Marge Piercy 1936-
American novelist, poet, and essayist.
Piercy is a prominent feminist poet whose political commitment informs her work. Her verse often focuses on individuals struggling to escape oppressive social roles. Frankly polemical, Piercy's colloquial, free verse poetry passionately excoriates such phenomena as sexism, capitalism, and pollution, using exaggerated imagery and unabashed emotionalism in service of her social commentary.
Piercy was born to a Jewish mother and a Welsh father in a working-class neighborhood in Detroit. After attending the University of Michigan as a scholarship student, she moved to Chicago and received a Masters degree from Northwestern University. Much of Piercy's work during the 1960s and 1970s emerged directly from her involvement in the radical youth organization Students for a Democratic Society. She has also been very supportive of feminist issues. As a poet, novelist, and commentator, she has a large international following, and her work has been translated into a number of languages. She lives in Massachusetts and continues to write novels and poetry.
In her poetry, Piercy's political concerns are often expressed in an anguished or angry first-person narrative. Her first publication, Breaking Camp, is a volume of poetry that balances expressions of outrage at impoverished living conditions in Chicago with personal accounts of joy in love and being alive. In the 1970s, she shifted her emphasis from poverty, racism, and the Vietnam War to the struggle for women's rights. The poems collected in To Be of Use, Living in the Open, and The Moon Is Always Female reflect her commitment to exposing the damaging effects of patriarchy in contemporary American society and her condemnation of the roles ascribed to women by the male establishment. Piercy's works of the 1980s emphasize the politics of city-planning and the poet's sensual pleasure in such activities as gardening, making love, and cooking. In more recent works, such as Available Light and The Art of Blessing the Day: Poems with a Jewish Theme, Piercy celebrates her Jewish heritage.
Critical analyses of Piercy's verse often consider the essential role of political and social commentary, with reviewers perceiving her emphasis on such social problems as poverty, the destruction of the environment, gentrification of old neighborhoods, and civil and women's rights as commendable. Some critics have faulted her work for excessive, often violent imagery as well as a self-righteous tone. Yet she is praised for aspects of her personal poetry, particularly her sensuality, humor, and playfulness.