Friday, April 30, 2004

Pump Up the Volume

Here it is the last day of April, the last day of National Poetry Month, and I have done a poor job of discussing poetry on any kind of a regular basis. I have, however been reading and thinking about poetry more than I have in some time, so at least for me there has been a benefit. Going forward I plan on reading more poetry and then, of course, tell all of you about it. On that note, this final April post will be a about a CD my Bookman gave me for my birthday at the beginning of the month. The CD is Louder. No it's not a new rock band with the amps turned up to 11. It's Marge Piercy reading her political poems. Who is Marge Piercy? Some may know her as the author of such novels as Gone to Soldiers, Woman on the Edge of Time and He, She and It. She was born in working class Detroit and was the first of her family to go to college. An activist in the Anti-War, Civil Rights and Feminist Movements, she writes both fiction and poetry with a political dimension. Not all of her poems are politically inclined. She writes about love, gardening, being Jewish and cats too. Louder is a good sampling of her political poetry. Two of the poems are newer and have yet to be included in a book. The other 24 are selected from 8 of her published books. I have never heard Piercy speak before. After reading so much of her poetry, many of her novels, her memoir and her book about writing co-authored with her husband Ira Wood, I had imagined what she sounded like. Of course her voice sounded very much like the voice in my head (no, I don't hear voices but I hear the words in my head when I read). I don't know why I was surprised when I pushed play on my CD player and heard her real voice. She doesn't have a bad voice, but because of my internal voice being her voice for so long, the real Marge Piercy took some getting used to. The CD is is a little over 60 minutes long. The words are not included except for the two new poems. "Choices" is the poem Piercy wrote when she was invited to the White House by Laura Bush for a reading with several other poets. It begins:

Would you rather have health insurance you can actually afford or occupy Iraq? Would you rather have enough inspectors to keep your kids from getting poisoned by bad hamburgers, or occupy Iraq? Would you rather breathe clean air and drink water free from pesticides and upriver shit, or occupy Iraq?
I wonder what Laura thought of that one? The other new poem is called "Sneak and Peek" and is about the Patriot Act and government surveillance and spying on its own people. Here's an excerpt:
Are you patriotic? Do you submit lists of what you read to the F.B.I. without waiting to be asked? Do you spy on your neighbors checking if they play Middle Eastern music if they smoke other than tobacco if they read the wrong books all u.s. right thinking people know what they are. If they have too much sex of the wrong kind--all u.s. right thinking people know exactly what we mean. Do you believe in the separation of Church and Hate?
Poets having their own CD is a newer thing. I have a cassette tape of Adrienne Rich reading her book Midnight Salvage and a CD called Voice of the Poet. Now I have Marge Piercy. I hope the CD becomes a more common "publication." I think reading the poems myself is great, but hearing the poet herself read them with all the emphasis and pauses in the right places is an enlightening experience.