Begin Again: Collected Poems

Begin Again: Collected Poems

by Grace Paley
     
 

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A longtime teacher, activist, feminist, and masterful writer of short fiction and essays, Paley is also an accomplished poet. Combining her two previous collections with unpublished work, Begin Again traces the career of a direct, attentive, and always unpredictable poet. Whether describing the vicissitudes of life in New York City or the hard beauty of

Overview

A longtime teacher, activist, feminist, and masterful writer of short fiction and essays, Paley is also an accomplished poet. Combining her two previous collections with unpublished work, Begin Again traces the career of a direct, attentive, and always unpredictable poet. Whether describing the vicissitudes of life in New York City or the hard beauty of rural Vermont, whether celebrating the blessings of friendship or protesting against social injustice, her poems brim with compassion and tough good humor.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“She is funny and poignant, a writer of great power and great delicacy. She is one of our finest--and most original--poets.” —Gerald Stern

“What I love most in Grace Paley's poetry is her unquenchable sense that the artist's life is not somewhere at the margins of community, that a dialogue is necessary between the poet and her people. The North American enterprise has injured this dialogue. Paley's exuberant, heartbreaking, committed poems call it back to health.” —Adrienne Rich

“The art that Paley has displayed in her celebrated short stories is generally replaced in her poems by spontaneous, personal speech. These poems provide a tour through Paley's life, telling of her friends, her childhood memories and her struggle to come to terms with age and mortality.” —Adam Kirsch, The New York Times Book Review

“Paley is a master of the short form. . . . Her no-frills poetry, like that of the classic Chinese, speaks worlds with a minimum of words. . . . Paley's attentiveness, wry sense of self, and gift for finding drama in the plainest of moments imbue her poetry with toughness and joy.” —Donna Seaman, Booklist

“In Paley, life, literature and politics converge--nonviolently, of course--in a cunning patchwork quilt of radiance and scruple, witness and example, nurture and nag, subversive humor and astonishing art: a Magical Socialism and a Groucho Marxism.” —John Leonard, The Nation

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Paley (Enormous Changes at the Last Minute) has stood for decades among America's most cherished short-story writers. Her poems retain the winning openness, the whimsy and the political commitments her fiction flaunts. They also contain deep insights about narrative and voice: "A Poem about Storytelling" explains, "the first person is often the lover who/ says I never knew anyone like you/ The listener is the beloved She whispers/ Who? Me?" The poems can carry her readers through the poet's traumas, astonishments, and exclamations: when she says "Oh! the five exogamous boroughs of/ our beloved home New York," that adjective invites her readers to love it too. Poems address locales in New York City and Vermont; consider generational succession and old age; advocate an energetic acceptance of difference and diversity; and dwell on particular political struggles. (Some of the poems about Vietnam and El Salvador stick perhaps too closely to their occasions.) Her cadences and preoccupations can suggest a much slighter, and sunnier, Adrienne Rich. But in contrast to Rich, much of Paley's poetry seems unfinished, jotted-down rather than carefully made. Her lines give revelations without contexts, theses without examples, ends and beginnings without their middles: the poem "Life" reads, in its entirety: "Some people set themselves tasks/ other people say do anything only live/ still others say/ oh oh I will never forget you event of my first life." And too many lines become unadorned tracts: "It is the responsibility of the poet not to pay war taxes." Fans of the fiction will want these unguarded looks at the illimitably appealing Paley persona. And even those not already charmed by Paley's prose ought to enjoy her few best poems: an account of "twenty-two tranvestites/ in joyous parades" on Mother's Day; the superbly constructed, vertiginous "Leaflet"; the heartbreaking "On the Deck," about old age; a six-line apocalypse called "psalm." (Feb.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780374527242
Publisher:
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publication date:
03/14/2001
Edition description:
First Edition
Pages:
192
Sales rank:
1,325,667
Product dimensions:
5.99(w) x 8.21(h) x 0.60(d)

Read an Excerpt

It is the responsibility of the poet to stand on street corners giving out poems and beautifully written leaflets also leaflets they can hardly bear to look at because of the screaming rhetoric

It is the responsibility of the poet to be lazy to hang out and prophesy

It is the responsibility of the poet not to pay war taxes

It is the responsibility of the poet to go in and out of ivory towers and two-room apartments on Avenue C and buckwheat fields and army camps

It is the responsibility of the male poet to be a woman

It is the responsibility of the female poet to be a woman . . .

-from "Responsibility"

What People are saying about this

Adrienne Rich
What I love most in Grace Paley's poetry is her unquenchable sense that the artist's life is not somewhere at the margins of community, that a dialogue is necessary between the poet and her people. The North American enterprise has injured this dialogue. Paley's exuberant, heartbreaking, committed poems call it back to health (Adrienne Rich).
Gerald Stern
Grace Paley . . . is funny and poignant, a writer of great power and great delicacy. She is one of our finest-and most original-poets (Gerald Stern, winner of the 1998 National Book Award for Poetry).

Meet the Author

Grace Paley is a writer and a teacher, a feminist and an activist. Her most recent book, Just as I Thought, is a collection of her personal and political essays and articles. In 1994, her Collected Stories was a finalist for the National Book Award. She lives in New York City and Vermont.

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