Grace Paley (1922-2007)

Yesterday afternoon I met a few of my Artist Way friends for pie in Port Townsend, at Hillbottom Pie, a little cafe on Tyler street. For dessert, I ordered strawberry-rhubarb pie, with ice cream. It was delicious. It made me think of my cousin Joan, who served us strawberry-rhubarb pie, warm from the oven, when I took my mother to visit just before Memorial Day, 2014. It made me think of the Dryad cemetery, which my mother and I also visited that day, and how, when Mom walked across the wet grass to put the flowers on the graves, I worried because she had fallen in the night. It made me think of this poem, by one of my favorite writers, Grace Paley.

What did you do today instead of writing a poem? Could you write a poem about that? 


I was going to write a poem
I made a pie instead    it took
about the same amount of time
of course the pie was a final
draft    a poem would have some
distance to go    days and weeks and
much crumpled paper

the pie already had a talking
tumbling audience among small
trucks and a fire engine on
the kitchen floor

everybody will like this pie
it will have apples and cranberries
dried apricots in it    many friends
will say    why in the world did you
make only one

this does not happen with poems

because of unreportable
sadnesses I decided to
settle this morning for a re-
sponsive eatership    I do not
want to wait a week    a year    a
generation for the right
consumer to come along

Happy Birthday, Grace Paley

One of my favorite writers, Grace Paley, was born on this day in 1922. (The link will take you to her 1992 Paris Review interview.) She is best remembered for her short stories, and once, at the library, I found a set of cassette tapes of her reading her own fiction. If these are ever released on CD, I will be the first in line to buy them.

Paley was also well known for her political activism, and she wrote poetry. Here’s one, from Fidelity, published in 2008:

Anti-Love Poem

Sometimes you don’t want to love the person you love
you turn your face away from that face
whose eyes lips might make you give up anger
forget insult   steal sadness of not wanting
to love    turn away then turn away    at breakfast
in the evening    don’t lift your eyes from the paper
to see that face in all its seriousness    a
sweetness of concentration     he holds his book
in his hand    the hard-knuckled winter wood-
scarred fingers    turn away    that’s all you can
do    old as you are to save yourself    from love