I finished reading Marge Piercy’s latest book of poetry, The Crooked Inheritance, the other day.
As I read, I kept putting in markers at different poems, thinking, “Oh! I’ll have to quote that one in the blog post!” But I’ve got so many markers in the book that there is no way I can quote them all without being taken to court for a little thing called copyright infringement.
Most poetry books are fairly slim, but Piercy’s comes in at 155 pages. She has broken the poems up into sections with titles like “Tracks,” “How to Make Pesto,” and “Mating.”
All the poems in each section relate to each other in some way whether by theme, subject, purpose, or something else more obscure.
Piercy writes about love and cats and food and travel, family and childhood and war and poverty, feminism and gardening, and being Jewish.
I don’t think Piercy is generally considered a poet of the caliber of Seamus Heaney or his ilk, but she is a good, solid poet.
I like her poetry because it is accessible, tends to be short, often has a quiet spirituality about it, and sometimes a not-so-quiet politics. Oh, and she has a great sense of humor, often dark, that pops up now and then.
A good number of the poems in Crooked Inheritance wrestle with the past in some way. They aren’t necessarily an attempt to come to terms with the past, one’s “crooked inheritance,” but seem more to be an assessment of what has been gained, lost, overcome, dragged along for better or worse, given and received. The poems are a consideration of how, as Piecry writes in “Sur l’ile Saint Louis,” the past is a “palimpsest” and how
And towards the end of the book, in “A Horizon of Ghosts,” she concludes,
But as I mentioned, Piercy has a sense of humor too. In the poem “The Lived-in Look,” she takes aim at housework and how
But, she insists, after spending years of feeling inadequate when compared to her mother-in-law and her pristine all-white house, it’s not worth it:
I like her way of thinking!
While the poems tend to look toward the past, the past is not where one lives. The past affects the present, and today contributes to tomorrow. We need to keep this in mind as we think of what inheritance we are creating to give to the future. Perhaps this is most evident in her poem “Choices”, which I will give you in full:
If nothing else, Piercy’s poetry always provides food for thought. And she never lets the reader or herself off the hook, especially when it comes to asking what she–and we–have done to help make the world a better place. I highly recommend her poetry, in particular to those who find poetry intimidating.