Marge Piercy

b. 1936
Marge PiercyIra Wood

Marge Piercy was born in Detroit, Michigan, into a working-class family that had been hard-hit by the Depression. Piercy was the first member of her family to attend college, winning a scholarship to attend the University of Michigan. She received an MA from Northwestern University. During the 1960s, Piercy was an organizer in political movements like the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) and the movement against the war in Vietnam, an engagement which has shaped her work in myriad ways. Perhaps most importantly, though, has been Piercy’s sustained involvement with feminism, Marxism and environmental thought. An extremely prolific writer, Piercy has published 17 volumes of poetry and 17 novels. Her novels generally address larger social concerns through sharply observed characters and brisk plot lines. Though generally focused on issues such as class or culture, and usually written from a feminist position, Piercy’s novels have taken on a variety of guises, including historical fiction and science or speculative fiction. Her novel He, She, and It (1991)—published as Body of Glass in the UK—won that country’s prestigious Arthur C. Clarke Award; an earlier novel of speculative fiction, Woman on the Edge of Time (1976) has been credited as the first work of cyber-punk.

Piercy’s poetry is known for its highly personal, often angry and very emotional timbre. She writes a swift free verse that shows the same commitment to the social and environmental issues that fill her novels. The Moon is Always Female (1980) is considered a classic text of the feminist movement. Early Grrl (1999) collects Piercy’s earliest work and includes some unpublished poems. Of the autobiographical elements in her poetry, Piercy has said that “although my major impulse to autobiography has played itself out in poems rather than novels, I have never made a distinction in working up my own experience and other people's. I imagine I speak for a constituency, living and dead, and that I give utterance to energy, experience, insight, words flowing from many lives. I have always desired that my poems work for others. 'To Be of Use' is the title of one of my favorite poems and one of my best-known books." Piercy has also written plays, several volumes of nonfiction, a memoir, and has edited the anthology Early Ripening: American Women's Poetry Now (1988). Increasingly interested in Jewish issues, Piercy has also been poetry editor of Tikkun Magazine.

In 1971 Piercy moved to Cape Cod where she continues to live and work. She and her husband, the novelist Ira Wood, run Leapfrog Press.

