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Fidelity: Poems

3.85 of 5 stars 3.85  ·  rating details  ·  183 ratings  ·  32 reviews
Just before her death in 2007 at the age of eighty-four, Grace Paley completed this wise and poignant book of poems. Full of memories of friends and family and incisive observations of life in both her beloved hometown, New York City, and rural Vermont, the poems are sober and playful, experimenting with form while remaining eminently readable. They explore the beginnings ...more
Hardcover, 96 pages
Published March 18th 2008 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (first published 2008)
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Laura Rogalsky
"There they go beginning life all over again."

Emily Katherine
As with nearly every book of poems I read, one poem stood out to me:


My friends are dying
well we're old it's natural
one day we passed the experience of "older"
which began in late middle age
and came suddenly upon "old" then
all the little killing bugs and
baby tumors that had struggled
for years against the body's
brave immunities found their
level playing fields and

but this is not what I meant to
tell you I wanted to say that
my friends were dying but have now
become absent the word dead is
ej cullen
The last work from the recently deceased octogerarian. A small book of poems. Smart, muscular musings on long- life, love, family. Grace, a tiny fireball of robust gentleness and electric pacifism was, in her poetry and fiction, a modern, more urban Emily Dickinson in in that she is direct, no-nonsense and all tough NY., but she lived in NYC and Vermont, which might give you a hint of her range and sensibilities.
May 22, 2008 Andrea rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Andrea by: National Public Radio. Thank you!
This is Grace Paley's last collection of poems, and actually was published posthumously. I haven't read much of her other poetry, although I know some of her prose, but I really like this collection as a whole, and its exquisite attention to the terrible nature of dying, losing friends and family members and yourself. Most importantly, yourself. Lovely work.
What delight to read poems written by Grace Paley in her last years! She writes of love and death and doesn't stop talking to her sister or her friends just because they are dead. This book is worth owning just to have her poem called "One Day," a kind of tribute to a long marriage that begins: "one day/ one of us/ will be lost/ to the other". The ending of the poem "On Occasion" echoed one of my favorite poems by ee cummings. A surprise to me. "suddenly before thought I/ called out ZINNIA zinni ...more
Sherard H
Grace Paley's life and politics shine through with clarity in this posthumous collection of her work. She writes of her life in New York, and of her life in Vermont; of friends, and of lovers. Most notably, she writes of what it's like to grow older, and to watch one's friends disappear one by one. "The word dead is correct / but inappropriate," she offers.

Her most poignant poem for me--an untitled piece--addresses a moment in which she craved to call her sister on the phone immediately, and af
This wonderful book of poems was published by Grace Paley's estate. She had things to share with us until the end. She wasn't done yet.

This book is small but oh so powerful and seems in keeping with the shrinking that happens with age, but the spirit stays strong. She faces aging, her illness, her approaching death and its effect on those who love her. She has the wisdom to rejoice that her children's children will help them through these hard times.

".....luckily their
children have imperiously
Adrianne Mathiowetz
May 25, 2008 Adrianne Mathiowetz rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Fans of James Wright
Often deceptively conversational -- simple, meditative and yet full of feeling -- Grace Paley's poetry makes you slow down for a few breaths. Reading this book felt like going to Vermont.

I'd actually rate this somewhere between 3.5 and 4 stars -- I loved the poems at the beginning, but toward the end they start complaining about writing poetry, a personal pet peeve. Gal darn these old poets.

My Sister And My Grandson

I have been talking to my sister she
may not know she's been dust and ashes
for th
David Schaafsma
I love Grace Paley's stories and poetry and she is to me an icon of American literature. I once sat at her knee as she read at Breadloaf School for Writers... summer of 1979, and all of us sta spread around her like birds awaiting crumbs of warmth and insight and love and sharp, unpretentious observation. This, her last book, is far from the quality I became accustomed to from her, I say sadly.

I reread the latter poems again, however, I felt that maybe the above paragraph was a little ungracious
I'm always a little wary when a book cover announces that these poems were completed "just before" someone's death. The wariness was warranted here--a few poems offer touching insight into old age, including lost friends, lost faculties, and lost possibilities, as in "On Occasion," which begins, "I forget the names of my friends / and the names of the flowers in my garden" and ends in a beautiful memory of her mother and being told as a child about a flower name: "suddenly before thought I / cal ...more
Kathy McC
I had read several reviews of this poet who died last year. I was not overwhelmed by the poetry, but the topics were interesting to me. There were some lines that made me pause such as, "Don't take me out of the telephone book of your heart."

