Made in Detroit

A treasure trove of new poems by one of our most sought-after poets: poems that range from descriptions of the Detroit of her childhood to her current life on Cape Cod, from deep appreciations of the natural world to elegies for lost friends and relationships, from a vision of her Jewish heritage to a hard-hitting take on today’s political ironies.

In her trademark style, combining the sublime with the gritty, Marge Piercy describes the night she was born: “the sky burned red / over Detroit and sirens sharpened their knives. / The elms made tents of solace over grimy / streets and alley cats purred me to sleep.” She writes in graphic, unflinching language about the poor, banished now by politicians because they are no longer “real people like corporations.” There are elegies for her peer group of poets, gone now, whose work she cherishes but from whom she cannot help but want more. There are laments for the suicide of dolphins and for her beloved cats, as she remembers “exactly how I loved each.” She continues to celebrate Jewish holidays in compellingly original ways and sings praises of her marriage and the small pleasures of daily life.

This is a stunning collection that will please those who already know Marge Piercy’s work and offer a splendid introduction to it for those who don’t.


The Washington Post, April 14, 2015, The Best Poetry of April
Marge Piercy’s Made in Detroit (Knopf, $27.95) traces the personal and poetic evolution that has made her one of the most esteemed and enduring writers of the past four decades. The book begins with childhood memories of Depression-era Detroit, where she witnessed poverty, desolation and the silent struggles of her mother, who was dominated by an overbearing husband. Piercy’s decision to speak for the voiceless fuels a lifelong journey that begins with some wild days, broken relationships and learning what it means to be a poet. One of those lessons — to speak authentically — shapes every section in the collection as Piercy shifts from the city to the natural world, where snow, the ocean and other forces soften or block human advances. Piercy’s activist fire surfaces in poems about women who died because of unsafe working or social conditions. Some of the most powerful pieces show the speaker grappling with spirituality and struggling to be a better person: “I walk into this new beginning/ of a self still under construction.” Works about marriage, enduring love and the loss of peers and relatives round out this collection, which beautifully weaves multiple threads into a rich portrait.

American Library Association Booklist, March 15, 2015:
A working class gal who grew up in Detroit in the wake of the Great Depression, Piercy begins her nineteenth poetry collection (matched by 17 novels) with an autobiographical sequence of electrifying braggadocio and deep pain. She declares that she was saved by books. “Libraries were my cathedrals, Librarians / my priests promising salvation.” Piercy also experienced transcendence in nature, eventually finding her true home on Cape Cod. Piercy writes sensitively of the glory of the sea, storms, the seasons, but always with a divining sense of the living world’s hard lessons. In jabbing and fleet-footed poems that swing from rapture to outrage, she describes a heron wrestling with a snake, salutes the mummichog, a scrappy little fish tolerant of climate change extremes and pollution, and shares a gardener’s knowledge of the change wrought by global warming. Writing poignantly of social injustice, Jewish holidays, marriage, and age, Piercy, frank, caustically witty, and caring generates suspense, drama, and arresting images such as when she envisions her many selves, embodied in all the clothes she’s ever worn, “strung on a blocklong clothesline.”


Made in Detroit
Poems / $27.95
Hardcover & ebook
ISBN-10: 038535388X
ISBN-13: 978-0385353885



The Hunger Moon: New and Selected Poems, 1980-2010

This new gathering of Marge Piercy’s poems—funny, angry, in awe of life, compassionate—brings us the heart of her mature work, the first selected sinceCircles on the Water in 1982.


Here poems chart the milestone events and fierce passions of the poet’s middle years, her Judaism, her deep connection with nature, her politics. There is the death of her mother, whom we meet as a young woman, “awkwardly lovely, her face / pure as a single trill perfectly / prolonged on a violin.” She celebrates her new marriage not only for its romantic beginning, but for its quieter details: “love cherishes too the back pockets, / the pencil ends of childhood fears.” In every poem we hear the current of her convictions, which she declares in language unmistakably and colorfully her own, as when she encourages her readers to go the opera instead of the movies because “the heroine is fifty and weighs as much as a ’65 Chevy with fins.” And, in several poems, bearing the loss of people and time, she begins to examine her own legacy:


The small birds leave cuneiform
messages on the snow: I have
been here, I am hungry, I
must eat. Where I dropped
seeds they scrape down
to pine needles and frozen sand.


Sometimes when snow flickers
past the windows, muffles trees
and bushes, buries the path,
the jays come knocking with their beaks
on my bedroom window:
to them I am made of seeds.


To the cats I am mother and lover,
lap and toy, cook and cleaner.
To the coyotes I am chaser and shouter.
To the crows, watcher, protector.
To the possums, the foxes, the skunks,
a shadow passing, a moment’s wind.


I was bad watchful mommy to one man.
To another I was forgiving sister
whose hand poured out honey and aloe;
to that woman I was a gale whose lashing
waves threatened her foundation; to this
one, an oak to her flowering vine.


I have worn the faces, the masks
of hieroglyphs, gods and demons,
bat-faced ghosts, sibyls and thieves,
lover, loser, red rose and ragweed,
these are the tracks I have left
on the white crust of time.


” When W. S. Merwin’s term as Poet Laureate of the United States expires this summer I dare Librarian of Congress Billington, and double dare President Obama, to appoint Marge Piercy to the post. I dare them to nominate the author of “For each age, its amulet.”


As the president defends last year’s finance reform law against a corporate funded hostile House of Representatives let him quote Ms. Piercy’s prescient 1991 poem “Half vulture, half eagle” which anticipated the 2008 housing and home finance collapse.