Bibliography

POETRY
  • Breaking Camp, Wesleyan University Press (Middletown, CT), 1968.
  • Hard Loving, Wesleyan University Press (Middletown, CT), 1969.
  • (With Bob Hershon, Emmet Jarrett, and Dick Lourie) 4-Telling, Crossing Press (Freedom, CA), 1971.
  • To Be of Use, Doubleday (Garden City, NY), 1973.
  • Living in the Open, Knopf (New York, NY), 1976.
  • The Twelve-spoked Wheel Flashing, Knopf (New York, NY), 1978.
  • The Moon Is Always Female, Knopf (New York, NY), 1980.
  • Circles on the Water: Selected Poems of Marge Piercy, Knopf (New York, NY), 1982.
  • Stone, Paper, Knife, Knopf (New York, NY), 1983.
  • My Mother's Body, edited by Nancy Nicholas, Knopf (New York, NY), 1985.
  • Available Light, Knopf (New York, NY), 1988.
  • Mars and Her Children, Knopf (New York, NY), 1992.
  • What Are Big Girls Made Of?, Knopf (New York, NY), 1997.
  • Early Grrrl: The Early Poems of Marge Piercy, Leapfrog Press (Wellfleet, MA), 1999.
  • The Art of Blessing the Day: Poems with a Jewish Theme, Knopf (New York, NY), 1999.
  • Colors Passing Through Us: Poems, Knopf (New York, NY), 2003.
  • The Crooked Inheritance: Poems, Knopf(New York, NY), 2006.
NOVELS
  • Going Down Fast, Trident (Roseville, MN), 1969.
  • Dance the Eagle to Sleep, Doubleday (Garden City, NY), 1970.
  • Small Changes, Doubleday (Garden City, NY), 1973.
  • Woman on the Edge of Time, Knopf (New York, NY), 1976.
  • The High Cost of Living, Harper (New York, NY), 1978.
  • Vida, Summit (New York, NY), 1980.
  • Braided Lives, Summit (New York, NY), 1982.
  • Fly Away Home, Summit (New York, NY), 1984.
  • Gone to Soldiers, Summit (New York, NY), 1987.
  • Summer People, Summit (New York, NY), 1989.
  • He, She & It, Knopf (New York, NY), 1991, published as Body of Glass, Michael Joseph (London, England), 1992.
  • The Longings of Women, Fawcett Columbine (New York, NY), 1994.
  • City of Darkness, City of Light, Fawcett Columbine (New York, NY), 1996.
  • (With husband, Ira Wood) Storm Tide, Fawcett Columbine (New York, NY), 1998.
  • Three Women, Morrow (New York, NY), 1999.
  • Sex Wars: A Novel of the Turbulent Post-Civil War Period, William Morrow (New York, NY), 2005.
RECORDINGS
  • Marge Piercy: Poems, Radio Free People (New York, NY), 1969.
  • Laying Down the Tower, Black Box (New York, NY), 1973.
  • Reclaiming Ourselves, Radio Free People (New York, NY), 1974.
  • Reading and Thoughts, Everett/Edwards (Deland, FL), 1976.
  • At the Core, Watershed Tapes (Washington, DC), 1976.
  • Louder, We Can't Hear You (yet!): The Political Poems of Marge Piercy, Leapfrog Press, 2003.
Has made several sound recordings or contributed to recordings, including a reading on cassette of excerpts from Braided Lives, Woman on the Edge of Time, and poetry, American Audio Prose Library (Columbia, MO), 1986; New Letters on the Air, interview and poetry reading, University of Missouri- Kansas City (Kansas City, MO), 1989; audiobook, The Longings of Women, Time Warner (New York, NY), 1994; BBC Radio Drama, broadcast of Body of Glass, 1995; excerpt from Mars and Her Children included in oratorio Women of Valor, by Andrea Clearfield, 1999.
OTHER
  • The Grand Coolie Damn, New England Free Press (Somerville, MA), 1970.
  • (With husband, Ira Wood) The Last White Class: A Play About Neighborhood Terror (produced in Northampton, MA, 1978), Crossing Press (Freedom, CA), 1979.
  • Parti-Colored Blocks for a Quilt: Poets on Poetry (essays), University of Michigan Press (Ann Arbor, MI), 1982.
  • (Editor) Early Ripening: American Women Poets Now, Unwin Hyman (Cambridge, MA), 1988.
  • (With Nell Blaine) The Earth Shines Secretly: A Book of Days, Zoland Books (Cambridge, MA), 1990.
  • (With husband, Ira Wood) So You Want to Write: How to Master the Craft of Fiction and the Personal Narrative, Leapfrog Press (Wellfleet, MA), 2001.
  • Sleeping With Cats: A Memoir, Morrow (New York, NY), 2002.
  • The Third Child, William Morrow (New York, NY), 2003.
  • Pesach for the Rest of Us: Making the Passover Seder Your Own, Schocken Books (New York, NY), 2007.

Further Reading

 