All the old women came out into the sun and I was one
All the old gentlemen came out too and I saw you
What a relief I said to my friend there is no end
That's true for some but don't be so vain
He may not be the same
Perhaps he's only quite shy
One of us m
They might not all be fantastic poems, but throughout, you have the sense that they were all written by a fantastic person. A conversational, intimate book that records the thoughts of a woman who knows she is nearing the end of her life, and muses on all kinds of things, both big and small. I enjoyed it thoroughly.
I feel shameful admitting that, but for one or two stories, this is the first GP I've read--something I hope to remedy quickly. Not sure why I started with the poems other than that they seemed a manageable appeteezer to the Collected Stories. This collection is made up of the final poems she wrote before her death in 2007. It's spotty, as might be expected, but has some stunning moments, particularly the two occasional poems (on Thanksgiving and on the 40th anniversary of the Vermont Arts Counc ...more
This was a beautiful and often sad (but also funny!) collection of poems, dealing mainly with old age. Paley has a really lovely, simple, contemplative quality about her on her best poems. I liked the sparseness of the language; she uses her words sparingly and to good effect. I also loved her spacing and enjambment. As great as the great poems were, though, there were more than a few that left me kind of unmoved, waiting for that glorious shivery moment that happens at the end of a good poem th ...more
a powerhouse.
Sometimes now when I sleep alone
I get a whiff of myself
and wonder all these years is this
the odor familiar to you
if so did you really like it doesn't
seem so nice you/re unusually non-
sweaty for such an active man but slightly
sweet when I hug you nowadays
(or you me) or put my head on your
pillow in our bed I know it's you
a delicate odor of woodsmoke and I breathe
you in a little not surprised
I remember you were always delicious
What a delightful read, a commentary on the end days with soft patience and understanding and acceptance.
She never chooses tired words like "uplifting" or
"down to earth" but manages to be both, all the
time, to the last syllable of her recorded time,
which ended last August. With lines like these:
"...why are you so up, I mean reality is a terrible
down, look at the facts...they blame it on that
tree, that apple of all knowing. I would eat it
There lines in this collection that I loved and want to play with. You'd think that would garner a no-star rating, but that is a pretty damn good signal-to-noise ratio, and the good lines are *really* good. So: three stars, I'm keeping my copy, and planning to dig a Paley paperback out of storage the next time I get a chance.
Mike Alcock
This was featured on a "Poetry" cart at my local, municipal library (sorry CML). I could've easily knocked it out in an afternoon, but the poems, while generally short, were remarkably stout - heady, even - and so this kind of became my glass-of-red-wine-before-bed book. Highly recommended!
Most of these poems fell flat for me. Although there were a few that I liked (e.g. "Proverbs," "Anti-love Poem" and "Suddenly There's Poughkeepsie"), the majority lacked the necessary dose of life and grittiness that I tend to prefer in any poetry that I read.
If you like Paley's work, you'll love this collection of new poetry finished shortly before her death last August. See more of my comments at Perpetual Folly.
Sep 29, 2008 j_ay rated it 3 of 5 stars
Shelves: poetry
I never feel I can give an informed opinion about poetry; it either works for me (extremely rare) or it doesn’t. Paley is a fantastic short story writer, and there are some nice ideas in these poems, but overall it doesn’t hit me.
Finding this posthumously published work by Grace Paley was a happy surprise for me. Her poems seem like a settling of accounts. She writes from an absolutely familiar place, yet maintains a peculiar distance from there as well.
Kevin Fanning
Highly wonderful. I need to read her more often.

I keep a folder of poems on my laptop to use whenever, and I believe I copied 5 from this book into that folder, which is a record.
i wish i could have known her!

these poems are so intelligent, political, and personal.

brought smiles about aging and nyc and even about death.
This was my first time reading Grace Paley. I enjoyed the poems in this collection and I plan on reading more of her work in the future.
She is the amazing Grace Paley and I wish she could of lived another 80 years to write.
Jul 30, 2008 Tony added it
Shelves: verse
[ No exceptions for the dead; no stars ]
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Grace Paley was an American short story writer, poet, and political activist whose work won a number of awards.
More about Grace Paley...
The Collected Stories Enormous Changes at the Last Minute The Little Disturbances of Man Later the Same Day Begin Again: Collected Poems

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