The Art of Blessing the Day: Poems with a Jewish Theme [NOOK Book]


Winner of the 2000 Paterson Poetry Prize

About Marge Piercy's collection of her old and new poems that celebrate the Jewish experience, the poet Lyn Lifshin writes: "The Art of Blessing the Day is an exquisite book. The whole collection is strong, passionate, and poignant, but the mother and daughter poems, fierce and emotional, with their intense ambivalence, pain and joy, ...
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The Art of Blessing the Day: Poems with a Jewish Theme

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Winner of the 2000 Paterson Poetry Prize

About Marge Piercy's collection of her old and new poems that celebrate the Jewish experience, the poet Lyn Lifshin writes: "The Art of Blessing the Day is an exquisite book. The whole collection is strong, passionate, and poignant, but the mother and daughter poems, fierce and emotional, with their intense ambivalence, pain and joy, themes of separation and reconnecting, are among the very strongest about that difficult relationship.

"These striking, original, beautifully sensuous poems do just that. Ordinary moments--a sunset, a walk, a private religious ritual--are so alive in poems like 'Shabbat moment'  and 'Rosh Hodesh.' In the same way that she celebrates ordinary moments, small things become charged with memories and feelings: paper snowflakes, buttons, one bird, a bottle-cap flower made from a ginger ale top and crystal beads.

"She celebrates the body in rollicking, gusto-filled poems like 'Belly good' and 'The chuppah,' where 'our bodies open their portals wide.' So much that is richly sensuous: 'hands that caressed you,  . . . untied the knot of pleasure and loosened your flesh till it fluttered,' and lush praise for 'life in our spines, our throats,  our knees, our genitals, our brains, our tongues.'

"I love the humor in poems like 'Eat fruit,' the nostalgia and joy in 'The rabbi's granddaughter and the Christmas tree,' the fresh, beautiful images of nature--'In winter . . .the sun hangs its wizened rosehip in the oaks.'

"I admire Piercy's sense of the past alive in the present, in personal and social history. The poems are memorials, like the yahrtzeit candle in a glass. 'We lose and we go on losing,' but the poems are never far from harsh joy, the joy that is 'the wine of life.'

"Growing up haunted by Holocaust ghosts is an echo throughout the book, and some of the strongest poems are about the Holocaust, poems that become the voices of those who had no voice: 'What you  carry in your blood is us,  the books we did not write, music we could not make, a world  gone from gristle to smoke, only  as real now as words can make it.'

"Marge Piercy's words make such a moving variety of experiences beautifully and forcefully real."
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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
We tend to think of writers according to categories--novelist, poet, essayist--and find it hard to imagine a writer who excels in more than one medium. But Piercy has written many wonderful novels (e.g., Braided Lives, LJ 1/82; Vida, LJ 1/80) and an equal number of deeply moving and exquisitely crafted books of poetry (e.g., What Are Big Girls Made Of? LJ 2/1/97). Her newest volume of poetry is in many ways the best yet. It brings together poems written to celebrate Piercy's Jewishness, reflecting and expressing the joy, pain, passion, and elegance of this rich culture. Her poems overflow with family, ritual, tradition, history, and food. In the amazing "The Ark of Consequence," Piercy plays with the meanings of "ark" and "arc," calling us to recognize the interconnectedness of all that we do and are and understand that our actions have consequences: "What we shoot up into orbit falls/ to earth one night through the roof." A group of Shabbat poems and a section on seder foods fervently capture the intensity and flavor of the Jewish tradition. Highly recommended for all libraries.--Judy Clarence, California State Univ. Lib., Hayward Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
From the Publisher
"An exquisite book...Strong, passionate and poignant. Marge Piercy's words make a moving variety of experience beautifully and forcefully real."
--Lyn Lifshin

"Keep her volume near your home altar; Marge Piercy will give wings to your heart's stirrings."
--Rabbi Zalman M. Schachter-Shalomi

"If poetry, as Auden said, exists to praise, then surely it exists to bless. And Marge Piercy teaches us the art of blessing in her poems, with the firmness of her eye, the courage of her strength, the directness of her language, as gritty and sweet and real as the fruits she carries with her on all her journeys through family memory and tradition, prayer and the holy days of sacred year, gathering her wisdom and the wisdom of her difficult Jewish tribe, and bringing that wisdom home."
--Rodger Kamenetz, author of Terra Infirma, The Missing Jew : New and Selected Poems,and The Jew in the Lotus

"Whether I find myself guffawing over 'Eat fruit' or falling shattered by "At the well' or being attuned to the Breath of Life by 'Nishmat,' it is my life--my whole life--that I am finding, renewed and enlivened by these poems. We can shmooze these poems, pray these poems, Torah-study these poems. What we breath out, Piercy has breathed in; what Piercy breaths out, we can breath in. We and she breath each other into life."
--Rabbi Arthur Waskow