FURTHER READINGS ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

BOOKS

  • Barr, Marlene, editor, Future Females: A Critical Anthology, Bowling Green State University Popular Press (Bowling Green, OH), 1981.
  • Barr, Marleen S., Lost in Space: Probing Feminist Science Fiction and Beyond, University of North Carolina Press (Chapel Hill, NC), 1993.
  • American Women Writers, second edition, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 2000.
  • Bartkowski, Frances, Feminist Utopias, University of Nebraska Press (Lincoln, NE), 1989.
  • Contemporary American Women Writers: Narrative Strategies, edited by Catherine Rainwater and William J. Scheick, University of Kentucky Press (Lexington, KY), 1985.
  • Contemporary Literary Criticism, Thomson Gale (Detroit, MI), Volume 3, 1975, Volume 6, 1976, Volume 14, 1980, Volume 18, 1981, Volume 27, 1984, Volume 62, 1991.
  • Contemporary Novelists, 6th edition, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1996.
  • Contemporary Poets, 6th edition, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1996.
  • Contemporary Women Poets, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1998.
  • Delany, Sheila, Writing Woman: Woman Writers and Women in Literature Medieval to Modern, Schocken (New York, NY), 1983.
  • Dictionary of Literary Biography, Thomson Gale (Detroit, MI) Volume 120: American Poets since World War II, Third Series, 1992, Volume 227: American Novelists since World War II, Sixth Series, 2000.
  • Doherty, Pat, Marge Piercy: An Annotated Bibliography, Greenwood Press (Westport, CT), 1997.
  • Ferguson, Mary Anne, Images of Women in Literature, Houghton (Boston, MA), 1986.
  • Freedman, Diane P, An Alchemy of Genres: Cross-Genre Writing by American Feminist Poet-Critics, University Press of Virginia (Charlottesville, VA), 1992.
  • Future Females: A Critical Anthology, edited by Marlene Barr, Bowling Green State University Popular Press (Bowling Green, OH), 1981.
  • Hicks, Jack, In the Singer's Temple: Prose Fiction of Barthelme, Gaines, Brautigan, Piercy, Kesey, and Kosinski, University of North Carolina Press (Chapel Hill, NC), 1981.
  • Hoegland, Lisa Marie, Feminism and Its Fiction, University of Pennsylvania Press (Philadelphia, PA), 1998.
  • The Intersectional of Science Fiction and Philosophy, edited by Robert E. Myers, Greenwood Press (Westport, CT), 1983.
  • Jackson, Richard, Acts of Mind: Conversations with Contemporary Poets, University of Alabama Press (Tuscaloosa, AL), 1983.
  • Keulen, Margaret, Radical Imagination: Feminist Conceptions of the Future in Ursula Le Guin, Marge Piercy, and Sally Miller, Peter Lang (New York, NY), 1991.
  • Kimball, Gayle, editor, Women's Culture: The Women's Renaissance of the Seventies, Scarecrow (Lanham, MD), 1981.
  • Kremer, Lillian S., Women's Holocaust Writing, University of Nebraska Press (Lincoln, NE), 1999.
  • Michael, Magali Cornier, Feminism and the Postmodern Impulse: Post-World War II Fiction, State University of New York Press (Albany, NY), 1996.
  • Modern American Literature, Volume 3, 5th edition, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1999.
  • Pearlman, Mickey, and Katherine Usher Henderson, Inter/View: Talks with America's Writing Women, University Press of Kentucky (Lexington, KY), 1990.
  • Piercy, Marge, Sleeping With Cats: A Memoir, Morrow (New York, NY), 2002.
  • Representations of Motherhood, edited by Donna Bassin, Margaret Honey, and Meryle Mahrer Kaplan, Yale University Press (New Haven, CT), 1994.
  • Rigney, Barbara Hill, Lilith's Daughters: Women and Religion in Contemporary Fiction, University of Wisconsin Press (Madison, WI), 1982.
  • Rosindky, Natalie, Feminist Futures: Contemporary Women's Speculative Fiction, UMI Research (Ann Arbor, MI), 1984.
  • Shands, Kerstin W, The Repair of the World: The Novels of Marge Piercy, Greenwood Press (Westport, CT), 1994.
  • St. James Guide to Jewish Writers Worldwide, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1996.
  • St. James Guide to Science-Fiction Writers, 4th edition, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1996.
  • Thielman, Pia, Marge Piercy's Women: Visions Capture and Subdued, R.G. Fischer (Frankfurt, Germany), 1986.
  • Walker, Sue, and Eugenie Hamner, editors, Ways of Knowing: Essays on Marge Piercy, Negative Capability Press (Mobile, AL), 1991.

