TO BE OF USE by Marge Piercy


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Surely there is no unlikelier poet in this country than the author of Small Changes and Dance the Eagle to Sleep, whose rather fine political novels (lately re Women's Liberation) rise miraculously like the phoenix out of an endlessly verbose prose of a texture halfway between lead and last week's dumplings. The poems are in the same vein -- thumping, convincing, sometimes vulgar: ""Most nights alone or alone with men/ who wiped themselves in you. . .You came to see yourself as a salesman's bad joke./ What did you ever receive for free/ except a fetus you had to pay to yank out."" She is full of obvious metaphors (""The secretary chant""; ""My hips are a desk./ From my ears hang/ chains of paper clips./ Rubber hands form my hair""), a hatred for machismo revolutionary politics and Ivy League conversation possible only from a former believer. Beyond the rhetoric, however, is an awareness of what woman must do to remain sane, a condemnation of the need for love that contrasts rather oddly with her rather traditional (if violent) and occasionally horribly punned love poems -- ""I don't know how to think it is wrong/that I keep wanting to open/to you, like a door/that goes on swinging in the wind/open and shut/wide and shut/and wide again/with unnecessary bangs."" These are heavy poems, by a humorless woman out to win the sex war, not with the female virtues of elegance and grace but the male tactics of frontal assault combined with righteousness -- a contradiction somewhere, maybe?

Pub Date: Nov. 2nd, 1973
Publisher: Doubleday