As the Justice Department attempts to protect besieged women’s health clinics, will our cool as a cucumber president put the literary spotlight on Ms. Piercy whose righteous anger is expressed in “For two women shot to death in Brookline?”


Ms. Piercy is not only a political poet.  The Hunger Moon, her second volume of selected poems, a rich selection from the last three decades, also includes: narrative poems about her childhood in Detroit, young adulthood in Manhattan, everyday life with her husband and cats on Cape Cod where they are year round residents, among other subjects on all of which she is a terrific storyteller; nature poems that describe the fauna and flora of the Cape; love poems, some of which attest to the strength, devotion and passion of her current marriage, while others reflect the pain of less healthy previous relationships, pain that still smarts despite her current conjugal happiness; and religious poems that are popular choices for reading out loud at Jewish life cycle events, some of which are reprinted in “additional readings” anthologies meant to supplement non-Orthodox Jewish prayer books.” —–David Cooper, NY Journal of Books


The Crooked Inheritance

“Marge Piercy’s appetite in this new collection of poems is robust, vigorous and hybrid. Like a lightning rod, she brings large energies to ground, looking with her customary directness at exactly what is, yet transforming it by her looking as well. Piercy’s poetry raises hope, and raises also the deep hungers that affirm life’s presence in all its fullness-hunger for mangoes, love, work, light, beeswax, usefulness, plungings of language, openness, mystery, peaches, peace.”
–Jane Hirshfield


“I look to each new installment of Marge Piercy’s poetry. I always appreciate her unique mixture of common sense with uncommon joyful insight. She’s political and sensual, astute and wild, truthful and always a step beyond the last. . . The Crooked Inheritance is her best yet.”
–Joy Harjo


In these powerful, often funny, sometimes lyrical, and down-to-earth poems, Marge Piercy writes of her “crooked inheritance”—physical and personality traits from wildly mismatched parents, and in a larger sense the marvelous half-broken world we inherit. Even her hometown Detroit provides a double legacy—a slum girlhood that breeds in her both wild ambition and, where you would least expect it, a love of nature, which she discovers in the city’s elms, “the thing of beauty on grimy smoke-bleared streets.”


Some of Piercy’s strongest poems have always been political, and here are important new verses raging against the war in Iraq, the abandonment of Katrina’s victims (“People penned to die in our instant / concentration camps, just add water”), and the ongoing attempts to suppress women—their rights, their bodies, their minds, their very being: “The CIA should hire as spies / only women over fifty, because we are the truly invisible.”


Other poems are about her life on Cape Cod, where she finds sanctuary in the long natural rhythms of the year’s cycle—gardening, making pesto, hearing coyotes in the winter “yelping in chorus after a kill,” a place where after weeks of rain and snow, the “sun gives birth to rosebushes,” and “everything revealed is magical, splendid in its ordinary shining.” Here, too, are wonderful love songs, about friends, lovers, a beautiful day, animals, making bread.


Deep connections to Jewish life and ritual reveal themselves in poems about her Lithuanian grandmother, about holidays, about the peace in a time of war that ceremony can bring, “an evening of honey on the tongue . . . a puddle of amber light . . . faces of friends . . . darkness walling off the room from what lies outside.”


These marvelous poems remind us anew of the breadth and strength of Marge Piercy’s poetic vision. A superb collection to read and treasure.


More Praise:


“There are some exquisite love poems here: “Making love new” begins, “married love is remaking,/ rekindling, taking this lump of / light at the center of our beings / and feeding it bright, blinding / again….”Her descriptions of places are spot-on: the Detroit of her childhood (“hard / furtive kisses against the wall / of a hallway smelling of cabbage”) or a cleaned-up City of Light superimposed over one that a half century before was “shown to me by my soon-to-be-hus- / band to prove Paris could be worse / than my Detroit, and it sort of was.” Her ability to evoke seasonal changes and weather may not be the type of thing for which Piercy’s admirers usually turn to her, but to my Gulf Coast mind, slogging through another late summer mornig of what we call “80 by 8:oo.” a poet who describes August as “like lint in the lungs” and writes, “If Jell-O could be hot, it would be this air,” gets an up from both of my thumbs – right and left.”
–The Hudson Review, Vol.LIX, No.4 Winter 2007


“The title of thi:s new collection, The Crooked Inheritance, is a reminder of how much we inherit from these poems: eloquent outrage against war and injustice; vivid evocations of a working-class family; gritty recollections of the city; a passionate appreciation for mature love. Every poem burns with an intelligence that cannot be extinguished; everywhere a delightfully subversive sense of humor unleashes itself May the poems of Marge Piercy be the legacy this generation leaves to the world; these poems represent the best of who we are.”
–Martín Espada


“Marge Piercy, spokesperson for the underdog apd underprivileged, has a unique gift for making political poetry gutsy, even fun, and nature writing palpably sensual.”
–Diana Der-Hovanessian


More poems from The Crooked Inheritance:


The crooked inheritance


A short neck like my mother
long legs like my father
my grandmother’s cataract of hair
and my grandmother’s cataracts
my father’s glaucoma
my mother’s stout heart
my father’s quick temper
my mother’s curiosity
my father’s rationality
my mother’s fulsome breasts
my father’s narrow feet


Yet only my grandmother saw in me
a remembrance of children past
You have a good quick mind like Moishe.
Your grandfather zecher l’vrocho
had a gift for languages too.
Rivka also had weak eyes
and a delicate stomach.
You can run as fast as Feygeleh.
You know that means little bird?


