Friday, November 20, 2009

Fidelity, by Grace Paley

I've been trying to read more poetry this year, but I see this is the first poetry collection I've read since I started blogging, so...

This collection by the venerable Paley was published after her death--and aging, illness, and death are themes of many of the poems. Other themes are the work of the poet, family, and the problems of the world that cry out for action (Paley was well known as an activist). While this litany of topics makes the poems sound horribly dark (and certainly some poems are very sad), Paley's wry humor, close observation, and love of family lift the collection out of the slough. For example, an untitled poem about elderly people in a nursing home is told from the perspective of a little girl who finds the way in which the seniors sit and sometimes yell very interesting. Another poem, titled "My Sister and My Grandson," is a lovely description of Paley's conversations with her dead sister.

I have to admit that I am not a skilled reader of poetry (Mrs. Stotmeister seemed to know this when she confronted me in sophomore English, but that's a story for another venue), so I enjoy accessible rather than obscure poems--and most of the poems in this collection are well within the reach of similarly limited readers of poetry.

Favorite passages:
To translate a poem/from thinking/into English/takes all night/night nights and days/(From "Night Morning," page 58)

Believe me I am/an unreliable/narrator (From an untitled poem, page 57)

I had put my days behind me/almost as they happened rolling/faces streets personal dramas/into a scroll quickly/quickly sometimes my heels/were caught in the last conver-/sation so shaking to free/myself all that clutter flew/up into the air (From "Detour," page 69)

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