Friday, March 19, 2021

slps 5: katz and piercy

Climate Action Alert:  Is YOUR state legislature attempting to undo some of the damage to our planet?  Mine is, and I have advocacy work to do today, which I know about because of my state's Unitarian Universalist Legislative MinistryGo here to see if your state has a one-stop shop for action alerts on matters of social justice, climate justice in particular.

It's time to return to my  self-led poetry study, in
which I revisit books on my shelf that never received proper attention.  Let's begin with the very first poem in UPSIDE DOWN AND INSIDE OUT: Poems for All Your Pockets by Bobbi Katz.  This little volume has a layered history: it's a 1992 Wordsong reissue of the original 1973 collection, and it's signed by Bobbi herself to someone named Mary Krogness--but it also bears a stamp on the inside and a label on the outside to let us know that this book belongs to the library of Aquita Sanford!  I acquired it hmmmmm from a used-book dealer?  It also has a barcode label that looks rather newer.

I met Bobbi on a few occasions in the 2000's, and she's the person who said, when I mentioned my family was moving to Paris for a year, that she knew a children's poet who lived there, an English woman named Sandra Guy.  Unbelievably, it turned out that Sandra lived LITERALLY ACROSS THE STREET from our exchange apartment in Vincennes--of all the addresses in Paris!  Thanks to Bobbi, I had a faithful critique partner during that year in France.

But I's that first poem.

 How I Got to Be a Princess: An Autobiographical Note | Bobbi Katz

Yesterday my friend said,
"You look just like a princess.”
I could not believe him.

Was he talking to someone else?
I looked behind me
in front of me.
I looked under the bed
on top of the closet.
No one else was there.
Again my friend said,
“You look just like a princess.”
He really said it to ME!
I felt all twinkling inside.
That’s how I got to be a princess.


This is a pretty unusual poem for Bobbi--most of her work is rhyme-and-meter perfection, playful and very definitely early-childhood friendly, not usually autobiographical. (For those familiar, this volume also includes the original "Things to Do If You Are" form, with "a Subway", "a Flower," "the Snow" and "a Pizza," among others. Bow down to Bobbi!)



Next I pulled down THE MOON IS ALWAYS FEMALE by Marge Piercy (Alfred A. Knopf, 1980).  I don't know where I got this one either, but I swear, despite knowing of Marge Piercy since I was in college (Wesleyan University, whose press published her first two collections), I don't think I have ever opened this book, considered a "classic text of the feminist movement."  My loss, my goodness!  

Marge (b. 1936) is roughly the same age as Bobbi (b. 1933) and I am. so. fascinated. by the juxtaposition of Bobbi's princess poem and this stanza from Marge's longer poem "Excursions, incursions".


                                                        Excursions, incursions  | Marge Piercy

Princess and godmother, girls and women, viewed and twinkled and labeled and priced: may they yet declare themselves queens of their own being?  I hope that both poets, now in their 80s, continue well and comfortable, and I am so grateful for their voices.

Linda at TeacherDance is our host today for Poetry Friday, and she is also exploring time and its nonsense and constancy and how it makes us think about our moments, our long lives, and how old rules don't apply...see you there!


  1. Marge Piercy's poem made me think of The Silence of the Girls, which I just finished last night. Retelling of the Iliad as the story of rape and pillage that it totally is. Princesses turning into slaves at the blink of an eye. Shiver.

  2. When I see pieces about princesses and the implied spectacular & sparkly lives, it feels like Disney had a sly hand in this as did other men through the ages. Let's define them, they say, and the advertisers follow along. I don't know if I'm reading it wrong, but Bobbi seems to be celebrating being a princess? Marge Piercy adds the background knowledge of what we women do know, that women "know". I always enjoy your travels, Heidi!

  3. My goodness...those two poems. The first one is simple but the idea of what someone else thinks v. what the speaker thinks...and then that piece of meat feeling in the second poem. What an interesting and provocative pairing. Thanks, Heidi.

  4. What a pairing.

    And thanks for the UU resource. Looks like I need to return to my UU roots, and when I do, I will find a community where I can get involved with some Good Trouble.

  5. Your pairing this week is a lot to take in, but in a good way, Heidi. As a mom of two daughters and someone who experienced some bad stuff when I was a little girl, I have been on a lifelong journey of healing and self reflection about who I am as a woman, and who's definition I've been living by. Motherhood has given me another layer to reflect on what kind of role model I am for my girls. You always get me to think about a subject from a new angle through poetry - thank you for that. :)

  6. Wow--I love both of these poems, and even more I love them next to each other and in conversation.

  7. Everyone else has put into good words the strong reactions these two poems together have evoked - wow. Bobbi's, taken by itself, can point to the power of some affirming words from a friend (I'm assuming beauty as really more-than-skin-deep here). Marge Piercy's poem excerpt- Whew, that's a lot. (And there's a terrible undercurrent of relevance in light of the horrific Atlanta shootings this week.) Thanks for sharing both.

  8. (PS - Thanks for your continued activism!)

  9. The side by side position of these two poets and their distinct voices is effective. Women as objects of admiration and adoration and all that carries with it. This brings to mind New York's governor. He should read more poetry.


Thanks for joining in the wild rumpus!