I was a nest of fledglings chirping
hunger and a future of flight
to her, but to my parents,
the misshapen duckling
who failed to make flesh
their dreams of belonging:
a miraculous blond angel
who would do everything
right they had failed.
Instead they got a black
haired poet who ran away.


Swear it


My mother swore ripely, inventively
a flashing storm of American and Yiddish
thundering onto my head and shoulders.
My father swore briefly, like an ax
descending on the nape of a sinner.


But all the relatives on my father’s
side, gosh, they said, goldarnit.
What happened to those purveyors
of soft putty cussing, go to heck,
they would mutter, you son of a gun.


They had limbs instead of legs.
Privates encompassed everything
from bow to stern. They did
number one and number two
and eventually, perhaps, it.


It has always amazed me there are
words too potent to say to those
whose ears are tender as baby
lettuces – often those who label
us into narrow jars with salt and


vinegar, saying, People like them,
meaning me and mine. Never say
the k or n word, just quietly shut
and bolt the door. Just politely
insert your foot in the Other’s face.


Colors Passing Through Us

Piercy’s poems seem so natural and right, as perfectly formed as an egg or a daffodil. But these are made things, as cleverly constructed as handcrafted, rainbow-hued quilts and sweetly tart pies made with wild fruit that tastes of sun, rain, and soil. These are the arts primarily of women, and womanliness is the body and soul of Piercy’s strong and fecund poems. In her magnificent sixteenth collection, this major American writer is as subversive in her wit as she is cosmic in her perceptions and political in her convictions. Although she longs for a less poisoned and massively armed planet, she is not at all nostalgic for the “good old days” when confronting domestic violence was taboo and women like her mother performed endless, laborious, and thankless household chores day in and day out. Piercy is funny and trenchant in her parsing of our obsession with women’s appearance, lambent in her poems about prayer and Jewish ritual, ravishing in her descriptions of nature’s beauty, and lusciously sensual in her praise songs of sexual passion and love. Vital, bold, and visionary, Piercy is grateful for every hour of life and every drop of wisdom gleaned therefrom.
–Booklist (Starred Review)


Now in Paperback
from Alfred A. Knopf, Publishers


In Colors Passing Through Us, Marge Piercy is at the height of her powers, writing about what matters to her most: the lives of women, nature, Jewish ritual, love between men and women, and politics, sexual and otherwise.


Feisty and funny as always, she turns a sharp eye on the world around her, bidding an exhausted farewell to the twentieth century and singing an “electronic breakdown blues” for the twenty-first. She memorializes movingly those who, like los desaparecidos and the victims of 9/11, disappear suddenly and without a trace.


She writes an elegy for her mother, a woman who struggled with a deadening round of housework, washing on Monday, ironing on Tuesday, and so on, “until stroke broke / her open.” She remembers the scraps of lace, the touch of velvet, that were part of her maternal inheritance and first aroused her senusal curiosity.


Here are paeans to the pleasures of the natural world (rosy ripe tomatoes, a mating dance of hawks) as the poet confronts her own mortality in the cycle of seasons and the eternity of the cosmos: “I am hurrying, I am running hard / toward I don’t know what, / but I mean to arrive before dark.” Other poems, about her grandmother’s passage from Russia to the New World, or the interrupting of a Passover seder to watch a comet pass – expand on Piercy’s appreciation of Jewish life that won her so much acclaim in The Art of Blessing the Day.


Colors Passing Through Us is a moving celebration of the endurance of love and of the phenomenon of life itself – a book to treasure.


Here is the often-requested poem about 9/11, from Colors Passing Through Us:


No one came home


Max was in bed that morning, pressed
against my feet, walking to my pillow
to kiss my nose, long and lean with aqua-
marine eyes, my sun prince who thought


himself my lover. He was cream and golden
orange, strong willed, lord of the other
cats and his domain. He lay on my chest
staring into my eyes. He went out at noon.


He never came back. A smear of blood
on the grass at the side of the road
where we saw a huge coyote the next
evening. We knew he had been eaten


yet we could not know. We kept looking
for him, calling him, searching. He
vanished from our lives in an hour, My cats
have always died in old age, slowly


with abundant warning. Not Max.
He left a hole in my waking.


A woman leaves her children in day care,
goes off to her secretarial job
on the 100th floor, conscientious always
to arrive early, because she needs the money


for her children, for health insurance,
for rent and food and clothing and fees
for all the things kids need, whose father
has two new children and a great lawyer.


They are going to eat chicken that night
she has promised, and the kids talk of that
together, fried chicken with adobo, rice
and black beans, food rich as her love.


The day is bright as a clean mirror.


His wife has morning sickness so does
not rise for breakfast. He stops for coffee,
a yogurt, rushing for the 808 train.
Ignoring the window, he writes his five


pages, the novel that is going to make
him famous, cut him loose from the desk
where he is chained to the phone
eight to ten hours, making cold calls.


In his head, naval battles rage. He
has been studying Midway, the Coral
Sea, Guadalcanal. He can recite
tonnage, tides, the problems with torpedoes.


For five years, he has prepared.
His makeshift office in the basement
is lined with books and maps. His book
will sing with bravery and error.


The day is blue and whistles like a robin.


His father was a fireman and his brother.
He once imagined being a rock star
but by the end of high school, he knew
it was his calling, it was his family way.


As there are trapeze families, clans
who perform with tigers or horses,
the Irish travelers, tinkers, gypsies,
those born to work the earth of their farm,


and those who inherit vast fortunes
built of the bones of others, so families
inherit danger and grace, the pursuit
of the safety of others before their own.


The morning smelled of the river,
of doughnuts, of coffee, of leaves.


When a man fell into the molten steel
the company would deliver an ingot
to bury. Something. Where I live
on the Cape, lost at sea means no body.


