“The pleasure that I take in writing gets me interested in writing a poem. It's not a statement about what I think anybody else should be doing. For me, it's an interesting tension between interior and exterior.” – Marilyn Hacker
American poet Hacker, who was born in New York in 1942, often employs strict forms in her poetry: for example, writing in sonnets as in her acclaimed verse novel, Love, Death, and the Changing of the Seasons.
Among her 11 books of poetry is Presentation Piece, which won the National Book Award, and the amazing Going Back to the River. Her writing often speaks for the marginalized or for those who are suffering, especially from cancer. “Good writing gives energy,” said Hacker, “whatever it is about.” For Saturday’s Poem, here is Hacker’s:
This is for Elsa, also known as Liz,
an ample-bosomed gospel singer: five
discrete malignancies in one full breast.
This is for auburn Jacqueline,
who is celebrating fifty years alive,
one since she finished chemotherapy.
with fireworks on the fifteenth of July.
This is for June, whose words are lean and mean
as she is, elucidating our protest.
This is for Lucille, who shines a wide
beam for us with her dark cadences.
This is for long-limbed Maxine,
astride a horse like conscience.
This is for Aline who taught her lover
how to caress the scar.
This is for Eve, who thought of AZT
while hopeful poisons pumped into a vein.
This is for Nanette in the Midwest.
This is for Alicia, shaking back dark hair,
dancing one-breasted with the Sabbath bride.
This is for Judy on a mountainside,
plunging her gloved hands in a glistening hive.
Hilda, Patricia, Gaylord, Emilienne,
Tania, Eunice: this is for everyone
who marks the distance on a calendar
from what's less likely each year to "recur.” Our saved-for-now lives are life sentences
-- which we prefer to the alternative.
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