PERIODICALS

  • America, December 29, 1973.
  • American Book Review, June-July, 1992, Marleen S. Barr, review of He, She & It.
  • Atlantic, August, 1971; September, 1973.
  • Belles Lettres, spring, 1992, p. 25.
  • Bloomsbury Review, January, 1999, review of Storm Tide, p. 16.
  • Booklist, March 15, 1992, p. 1332; March 15, 1998, review of What Are Big Girls Made Of?, p. 1209; April 15, 1998, review of Storm Tide, p. 1357; February 1, 1999, Donna Seaman and Jack Helbig, review of The Art of Blessing the Day: Poems with a Jewish Theme and Early Grrrl: The Early Poems of Marge Piercy, p. 959; July, 1999, Donna Seaman, review of Three Women, p. 1895; September 15, 1999, Ray Olson, review of Fooling with Words: A Celebration of Poets and Their Craft, p. 215; February 1, 2000, Donna Seaman, review of Bearing Life: Women's Writings on Childlessness, p. 1004; June 1, 2001, David Pitt, review of So You Want to Write: How to Master the Craft of Fiction and the Personal Narrative, p. 1825; November 15, 2001, Brad Hooper, review of Sleeping with Cats: A Memoir, p. 522; September 1, 2005, Donna Seaman, review of Sex Wars, p. 7; January 1, 2007, George Cohen, review of Pesach for the Rest of Us: Making the Passover Seder Your Own, p. 28.
  • Boston Globe, October 17, 1991, Alison Bass, review of He, She & It.
  • Boston Herald, June 14, 1998, Judith Wynn, "Cape Romance Storm Tide Ought to Make Waves on the Beach," p. O75.
  • Chicago Sun Times, March 20, 1994, Wendy Smith, review of The Longings of Women.
  • Chicago Tribune, April 10, 1984; April 7, 1985; March 27, 1988.
  • Chicago Tribune Book World, January 13, 1980; June 8, 1980; February 14, 1982; April 24, 1983; February 26, 1984.
  • City Limits, July 2-9, 1992, David V. Barrett, review of Body of Glass.
  • Detroit Free Press, February 28, 1982; May 1, 1994, Susan Hall-Balduf, review of The Longings of Women.
  • Detroit News, February 24, 1980; March 21, 1982; March 4, 1984.
  • Guardian (London, England), January 6, 2000, Marge Piercy, "Look Both Ways," p. 10.
  • Herizons, January 1, 2007, Diana Gault, review of Sex Wars, p. 35.
  • Houston Chronicle, January 20, 2002, Sharon Gibson, "How Marge Piercy Broke Tough Childhood Mold," p. 21.
  • Independent, May 19, 1992, Rosemary Bailey, review of Body of Glass.
  • Journal of Cooperative Living, spring, 1994, Lisa Davis, "Marge Piercy on Cooperative Living," pp. 57-58.
  • Journal of Narrative Technique, spring, 1993, Elaine Orr, "Mothering as Good Fiction: Instances from Marge Piercy's Women on the Edge of Time," pp. 61-79.
  • Judaism, spring, 2001, Steven Schneider, "Contemporary Jewish-American Women's Poetry," p. 199.
  • Kenyon Review, spring, 1998, John Rodden, "A Harsh Day's Light: An Interview with Marge Piercy," p. 132.
  • Kirkus Reviews, April 15, 1998, review of Storm Tide, p. 520; August 1, 1999, review of Three Women, p. 1160; November 1, 2001, review of Sleeping with Cats: A Memoir, p. 1538; September 15, 2005, review of Sex Wars, p. 998.
  • Library Journal, February 15, 1992, p. 171; January, 1994, p. 164; February 1, 1997, Judy Clarence, review of What Are Big Girls Made Of?, p. 84; May 15, 1998, Andrea Lee Shuey, review of Storm Tide, p. 117; February 1, 1999, Ellen Kaufman, review of Early Grrrl: The Early Poems of Marge Piercy, p. 93; June 1, 1999, Judy Clarence, review of The Art of Blessing the Day: Poems with a Jewish Theme, p. 120; July, 1999, Francine Fialkoff, review of Three Women, p. 135; July, 2001, Lisa Cihlar, review of So You Want to Write: How to Master the Craft of Fiction and the Personal Narrative, p. 103; January, 2002, Carolyn Craft, review of Sleeping with Cats: A Memoir, p. 104; October 15, 2005, Marika Zemke, review of Sex Wars: A Novel of the Turbulent Post-Civil War Period, p. 48.
  • Lilith, summer, 1999, Karen Prager Kramer, review of What Are Big Girls Made Of?
  • Los Angeles Times, December 15, 1988; December 26, 1991, Devon Jersild, review of He, She & It; October 14, 1996, Michael Harris, review of City of Darkness, City of Light; June 24, 1998, Thomas Curwen, review of Storm Tide. Los Angeles Times Book Review, April 3, 1994, p. 5; May 8, 1999, Zachary Karabell, review of The Art of Blessing the Day: Poems with a Jewish Theme, p. 2; October 3, 1999, review of Three Women, p. 11.
  • Modern Poetry Studies, Number 3, 1977.
  • Ms. July, 1978; January, 1980; June, 1982; March, 1984; October-November, 1999, Laura Ciolkowski, review of Three Women, p. 93.
  • Nation, December 7, 1970; November 30, 1974; December 4, 1976; March 6, 1982, pp. 280-82.
  • New Leader, July 13, 1987, Hope Hale Davis, review of Gone to Soldiers, p. 19.
  • New Republic, December 12, 1970; October 27, 1973; February 9, 1980.
  • New Statesman, May 18, 1979.