You can’t bury a coffin length of sea
water. There are stones in our grave
yards with lists of names, the sailors
from the ships gone down in a storm.


MIA means no body, no answer,
hope that is hopeless, the door
that can never be quite closed.
Lives are broken off like tree limbs


in a storm. Other lives simply dissolve
like salt in warm water and there is
no shadow on the pavement, no trace
They puff into nothing. We can’t believe.


We die still expecting an answer.


Los desparecidos. Did we notice?
Did we care? in Chile, funded,
assisted by the CIA, a democratic
government was torn down and thousands


brought into a stadium and never seen
again. Reports of torture, reports of graves
in the mountains, bodies dumped at sea
reports of your wife, your son, your


father arrested and then vanished
like cigarette smoke, gone like
a whisper you aren’t quite sure you
heard, a living person who must, who


must be somewhere, anywhere, lost,
wounded, boxed in a cell, in exile,
under a stone, somewhere, bones,
a skull, a button, a wisp of cloth.


In Argentina, the women marched
for those who had disappeared.
Did we notice? That happened
in those places, those other places


where people didn’t speak English,
ate strange spicy foods, had dictators
or Communists or sambas or goas.
They didn’t count. We didn’t count


them or those they said had been
there alive and now who knew?
Not us. The terror has come home.
Will it make us better or worse?


When will we understand what terrorists
never believe, that we are all
precious in our loving, all tender
in our flesh and webbed together?


That no one should be torn
out of the fabric of friends and family,
the sweet and sour work of loving,
burnt anonymously, carelessly


because of nothing they ever did
because of hatred they never knew
because of nobody they ever touched
or left untouched, turned suddenly


to dust on a perfect September
morning bright as a new apple
when nothing they did would
ever again make any difference.


— From Colors Passing Through Us, Alfred A. Knopf Publishers, NY, 2003.
Copyright, Marge Piercy, Middlemarsh, Incorporated, 2003.


Louder: We Can’t Hear You (Yet!), The Political Poems of Marge Piercy

Louder, We Can’t Hear You (Yet!)
The Political Poems of Marge Piercy

Library Journal’s
Best Poetry Audio Book of the Year 2004

The audio CD “Greatest Hits” political poems from
one of America’s best known and most frequently read activist poets


“A world-class poet and poetry reader, Piercy presents road-tested work that has inspired and infuriated for decades. Her legacy of social protest is long, and this collection of her political best underscores her relevance in the world of literary activism. This is an excellent audio production.”
—Christopher Caldwell,

“This year’s “best” list includes books by Carrie Fisher, John Grisham, Bill Clinton, Donald Trump, and Marge Piercy. LOUDER is a timely and important recording from one of the best-known activist poets in America . Piercy is at the top of her form as she addresses feminist issues, blasts the Bush administration, and more.”
—Library Journal
 (starred review)

TO BUY THIS CD ONLINE, Louder: We Can’t Hear You : The Political Poems of Marge Piercy is the destination for digital audio entertainment that you can listen to anytime, anywhere.

To here a sample poem or to download LOUDER and listen on your iPod, Palm Handheld, Pocket PC, Audible Otis MP3 player, your computer or on CDs you burn yourself, click here:


“No other poet of this generation has more consistently identified herself with the political and social movements of her own times,” writes Margaret Atwood in the New York Times Book Review. Recited in speeches by Gloria Steinem and Howard Zinn, and in rallies from coast to coast, Piercy’s political poems have become anthems for social change. But to locate these poems, Piercy fans have had to hunt through sixteen different volumes. Louder, We Can’t Hear You (Yet!), is an audio CD collection of 30 of her most popular political poems with an accompanying 8 panel fold-out.

In favorites such as “To Be of Use,” written during the Vietnam War; “For Strong Women,” and “The Low Road,” during the women’s movement; “No One Came Home,” an elegy for 9/11; and “Choices,” written in reaction to Laura Bush’s White House invitation and included in the Poets Against the War anthology, Piercy confronts the social issues of our times for a new generation of activists, in words that have become “catchphrases,” according to Erica Jong. “Poem after poem has that kind of authority, power, and verbal brilliance.”

“For anyone interested in what’s been happening on the cutting edge during the past two decades,” says The New York Times, “she’s clearly essential reading.” Louder, We Can’t Hear You (Yet!) is not only the first collection of Marge Piercy’s political poems, but her first audio collection in twenty years; truly a historical document.

Sneak and Peak

Under the Patriot Act, any strong arm
of law enforcement
has the right to enter your home
while you sleep
while you are out
to enter covertly and search
under suspicion you might
be hiding something
under the bed
among your boxers or thongs
on your computer among the porn.

Are you patriotic?
Do you submit lists of what you read
to the F.B.I. without waiting to be asked?
Do you spy on your neighbors checking
if they play Middle Eastern music
if they smoke other than tobacco
if they read the wrong books –all u.s
right thinking people know what
they are. If they have too much sex
or sex of the wrong kind – all u.s.
right thinking people know exactly
what we mean. Do you believe
in the separation of Church and Hate?
Evil our President says is everywhere
and obvious and must be invaded
mostly by Black adolescents
whose morality is dubious anyway
unless they die as heroes. They’ll
come home to unemployment
if they do come home.

We, your born-again FBI
have collected receipts from your
restaurant meals for the past five years.
You have ordered hummus six times,
falafel twice and lamb four times
which is suspect because your
President eats only beef and ham.
What are you planning to do with that
sesame tahini you purchased at Stop
& Slop? Can you justify this act?

