During one of my Poetics graduate classes, we were given a cool assignment. The professor told us to choose a famous poet and write him or her a letter. The goal was to get advice from the writer about being a poet.
I wrote a letter to Marge Piercy. The professor told us not to hold our breath in terms of getting a reply. He said that poets can sometimes be big, egotistical jerks, and they may not want to indulge a kid who is writing for career advice.
But the cool thing is that I received a reply from Marge! She wrote to me right away. When I saw the letter in my mailbox, I nearly fainted from excitement.
But my enthusiasm quickly dissipated when I read her letter. In a nutshell, she told me to choose a more practical career. Writing poetry for a living was hard; it wouldn’t pay the bills. Marge had to work as a temp secretary to make a living.
The next time I attended a Marge Piercy poetry reading, I bought one of her books and asked her to sign it for me. Even though I was tempted to, I didn’t tell her I was the poetry student whose heart she crushed with her practical and sensible career advice. :-\
by Marge Piercy
We sat across the table.
he said, cut off your hands.
they are always poking at things.
they might touch me.
I said yes.
Food grew cold on the table.
he said, burn your body.
it is not clean and smells like sex.
it rubs my mind sore.
I said yes.
I love you, I said.
That’s very nice, he said
I like to be loved,
that makes me happy.
Have you cut off your hands yet?