marge piercy

marge piercy

a writer’s seminar


☆ biography ☆


  • She was born in Detroit, Michigan in 1936.
    • Her working-class family was hit hard during the Great Depression.
  • She was the first in her family to attend college. She had won a scholarship to the University of Michigan.
  • In the 1960’s, Marge Piercy was an organizer in political movements.
    • The Students for a Democratic Society (SDS)
    • The movement against the war in Vietnam
  • Marge Piercy was extremely involved with acts of feminism, Marxism, and environmental thought.
    • These viewpoints affected her writings. Her novels addressed social concerns with feminist viewpoints.
  • She has published close to 20 poetry books and novels. As well, she has written plays, non-fiction, a memoir. Occasionally, she works as a poetry editor, and partnered with Tikkun Magazine.
  • In 1971, Marge Piercy moved to Cape Cod with her husband. Her and her husband created the company Leapfrog Press.


☆ influences 


  • Marge Piercy credits her mother for making her a poet.
    • Her mother, described as an emotional, imaginative woman, encouraged her daughter to read daily.
    • She wanted Marge to observe sharply and remember whatever she observed.
  • As she grew older and increasingly independent, Marge didn’t fit the image that women were supposed to have.
    • By being a divorcee at 23, poor, and working part-time, she was deemed a failure by society.
  • Her values, views, and image affected her work as an author greatly. She failed to publish her novels for many years.
  • Throughout this difficult period, Marge felt as if she was invisible.




  • Going Down Fast, 1969
  • Dance The Eagle To Sleep, 1970
  • Small Changes, 1973
  • Woman on the Edge of Time, 1976
  • The High Cost of Living, 1978
  • Vida, 1980
  • Braided Lives, 1982
  • Fly Away Home, 1985
  • Gone To Soldiers, 1988
  • Summer People, 1989



short stories

  • The Cost of Lunch, Etc., 2014



  • Breaking Camp, 1968
  • Hard Loving, 1969
  • “Barbie Doll”, 1973
  • 4-Telling ( with Emmett Jarrett, Dick Lourie, Robert Hershon), 1971
  • To Be of Use, 1973
  • Living in the Open, 1976
  • The Twelve-Spoked Wheel Flashing, 1978
  • The Moon is Always Female, 1980
  • Circles on the Water, Selected Poems, 1982
  • Stone, Paper, Knife, 1983
  • My Mother’s Body, 1985


Barbie Doll is her most famous piece-of-work!


☆ awards 


  • Arthur C. Clarke Award for science fiction, 1993 (He, She and It)
  • Bradley Award, New England Poetry Club, 1992
  • Brit ha-Dorot Award, Shalom Center, 1992
  • May Sarton Award, New England Poetry Club, 1991
  • Golden Rose Poetry Prize, New England Poetry Club, 1990
  • Carolyn Kizer Poetry Prize, 1986, 1990
  • National Endowment for the Arts award, 1978
  • Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree from the Hebrew Union College, Cincinnati, Ohio, 2004


☆ writing tips 

For the Young Who Want To


Talent is what they say
you have after the novel
is published and favorably
reviewed. Beforehand what
you have is a tedious
delusion, a hobby like knitting.

Work is what you have done
after the play is produced
and the audience claps.
Before that friends keep asking
when you are planning to go
out and get a job.

Genius is what they know you
had after the third volume
of remarkable poems. Earlier
they accuse you of withdrawing,
ask why you don’t have a baby,
call you a bum.

The reason people want M.F.A.’s,
take workshops with fancy names
when all you can really
learn is a few techniques,
typing instructions and some-
body else’s mannerisms

is that every artist lacks
a license to hang on the wall
like your optician, your vet
proving you may be a clumsy sadist
whose fillings fall into the stew
but you’re certified a dentist.

The real writer is one
who really writes. Talent
is an invention like phlogiston
after the fact of fire.
Work is its own cure. You have to
like it better than being loved.


☆ themes 


In her writing, she deals with feminism and deals with social concerns through her writing. She also speaks grandly about body image. In her poem “Barbie Doll” she has a strong theme of feminism. She also deals with the issue about the ‘ideal’ female body type. Majority of her poems are written in free verse (verse having irregular meter, or rhythm that is not metrical), and her poems are often parable (short narratives with a moral).


☆ quote 


Mornings were chilly, frost on windows

etching magic landscapes. I liked

to stand over the hot air registers

the warmth blowing up my skirts.

But the basement scared me at night.


☆ emulation 


Nights were warm, moonlight bursting through windows

etching a starry-skied dream. I liked to stand under

the moon of lost souls, the vastness of the night leaving sinful

whispers in the wind. Yet the basement scared me no more.


☆ final thoughts 

I admit that I’m not the biggest fanatic of poetry. I do appreciate the art, and hope to one day be able to write decent poetry. Despite my former thoughts and opinions, Marge Piercy impacted me greatly. I found a new sense of creativity and appreciation with her work. It genuinely voices her honest and raw emotions. It’s powerful: her art of poetry. Dedicating a whole seminar to her life-story has made myself more motivated than ever to tackle poetry head-on.

portrait / barbie doll


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