Your credit card records indicate
you purchased 8 bags of fertilizer
on April 11 at 17 hundred oh 8.
Fertilizer can make bombs.
You also purchased nails —
material for anti-personnel devices.
Who but a terrorist would need
these dangerous supplies?

You have turned off the television
48 times while Our President spoke
words of wisdom and Christian endeavor.
During the State of the Union address
you were observed on your couch
making derogatory faces and obscene
remarks. You have emailed quotes
from our sacred leader miscalling
him Shrub. This is now punishable
by death. You may not criticize
the President nor his lady Laura
nor his omniscient veep
the great grey Cheney of oil
nor the secretary of defense
Our Donald whose brain shines
bright as titanium solid
between his perked up ears
into which every men’s and women’s
room in the country is directly
bugged. You may be detained
on suspicion of being suspicious
You want to protest?
That’s grounds enough.
You are under arrest.
You have no right to remain
silent, to seek counsel
or to defend yourself. Welcome
to the New Inquisition.

Copyright, 2004, Middlemarsh, Inc.

Louder: We Can’t Hear You (Yet!)
Price: $15.95
Audio CD
Publisher: Leapfrog Press
Total playing time 63:24
ISBN 0-9728984-2-5
To Buy This CD Online, Louder: We Can’t Hear You : The Political Poems of Marge Piercy

Find Out If Your Favorite Piercy Political Poem is on Louder

The Art of Blessing the Day: Poems with a Jewish Theme

Winner of the 2000 Paterson Poetry Prize

Appearing in various collections and spanning two decades, Marge Piercy’s liturgical poems have been recited in people’s homes and places of worship; in wedding and shabbat services; in rituals of the Passover Seder, Rosh Chodesh, and the Jewish High Holy Days. Some of these poems are highly personal and deal with the poet’s family and her childhood, while others concern themselves with midrash (contemporary interpretations of the torah) or a new take on Jewish tradition. Now, for the first time, all these poems have been collected in one volume.


ISBN: 0-375-40477-5
Published by Alfred A. Knopf


“Accessible, transformative, thrilling. Marge Piercy teases out the spiritual lights hidden within the most ordinary events. Here is poetry so reverent and disturbing that it borders on liturgy.”
–Rabbi Lawrence Kushner


“Keep her volume near your home altar; Marge Piercy will give wings to your heart’s stirrings.”
–Rabbi Zalman M. Schachter-Shalomi


“If poetry, as Auden said, exists to praise, then surely it exists to bless. And Marge Piercy teaches us the art of blessing in her poems, with the firmness of her eye, the courage of her strength, the directness of her language, as gritty and sweet and real as the fruits she carries with her on all her journeys through family memory and tradition, prayer and the holy days of sacred year, gathering her wisdom and the wisdom of her difficult Jewish tribe, and bringing that wisdom home.”
–Rodger Kamenetz, author of The Jew in the Lotus


“Whether I find myself guffawing over ‘Eat fruit’ or falling shattered by “At the well’ or being attuned to the Breath of Life by ‘Nishmat,’ it is my life–my whole life–that I am finding, renewed and enlivened by these poems. We can shmooze these poems, pray these poems, Torah-study these poems. What we breath out, Piercy has breathed in; what Piercy breaths out, we can breath in. We and she breath each other into life.”
–Rabbi Arthur Waskow


“Marge Piercy’s superb spiritual powers are up to their elbows in the lived world, bringing a liberated and grounded wisdom to everything they touch. Behind this book one hears the great embracing toast of Jewish tradition: ‘L’Chaim!’ — ‘to life!’ In its pages the work of the heart and the work of the spirit are visibly, passionately advanced.”
–Jane Hirschfield


“The Art of Blessing the Day is organized in six sections, each comprised of poems having to deal with Jewish life and ritual:


Mishpocheh (Family)
The Chuppah (Marriage)
Tikkum Olam (Repair of the world)
Maggidim, Midrashim (Of History and Interpretation)
Tefillah (Prayer)
Ha Shana (The Year)


Many of these poems are commonly used in shabbat services, weddings, funerals, memorials, bar- and bat- mitzvah ceremonies, Passover seders and Jewish High Holiday services.


Here is a small sampling:


The Chuppah


The chuppah stands on four poles.
The home has its four corners.
The chuppah stands on four poles.
The marriage stands on four legs.
Four points loose the winds
that blow on the walls of the house,
the south wind that brings the warm rain,
the east wind that brings the cold rain,
the north wind that brings the cold sun
and the snow, the long west wind
bringing the weather off the far plains.


Here we live open to the seasons.
Here the winds caress and cuff us
contrary and fierce as bears.
Here the winds are caught and snarling
in the pines, a cat in a net clawing
breaking twigs to fight loose.
Here the winds brush your face
soft in the morning as feathers
that float down from a dove’s breast.


Here the moon sails up out of the ocean
dripping like a just washed apple.
Here the sun wakes us like a baby.
Therefore the chuppah has no sides.


It is not a box.
It is not a coffin.
It is not a dead end.
Therefore the chuppah has no walls.
We have made a home together
open to the weather of our time.
We are mills that turn in the winds of struggle
converting fierce energy into bread.


The canopy is the cloth of our table
where we share fruit and vegetables
of our labor, where our care for the earth
comes back and we take its body in ours.
The canopy is the cover of our bed
where our bodies open their portals wide,
where we eat and drink the blood
of our love, where the skin shines red
as a swallowed sunrise and we burn
in one furnace of joy molten as steel
and the dream is flesh and flower.


O my love O my love we dance
under the chuppah standing over us
like an animal on its four legs,
like a table on which we set our love
as a feast, like a tent
under which we work
not safe but no longer solitary
in the searing heat of our time.




