Fidelity (Magill's Literary Annual 2009)
Grace Paley, who died of breast cancer in 2007, is perhaps best known for her short stories, which were originally published in leading magazines and eventually in book form in 1959, 1974, and 1985. In 1994 her book The Collected Stories was a finalist for both the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award. However, Paley began her career by writing poetry, from her teenage years into her mid-thirties, switched over in the 1980’s to publishing mostly poetry, and rounded out her career with the posthumous poetry collection Fidelity. Although her early poetry was apparently derivative, reflecting in part her study with W. H. Auden, her efforts in poetry might have helped her develop the distinctive voice and dialogue for which her stories are famous. She was noted for reading her stories aloud as she composed them and later when she taught classes.
Poetry seems the more natural genre for Paley. Her stories tend toward open form; they have been criticized as being plotless, emphasizing, instead, character and voice. Poetry allows Paley more freedom of form: She writes in loose free verse, leaving some poems untitled and dispensing with conventional punctuation by indicating pauses with lineation and spacing. Poetry also allows the distinctive voice to be hers unambiguously. For a woman who has something to say, why bother with fictional...
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