{ Tuesday, August 12, 2008 }

Although I've had a volume of Grace Paley's Begin Again on my shelf for some time, her posthumous collection Fidelity is the first of her collections I've read.

It's one of a handful of books of poetry I've read all the way through, late into the night, slowly, hearing the words out loud in my head, with someone half-sleeping beside me and wishing I would turn off the light.

I read Grace Paley and I want to talk to my mother and all my grandmothers. I want to hear them, who all loved to tell what they saw. I read Grace Paley and feel comforted in her going before me and knowing more than me about growing old as a woman and a student and a teacher and a poet.

Here is Grace Paley and her poem "News":

although we would prefer to talk
and talk it into psychological the-
ory the prevalence of small genocides
or the recent disease floating
toward us from another continent we
must notaaawhile she speaks her eyes
frighten us aaashe is only one person
she tells us her terrible newsaaawe
want to leave the room we may not
we must listenaaain this wrong world this
is what we must doaaawe must bear it

Grace Paley is the poet to read if you want the company of a woman for whom the world is personal but for whom the world is not about her.

If you are in hard times that seem mundane because they are the same hard times that every living soul goes through, but they are still hard for you because they are your hard times, read Grace Paley.

If you want to read a blazingly smart poet who has no need for you to realize how smart she is, read Grace Paley.

She is the friend you want sitting next to you in the hospital waiting room, or in the front porch swing as the sun goes down on whatever day you just had.

If you want poems that say, "hm, see this," instead of "look what I see," read Grace Paley.

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