August 24, 2007

Poetry Friday: Losses for Literature

One Day I Decided
- by Grace Paley

One day I decided to not grow any older
lots of luck I said to myself

But she did have lots of luck, and we were lucky to have read her work before cancer took her away. You can read this wry poem in its entirety at Persimmontree Magazine, which may require you to a one-time free subscription. ("One Day I Decided,"is from Begin Again: Collected Poems by Grace Paley. Copyright © 2000 by Grace Paley.)

I came to read the work of Grace Paley in graduate school. She wrote about the very young and the elderly, about city people, Jewish people, Poles, Italians and Ukrainians, Irish people and African Americans down on their luck. Suburbanites were a bit shocked that an apparently upper-middle class Caucasian woman wrote knowledgeably about classes and colors not her own. She ignored them, or commented on them drolly, and kept writing anyway.

I am sad that I wasn't at Mills the day she read for us, just as I am sad that Siohban Dowd was taken by cancer before she'd written everything she had to say. Some days I feel like "I have to catch up! All the good stuff is passing!"

What steadies me is that words...are... forever. Even out of print books can be discovered again. And the truth is that fabulous writers are being born anew, daily.

May others of Ms. Dowd and Ms. Paley's caliber be born soon.

Poetry Friday's round-up is hosted by John at The Book Mine Set; Chicken Spaghetti has what has to be my favorite Paley poem for you there. Bon Weekend.


Sarah Stevenson said...

I missed that reading at Mills too! I'm going to have to go back and re-read the anthology of hers that I have from Cornelia's class, Enormous Changes at the Last Minute. Maybe it'll inspire some short stories. What a loss! Thanks for posting this.

John Mutford said...

I'm unfamiliar with both people, but it sounds like a real loss.

Little Willow said...

As long as no one bans the use of writing, that is. Stargate! Bradbury!