"Marge Piercy's superb spiritual powers are up to their elbows in the lived world, bringing a liberated and grounded wisdom to everything they touch. Behind this book one hears the great embracing toast of Jewish tradition: 'L'Chaim!' -- 'to life!' In its pages the work of the heart and the work of the spirit are visibly, passionately advanced."
--Jane Hirschfield

"Accessible, transformative, thrilling. Marge Piercy teases out the spiritual lights hidden within the most ordinary events. Here is poetry so reverent and disturbing that it borders on liturgy."
--Rabbi Lawrence Kushner

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780307760180
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 8/7/2013
  • Sold by: Random House
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 192
  • Sales rank: 739,581
  • File size: 3 MB

Meet the Author

The Art of Blessing the Day is Marge Piercy's fifteenth volume of poetry. Others include What Are Big Girls Made Of?; The Moon Is Always Female; her selected poems, Circles on the Water; My Mother's Body; Available Light;  and, new from Leapfrog Press, Early Grrrl, her out-of-print and previously uncollected early poems. In 1990 her poetry won the Golden Rose, the oldest poetry award in the country. She has also written fourteen novels, all still in print, including Woman on the Edge of Time; Vida; Gone to Soldiers; He, She and It (winner of the Arthur C. Clarke Award); The Longings of Women; City of Darkness, City of Light; and, most recently, Storm Tide, with her husband, Ira Wood.  Her fiction and poetry have been translated into sixteen languages.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Read an Excerpt

"Growing Up Haunted"

When I enter through the hatch of memory those claustrophobic chambers,
my adolescence in the booming fifties of
General Eisenhower, General Foods and
General Motors, I see our dreams:
obsolescent mannequins in Dior frocks armored, prefabricated bodies; and I see our nightmares, powerful as a wine red sky and wall of fire.

Fear was the underside of every leaf we turned, the knowledge that our cousins, our other selves, had been starved and butchered to ghosts.
The question every smoggy morning presented like a covered dish:
why are you living and all those mirror selves, sisters, gone into smoke like stolen cigarettes?

I remember my grandmother's cry when she learned the death of all she remembered, girls she bathed with,
young men with whom she shyly flirted, wooden shul where her father rocked and prayed,
red haired aunt plucking the balalaika, world of sun and snow turned to shadows on a yellow page.

Assume no future you may not have to fight for, to die for, muttered ghosts gathered on the foot of my bed each night. What you carry in your blood is us,
the books we did not write,
music we could not make, a world gone from gristle to smoke, only as real now as words can make it.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

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Table of Contents

The art of blessing the day 3
Snowflakes, my mother called them 9
Putting the good things away 11
Eat fruit 14
Learning to read 16
My mother's body 19
On shabbat she dances in the candle flames 26
The wicked stepmother 28
The rabbi's granddaughter and the Christmas tree 31
What she craved 33
Unbuttoning 34
Out of the rubbish 36
Your father's fourth heart attack 39
The aunt I wanted to be 41
The flying Jew 43
My rich uncle, whom I only met three times 46
A candle in a glass 48
Belly good 50
The chuppah 55
The wine 57
House built of breath 59
Nailing up the mezuzah 60
In the grip of the solstice 62
The real hearth 64
All lovers have secret names 65
Marriage in winter 66
The ark of consequence 71
To be of use 73
Available light 75
For she is a tree of life 78
One bird, if there is only one, dies in the night 80
Yahrtzeit 82
After the wind abated, he walked out and died 83
Woman in a shoe 85
Up and out 87
The task never completed 94
Apple sauce for Eve 99
The Book of Ruth and Naomi 101
Fathers and sons 103
At the well 104
Growing up haunted 108
The thief 110
For each age, its amulet 112
The Altneushul in the old Prague ghetto 113
Returning to the cemetery in the old Prague ghetto 115
The housing project at Drancy 118
Black Mountain 120
The fundamental truth 122
The hunger moon 124
Nishmat 129
S'hema 132
Meditation before reading Torah 134
Amidah: On our feet we speak to you 135
Kaddish 138
Havdalah 139
Shabbat moment 143
At the New Moon: Rosh Hodesh 145
Wellfleet shabbat 147
The head of the year 148
Tashlich 149
Breadcrumbs 151
The New Year of the Trees 153
Beytzeh: Season of the egg 154
Charoset 156
Zeroah: Lamb shank 158
Maror 159
Karpas 161
Chazeret: Lettuce in rebellion 163
Matzoh 164
Salt water 165
Maggid 166
Summer mourning 168
Coming up on September 170
The ram's horn sounding 172
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