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To Be of Use: Poems
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To Be of Use: Poems

4.17 of 5 stars 4.17  ·  rating details  ·  92 ratings  ·  11 reviews
Hardbound, 107 pages
Published January 1st 1973 by Doubleday
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Not familiar with too much poetry, but my first impression is that wow, Marge Piercy is so different from Mary Oliver. Other first impressions: This book seems very dated to me. I get the strong feeling of the "us" versus "them" polarized tone of late 60's militant revolutionaries. But it was a very polarized time. To me, she seems to sometimes objectify the people she is fighting against and that's where she loses me. Also, sometimes seems to be caught up in cleverness of her own writing. But I ...more
I met Marge Piercy years ago at a writer's conference at Indiana University. I remember that at the reception afterwards she stayed in the hallway because she was allergic to cigarette smoke - not a problem she'd have today. I always mark favorites in my books of poetry and anthologies. This book by Piercy has asterisks beside dozens of her poems. Am going to read again and see if I still feel the same way.
I really enjoyed the first half of this book. Marge Piercy has a lot of beautiful imagery. The second half became super political, in a sort of beat you over the head with a copy of "Das Kapital" way, and the imagery wasn't as effective. Kind of made me roll my eyes at the end. I like the idea of the last section, the tarot card format, but the end result was lacking.
More in-your-face political than the earth-mama 'The Moon is Always Female', I particularly liked the last cycle of 11 poems, grouped as a tarot reading. As always, searing, empowering lines from/for a woman: "Most nights alone or alone with men/who wiped themselves in you." Powerful stuff.
Piercy's words feel like short, powerful jabs to activate the soul to be a part of the Movement. Many times her words made me feel like I was at a protest or a march and she was speaking to me and many others in the crowd with a megaphone.
Piercy is a novelist and poet, although I'm more familiar with her poetry and agree with the Time Magazine reviewer who writes that "...Piercy proves that modern poetry can be both passionate and perceptive, well-structured and inventive."
There are some really amazing poems in this book. It's feminism (and a lot of other (awesome) ideologies) from a different time but rings very true and is necessary and important today. I'll use some of this in church, I hope.
One of my all time favorite books of poetry. Clear, accessible, concise, absolutely biting social commentary at times, every word has power.
This is one of my favorite poems....EVER....
The title poem is perhaps the best poem ever.
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Marge Piercy (born March 31, 1936) is an American poet, novelist, and social activist. She is the author of the New York Times bestseller Gone to Soldiers, a sweeping historical novel set during World War II.

Piercy was born in Detroit, Michigan, to a family deeply affected by the Great Depression. She was the first in her family to attend college, studying at the University of Michigan. Winning a
More about Marge Piercy...
Woman on the Edge of Time He, She and It Gone to Soldiers The Moon Is Always Female: Poems Sex Wars: A Novel of Gilded Age New York

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“The people I love the best
jump into work head first
without dallying in the shallows
and swim off with sure strokes almost out of sight.
They seem to become natives of that element,
the black sleek heads of seals
bouncing like half submerged balls.

I love people who harness themselves, an ox to a heavy cart,
who pull like water buffalo, with massive patience,
who strain in the mud and the muck to move things forward,
who do what has to be done, again and again.

I want to be with people who submerge
in the task, who go into the fields to harvest
and work in a row and pass the bags along,
who stand in the line and haul in their places,
who are not parlor generals and field deserters
but move in a common rhythm
when the food must come in or the fire be put out.

The work of the world is common as mud.
Botched, it smears the hands, crumbles to dust.
But the thing worth doing well done
has a shape that satisfies, clean and evident.
Greek amphoras for wine or oil,
Hopi vases that held corn, are put in museums
but you know they were made to be used.
The pitcher cries for water to carry
and a person for work that is real.”
More quotes…