Look around us, search above us, below, behind.
We stand in a great web of being joined together.
Let us praise, let us love the life we are lent
passing through us in the body of Israel
and our own bodies, let’s say amen.


Time flows through us like water.
The past and the dead speak through us.
We breathe out our children’s children, blessing.


Blessed is the earth from which we grow,
Blessed the life we are lent,
blessed the ones who teach us,
blessed the ones we teach,
blessed is the word that cannot say the glory
that shines through us and remains to shine
flowing past distant suns on the way to forever.
Let’s say amen.


Blessed is light, blessed is darkness,
but blessed above all else is peace
which bears the fruits of knowledge
on strong branches, let’s say amen.


Peace that bears joy into the world,
peace that enables love, peace over Israel
everywhere, blessed and holy is peace, let’s say amen.
Apple sauce for Eve


Those old daddies cursed you and us in you,
damned for your curiosity: for your sin
was wanting knowledge. To try, to taste,
to take into the body, into the brain
and turn each thing, each sign, each factoid
round and round as new facets glint and white
fractures into colors and the image breaks
into crystal fragments that pierce the nerves
while the brain casts the chips into patterns.


Each experiment sticks a finger deep in the pie,
dares existence, blows a horn in the ear
of belief, lets the nasty and difficult brats
of real questions into the still air
of the desiccated parlor of stasis.
What we all know to be true, constant,
melts like frost landscapes on a window
in a jet of steam. How many last words
in how many dead languages would translate into,
But what happens if I, and Whoops!


We see Adam wagging his tail, good dog, good
dog, while you and the snake shimmy up the tree,
lab partners in a dance of will and hunger,
that thirst not of the flesh but of the brain.
Men always think women are wanting sex,
cock, snake, when it is the world she’s after.
Then birth trauma for the first conceived kid
of the ego, I think therefore I am, I
kick the tree, who am I, why am I,
going, going to die, die, die.


You are indeed the mother of invention,
the first scientist. Your name means
life: finite, dynamic, swimming against
the current of time, tasting, testing,
eating knowledge like any other nutrient.
We are all the children of your bright hunger.
We are all products of that first experiment,
for if death was the worm in that apple,
the seeds were freedom and the flowering of choice.


All Poems, Copyright 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, Middlemarsh, Inc.
They may not be reproduced in print or electronically without prior written permission of the publisher.


from The Art of Blessing the Day: Poems with a Jewish Theme
Alfred A. Knopf Publisher, New York
ISBN 0-375-40477-5
Available in Paperback

Early Grrrl : The Early Poems of Marge Piercy

WHAT ARE BIG GIRLS MADE OF is one of three books of poetry named by the American Library Association as Notable Books of 1997, In their citation of the award, they say “Piercy provides a portfolio of poignantly evoked poems in this collection of her memories, thoughts and interactions with life and love.”


collects mostly poems of the last four years. It starts with the Brotherless sequence, poems about Marge’s charming and much older brother, close to her in childhood but almost a stranger in later life – but never quite. The title poem and several of the others are about women’s bodies – who controls them, why we treat our selves as “a science project/ a garden to be weeded/ a dog to be trained….”


Two of the poems are about choice, “For two women shot to death in Brookline, Massachusetts” and “A day in the life”. “Salt in the afternoon” is a section of poems on love, sex and friendship. “A precarious balance” holds nature poems, most about Cape Cod, where Piercy lives. “My boa” is made up poems about personal identify, a beautiful kaddish, a couple of poems for Passover and for the High Holidays, some poems about relatives. There are poems about butterflies and poems about sexual harassment and poems accepting your belly and witnessing the death of a doe. The collection ends with “The art of blessing the day,”


Attention is love, what we must give
children, mothers, fathers, pets,
our friends, the news, the woes of others.
What we want to change we curse and then
pick up a tool. Bless whatever you can
with eyes and hands and tongue. If you
can’t bless it, get ready to make it new.


–Marge Piercy


What Are Big Girls Made Of?

WHAT ARE BIG GIRLS MADE OF is one of three books of poetry named by the American Library Association as Notable Books of 1997, In their citation of the award, they say “Piercy provides a portfolio of poignantly evoked poems in this collection of her memories, thoughts and interactions with life and love.”


collects mostly poems of the last four years. It starts with the Brotherless sequence, poems about Marge’s charming and much older brother, close to her in childhood but almost a stranger in later life – but never quite. The title poem and several of the others are about women’s bodies – who controls them, why we treat our selves as “a science project/ a garden to be weeded/ a dog to be trained….”


Two of the poems are about choice, “For two women shot to death in Brookline, Massachusetts” and “A day in the life”. “Salt in the afternoon” is a section of poems on love, sex and friendship. “A precarious balance” holds nature poems, most about Cape Cod, where Piercy lives. “My boa” is made up poems about personal identify, a beautiful kaddish, a couple of poems for Passover and for the High Holidays, some poems about relatives. There are poems about butterflies and poems about sexual harassment and poems accepting your belly and witnessing the death of a doe. The collection ends with “The art of blessing the day,”


Attention is love, what we must give
children, mothers, fathers, pets,
our friends, the news, the woes of others.
What we want to change we curse and then
pick up a tool. Bless whatever you can
with eyes and hands and tongue. If you
can’t bless it, get ready to make it new.


–Marge Piercy


Eight Chambers of the Heart

Published in the United Kingdom by Penguin, the British selected poems.


