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