In an interview published in the early 1980’s, Marilyn Hacker defined her stance as a feminist poet: “We are reclaiming the idea that a poet is speaking to and for other people. . . . It doesn’t assume a stance of isolation and defeat. It comes from the necessity for communication and reclamation.” In this self-definition, Hacker identifies some of the strongest features of her poetic work. From her earliest volume her commitment to freshness and originality in language distinguishes her. While the reader is always close to the specific and ordinary details of the life of a mid-twentieth century woman—the dark blue coffee mug, the horrors of transatlantic flights, and the struggles of rearing a daughter in New York City—this closeness to the everyday is never banal or prosaic. Things as usual as eating, arranging meetings, and the loss of a lover are refined and elevated by Hacker’s remarkable technical and verbal skills.
In the interview cited above, Hacker observes thatany writing is composed of words. If we use the words that we have received, we will be talking about the same old things. . . . The subject may be new, revolutionary, but if it’s the same old language, it’s the same old language.
At the heart of Hacker’s work is the presentation of an intimately revolutionary life in a style that matches its subject matter in freshness. While she stresses innovation and reform in her view of society, and in particular the...
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