observe it distorting peoples' characters.
  • I think that there is in any of us numerous other people that we never live out, and our opposites are as fascinating as what we are. In fiction you get to live out all those little pieces of you, that never really come into your life at all.
  • I don't tend to smile a lot in situations where I feel on display - public situations. I speak directly and straightforwardly and bluntly, and that lack of subterfuge and lack of middle-class women's mannerisms is perceived by some men as hostile, just as Black behavior which is simply straightforward is perceived by some whites as hostile.
  • Unlike some separatists I don't view men as biologically impaired. I believe sexism is culturally conditioned and that if you change the culture, you will change the kind of behavior which people with the various sorts of genitalia will consider appropriate. What I hate in men is what I consider ugly, brutal, violent, mean behavior - behavior damaging to women, to men they consider inferior, to children, to other living creatures with whom we share our biosphere.
  • I'm a pluralist in sexuality as in most things. I want people to make many different choices and flourish in them, and to respect the choices they don't make in their own lives as well as those they do.
  • I am very interested in the voluntary families that people create; not just the communes but the informal social webs by which a great many people survive and flourish. A lot of my adult life I have been trying in one form or another to create alternatives to the nuclear family.
  • Friendship is my paradigm for the good relationship. If you like someone, you will also love them better. If you love without liking, there's a chill at the core of it that easily turns into possessiveness, jealousy, competition.
  • What is honor from a woman's point of view? Honor has been defined from a male point of view. What does it mean to choose not to endure having been raped?
  • just as politically when there is no vocabulary for discussing your situation, when you're a woman before there is language of feminism, trying to understand what it's like to be a woman, you have no concepts, no vocabulary for even understanding your own situation.
  • Often I imagine in different and better times not have to be political. I can even imagine, when I am at the bottom of a long uphill grade, doing something besides writing novels, although I doubt it. But I never imagine living without poetry.

Woman on the Edge of Time (1976)[edit]

  • Only in us do the dead live. Water flows downhill through us. The sun cools in our bones. We are joined with all living in one singing web of energy. In us live the dead who made us. In us live the children unborn. Breathing each other’s air, drinking each other’s water, eating each other’s flesh, we grow like a tree from the earth.
  • Suddenly she thought that these men believed feeling itself a disease, something to be cut out like a rotten appendix. Cold, calculating, ambitious, believing themselves rational and superior, they chased the crouching female animal through the brain with a scalpel. From an early age she had been told that what she felt was unreal and didn’t matter. Now they were about to place in her something that would rule her feelings like a thermostat
  • Those of your time who fought hard for change, often they had myths that a revolution was inevitable. But nothing is! All things interlock. We are only one possible future
  • it seems as if people fought hardest against those who had a little more than themselves or often a little less, instead of the lugs who got richer and richer.

"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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