Marge Piercy Reading at University of Tennessee

Via Tennessee Today:
Poet, novelist and essayist Marge Piercy will read her poems and chat with the public next week in Knoxville.

Piercy will read from her work “The Art of Blessing the Day: Poems of Ritual and Remembrance,” at Temple Beth El of Knoxville, 3037 Kingston Pike, at 7 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 17. On Monday, Oct. 18, she will host an informal author chat from 3 to 4 p.m. at 1210-1211 McClung Tower on the UT Knoxville campus and will present “Poetry of Jewish Identity, a reading” in the University Center auditorium at 7 p.m. All events are free and open to the public.

Piercy is the author of 17 books of poetry, including “The Art of Blessing the Day: Poems with a Jewish Theme,” and 17 novels, including “He, She, It” and “Gone to Soldiers.” She has published stage plays, a book on the craft of poetry, and a memoir, “Sleeping With Cats.”

Sponsors include the UT Creative Writing Program in association with the John C. Hodges Better English Fund, the Ready for the World international and intercultural initiative, the Fern and Manfred Steinfeld Program in Judaic Studies, Writers in the Library, the UT Commission for Women, the Sisterhood of Temple Beth El of Knoxville and Heska Amuna Synagogue.


House built of breath

Words plain as pancakes syruped with endearment.
Simple as potatoes, homely as cottage cheese.

Wet as onions, dry as salt.
Slow as honey, fast as seltzer,

my raisin, my sultana, my apricot love
my artichoke, furry one, my pineapple

I love you daily as milk,
I love you nightly as aromatic port.

The words trail a bitter slime like slugs,
then in the belly warm like cabbage borscht.

The words are hung out on the line,
sheets for the wind to bleach.

The words are simmering slowly
on the back burner like a good stew.

Words are the kindling in the wood stove.
Even the quilt at night is stuffed with word down.

When we are alone the walls sing
and even the cats talk but only in Yiddish.

When we are alone we make love in deeds.
And then in words. And then in food.



Marge Piercy
from The Art of Blessing the Day














To be of use

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.


Marge Piercy
from To Be of Use