Mars and Her Children

“There is no poet writing today who can give us the sensuous world as Marge Piercy does in these marvelous poems. At last I have found someone worthy of Colette, she who also kept life alive in troubled times by describing a cat or a flower.” -May Sarton


“These are wise poems, ripe with the sweetness of apples, pithy with tartness of truth. Each is a veritable parable of right living minus any hint of sour righteousness. Absolute awe is the core. This is Marge Piercy at her best.” -Joy Harjo


“When you see her name in the table of contents of a magazine, you turn at once to her poem, story, or essay. When you see her book in the store, you buy it before reading the reviews, knowing that this work is necessary to your enlightenment and survival. It’s a short list: Nadine Gordimer, Adrienne Rich, Margaret Atwood and Marge Piercy.. . She is one of these women, and yet her own unique and original self. I’d know that voice anywhere.” -Carolyn Kizer


In this major new collection, Marge Piercy writes with power and illumination about our lives as the century draws to a close. These poems deal with the pleasures and problems of living together or apart, and with love, sexual and familial. The poet continues to explore her Jewish identity, and, as always in Piercy’s work, she is concerned with The situation of women.


Available Light

Marge Piercy’s eleventh collection of poetry is unusually rich and diverse. These are poems of extraordinary immediacy, strength and humor, poems of deep passions and far-ranging concerns: poems written at mid-life and illuminated by the “available light” of a mature and generous perception.


The mood of the first section, “Joy Road and Livernois,” ranges from the harsh autobiographical honesty of the title poem (“I got out of those Detroit blocks where the air / eats stone and melts flesh”) to the humor of “Eat fruit” and “Something to look forward to” – perhaps the funniest poem on menstruation ever written. In “Hard time,” the author writes of the agony of South Africa; in “Loving the crone,” about the concerns of the aging (“Whenever we weep, if we understand / we may grow like a stalactite longer, stronger”); and in “Daughter of the American evolution,” of our particular place in the general scheme of life.


The poems in the second section, “Slides,” issue directly from the author’s research while writing her most recent novel, GONE TO SOLDIERS, set during World War II. These poems include evocations of the French and English country sides as well as of the battles and suffering that the war brought to them.


The section entitled “Country Pleasures” is composed of the love poetry and nature poetry for which the author is as well known and admired as she is for her feminist poems. “Candle in a Glass” is a section of poems to and for the dead, including the long, powerfully emotional “Burial by salt” the author’s attempt to come to some terms of peace with her father (“I search now through the ashes of my old pain / to find something to praise”).


Finally, in “The Ram’s Horn,” the author gives us poems that speak of one particular kind of light: the light that religion – and, in particular, Judaism – sheds on an examined life. Some of these poems have been used as part of Reconstructionist and Reform services, and “Maggid” (a poem that honors those who “let go of every- / thing but freedom, who ran, who revolted, who fought, / who became other by saving themselves”) has begun to be used in Haggadahs.


AVAILABLE LIGHT is one of the strongest and most compelling books of poems that we have had from Marge Piercy.


My Mother’s Body

My Mother’s Body, Marge Piercy’s tenth book of poetry, takes its title from one of her strongest and most moving poems, the climax of a powerful sequence of Poems to her mother. Rooted in an honest, harrowing, but ally ecstatic confrontation of the mother / daughter relationship in all its complexity and intimacy, it is at the same time an affirmation of continuity and identification.


“The Chuppah” comprises poems actually used in her wedding ceremony with Ira Wood. This section sings with powerfully female love poetry. There is also a sustained and direct use of her Jewish identity and faith in these poems, as there is in a number of other poems throughout the volume.


Readers of Piercy’s previous collections will not be surprised to encounter her mixture of the personal and the political, her love of animals and the Cape landscape. There are poems about doing housework, about accidents, about dreaming, about bag ladies, about luggage, about children’s fears of nuclear holocaust; about tomcats, insects in the rafters, the influence of a name, appleblossoms and blackberries, pollution, and some of the ways women objectify one another. In “Does the light fail us, or do we fail the light?” Piercy writes with lacerating honesty about our relationships with the elderly and about hers with her father.


Some of the most moving poems are domestic, as in the final sequence, “Six underrated pleasures,” which finds in daily women’s tasks both pleasure and mystery, affirmation of serf and connection with the mother.


In all, My Mother’s Body is one of Piercy’s most powerful and balanced collections.


Stone, Paper, Knife

STONE, PAPER, KNIFE centers on the loss of an old love and the beginning of a new one, a woman’s politics and identity rooted in the land. The early sections are about divorce in a larger sense, divorce not only from a bonding, but a divorce of sensibility, the inability to connect with each other and the world we live in.


The sequence “Elementary Odes” (the title is in homage to Pablo Neruda) consists of poems that passionately embody the ecological side of feminism.


The later sections of the book form a prothalamion celebrating a marriage about to occur – the joining of woman and man and the joining of the human community to the larger community of all living on earth. Piercy believes we must relearn our place as part of the whole instead of as an active force attacking a passive object. It is a cleansing of our perceptions and our ability to love which these poems celebrate and embody, urging that we must “bear hope back into the world.”


Circles on the Water

Now in its Fifteenth printing


First published by Alfred A. Knopf in 1982, and continuously in print ever since, Circles on the Water is home to some of Marge Piercy’s best loved and most requested poems, including: “To Be of Use,” ”A Work of Artifice,” ”The Secretary Chant,” ”Barbie Doll,” ”Unlearning Not to Speak, ” “For the Young Who Want To,” ”Laying Down the Tower” (the complete Tarot Deck sequence), ”Rape Poem, ” ”The Poet Dreams of a Nice Warm Motel, ” ”Attack of the Squash People, ” ”For Strong Women, ” ”What’s That Smell in the Kitchen?,” ”Right to Life,” and an introduction in which Piercy talks about how and why she writes poems.


