cover image What Are Big Girls Made Of?: Poems

What Are Big Girls Made Of?: Poems

Marge Piercy. Knopf Publishing Group, $16 (176pp) ISBN 978-0-679-76594-3

As accessible and as crammed with experience as a novel, Piercy's 13th collection bears the effortlessly textured markings of a life lived fully. Featured are wryly confessional elegies for her disturbed, Vietnam vet brother (""Our conversations were conducted/ without a common language./ I gave you a foot. You handed me a balloon...""), the luminously sexual poems one expects from the author of The Moon Is Always Female and striking ruminations on marriage and middle age. At her best, Piercy blends a strange, elemental whimsy with powerful free verse to bring fresh examination to such subjects as dysfunctional families (""A pit lined with fur and barbed wire;/ roast chicken and plastique, warmth/ and bile, a kiss and a razor in the ribs,/ our family"") and to her intuitive odes to wild creatures like garter snakes and grackles. Less fully felt are poems with a social conscience, like the title piece, which offers only the expected observations on women's slavery to beauty and fashion (""When will a woman/ cease to be made of pain?""), while cozily humorous gripes on mundanities like having to pay ""the mortgage bird"" seem more Erma Bombeck than poetic. But when Piercy raises her sights to more transcendent subject matter (like the shiveringly beautiful poem about love and light titled ""The negative ion dance""), she engages a seer's sense of numinous detail. (Feb.)