  • Newsweek, January 24, 1994, review of The Longings of Women.
  • New York Daily News, June 17, 1995, Bill Bell, review of The Longings of Women.
  • New Yorker, April 10, 1971; February 13, 1978; February 22, 1982.
  • New York Times, October 21, 1969; October 23, 1970; January 19, 1978; January 15, 1980; February 6, 1982; February 2, 1984.
  • New York Times Book Review, November 9, 1969; August 12, 1973; January 22, 1978; November 26, 1978; February 24, 1980; February 7, 1982, pp. 6-7, 30-31; August 8, 1982; February 5, 1984; December 22, 1991, p. 22; March 20, 1994, Patricia Volk, review ofThe Longings of Women, p. 23; August 23, 1998, Ruth Goughlin, review of Storm Tide, p. 16; October 31, 1999, Betsy Groban, review of Three Women, p. 25; December 26, 1999, review ofStorm Tide, p. 20; January 1, 2006, "Fiction Chronicle," p. 17.
  • People, April 4, 1994, p. 29.
  • Philadelphia Inquirer, March 29, 2007, "Setting a Sensible Seder," .
  • Platte Valley Review, winter, 1990, Elizabeth G. Peck, "More than Ideal: Size and Weight Obsessions in Literary Works by Marge Piercy, Margaret Atwood and André Dubus."
  • Poetry, March, 1971; April, 1994, p. 39; January, 1998, John Taylor, review of What Are Big Girls Made Of?, p. 221.
  • Prairie Schooner, fall, 1971; winter, 2006, Carmel L. Morse, review of Sex Wars: A Novel of the Turbulent Post-Civil War Period.
  • Progressive, January, 2001, Michelle Gerise Godwin, "Marge Piercy" (interview), p. 27.
  • Publishers Weekly, January 18, 1980; August 23, 1991, review of He, She & It, p. 42; March 23, 1992, review of Mars and Her Children, p. 65; December 13, 1993, review of The Longings of Women, p. 61; January 23, 1995, review of The Book of Eros: Arts and Letters from Yellow Silk, p. 62; July 24, 1995, Paul Nathan, "Looking Abroad," p. 15; September 23, 1996, review of City of Darkness, City of Light, p. 54; January 27, 1997, review of What Are Big Girls Made Of?, p. 94; April 27, 1998, review of Storm Tide, p. 42; February 22, 1999, review of Early Grrrl: The Early Poems of Marge Piercy, p. 91; August 16, 1999, review of Three Women, p. 57; August 6, 2001, "Mysteries of Writing," p. 81; December 10, 2001, review of Sleeping with Cats: A Memoir, p. 60; September 5, 2005, review of Sex Wars, p. 32; August 28, 2006, review of The Crooked Inheritance, p. 32; November 27, 2006, review of Pesach for the Rest of Us: Making the Passover Seder Your Own, p. 46.
  • Reference & User Services Quarterly, spring, 1998, review of What Are Big Girls Made Of?, p. 275.
  • Saturday Review, March 1, 1980, February, 1982.
  • St. Louis Post, October 13, 1991, Gail Boyer, review of He, She and It.
  • Tikkun, September, 1999, review of The Art of Blessing the Day: Poems with a Jewish Theme, p. 81.
  • Times Literary Supplement, March 7, 1980; January 23, 1981; July 23, 1982; June 15, 1984; May 29, 1992, p. 21.
  • Toronto Star, June 25, 1994, Helen Heller, review ofThe Longings of Women.
  • Tribune Books (Chicago, IL), April 17, 1994, p. 3.
  • U.S. News & World Report, May 18, 1987, Alvin P. Sanoff, "A Woman Writer Treads on Male Turf," p. 74.
  • Village Voice, February 18, 1980; March 30, 1982.
  • Washington Post, December 31, 2001, Colman McCarthy, "A Woman in Touch with Her Felines," p. C03.
  • Washington Post Book World, January 27, 1980; February 7, 1982; May 30, 1982; February 19, 1984; March 27, 1994, p. 5.
  • Washington Times, July 19, 1998, Merle Rubin, review of Storm Tide.
  • Women's Review of Books, September 1, 2006, "A Lot of Everything," p. 6.
  • World Literature Today, autumn, 1997, Lara Merlin, review of What Are Big Girls Made Of?, p. 792.

ONLINE

  • Leapfrog Press Web site, http://www.leapfrogpress.com/ (June 24, 2007), description of >Early Grrrl: The Early Poems of Marge Piercy,.
  • LitLinks, http://www.bedfordstmartins.com/ (June 24, 2007).
  • Marge Piercy Home Page, http://www.archer-books.com/Piercy (June 24, 2007).
  • New York State Writers Institute Web site, http://www.albany.edu/ (June 24, 2007), author bio.*

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Poet Categorization

POET’S REGION U.S., New England

LIFE SPAN 1936–

Marge Piercy

Biography

Marge Piercy was born in Detroit, Michigan, into a working-class family that had been hard-hit by the Depression. Piercy was the first member of her family to attend college, winning a scholarship to attend the University of Michigan. She received an MA from Northwestern University. During the 1960s, Piercy was an organizer in political movements like the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) and the movement against the war . . .

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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