Circles on the Water:
The Selected Poems of Marge Piercy
Published by Alfred A. Knopf, NY
ISBN: 0-394-70779-6
300 pp.


The Moon Is Always Female

“The poems in this volume fall into two parts. Hand Games, poems of the first section, is the daily bread of my past two years or so. They are the artifacts of loving in a personal way, of struggles in a wide and a narrower frame, of planting and harvesting in the earth and on paper, of building new friendships and mourning the death of friends. They speak of zucchini and oaks and cats, of jogging and writing, of nuclear power plants and suicide, of fat and of street hassling.


”The Lunar Cycle forms the second part. I first heard of the lunar calendar in my childhood, when I asked why Passover falls on a different date every year and was answered that it falls on Nisan 14, the fourteenth day of the lunar month of Nisan. The next time I came across the moon-month was in reading Robert Graves in search of the old goddess religions. But the lunar calendar has really only been an intimate part of my life since I moved near the ocean and the bay and had to become conscious of the tides; for one thing, to get the sweet Wellfleet oysters.


For more precise understanding I owe a lot to Nancy F. W.Passmore of the Luna Press, who every year produces The Lunar Calendar with thirteen months, their old Celtic names, associations from around the world, time of moon rise and set and all the phases. It tells me at a glance when my period will come and when I can expect to ovulate, and it is the most beautiful calendar I have ever seen, with the months in the form of spirals rather than grids.
”Not being constrained by commerce to produce a calendar to sell by January first, Roman time, I begin when my year opens, in the spring; with Nisan, the first month of the Jewish religious year – although I have used the Celtic names, as does The Lunar Calendar, in homage to that labor of love. Rediscovering the lunar calendar has been a part of rediscovering women’s past, but it has also meant for me a series of doorways to some of the non-rational aspects of being a living woman: Thus The Lunar Cycle, explorations of my last two years.”


“The Cycle of poems based on the Celtic Lunar Calendar, which gives her book its title happens to be marvelous…All these poems are interesting, some are masterpieces.”


Morning athletes
for Gloria Nardin Watts


Most mornings we go running side by side
two women in mid-lives jogging, awkward
in our baggy improvisations, two
bundles of rejects from the thrift shop.
Men in their zippy outfits run in packs
on the road where we park, meet
like lovers on the wood’s edge and walk
sedately around the corner out of sight
to our own hardened clay road, High Toss.


Slowly we shuffle, serious, panting
but talking as we trot, our old honorable
wounds in knee and back and ankle paining
us, short, fleshy, dark haired, Italian
and Jew, with our full breasts carefully
confined. We are rich earthy cooks
both of us and the flesh we are working
off was put on with grave pleasure. We
appreciate each other’s cooking, each
other’s art, photographer and poet, jogging
in the chill and wet and green, in the blaze
of young sun, talking over our work,
our plans, our men, our ideas, watching
each other like a pot that might boil dry
for that sign of too harsh fatigue.


It is not the running I love, thump
thump with my leaden feet that only
infrequently are winged and prancing,
but the light that glints off the cattails
as the wind furrows them, the rum cherries
reddening leaf and fruit, the way the pines
blacken the sunlight on their bristles,
the hawk flapping three times, then floating
low over beige grasses,
and your company
as we trot, two friendly dogs leaving
tracks in the sand. The geese call
on the river wandering lost in sedges
and we talk and pant, pant and talk
in the morning early and busy together.


Twelve-Spoked Wheel Flashing

“As I cannot separate the personal and political in my life, as I will not separate emotional and intellectual judgment and experience but try to weld them, as I go back and forth from the vital dying city with its wars of plunder to the vital dying country with its wars of plunder, I have tried to shape this book as a growth ring, the record of a year. The year is a wheel that turns but does not return us to where we were. An issue is as real to me as the apples on my trees, and that they sometimes have worms in them is political action, as is loving, as is talking, as is shaping these poems from the energy that comes through me from and for so many people, whose lives cross and touch, as we struggle enmeshed, sometimes blind and sometimes seeing and sometimes seeing each other.”


Breaking Camp


To Be Of Use

“.. . Marge Piercy proves that modern poetry can be both passionate and perceptive, well-structured and inventive.”


“Marge Piercy’s are courageous poems.. . . Where others seem intolerant, she is compassionate. Where others give way to fashionable despair, she hopes by doing and observing.”
— Richard Elman, Commonweal


Marge Piercy’s language is. . . as hard and uncompromising as her vision. Her craftsmanship is superb. . . . It moves in total harmony with her vision; both are as tough as nails. She writes fine poems indeed.”
— Emmett Jarrett, New: American and Canadian Poetry.


“Marge Piercy is one of the best poets I’ve seen.”
— Stephen Dobyns, Poetry





Hard Loving

In this collection of poetry from the sixties, Marge Piercy writes “from the Movement, for the Movement.” The civil rights, anti-war, and women’s movements are reflected in these deeply personal poems filled with the fire, anger, and compassion which Piercy expresses so well. These poems are tough and tender, gritty with the urban landscape yet alive with reverence for the earth, enraged at the violence and injustices of man yet hopeful at the prospect of true community. Piercy’s second collection of poetry is about hard loving and hard living in a time of turmoil and optimism: “It is time to turn over. / It is time to loosen and to make new.”


“Angry, alive, loving, real poetry: not feminine, but powerfully female.”


“Piercy has the double vision of the utopian: 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.”
–Margaret Atwood, New York Times Book Review