On the Way Out, Turn Off the Light
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Another winning collection from one of our most read and enjoyed poets: a bountiful group of poems that reflect on language, nature, old age, young love, Judaism, and our current politics--all in her usual direct and mind-tingling fashion.
"Words are my business," Marge Piercy begins her twentieth collection of poetry, a glance back at a lifetime of learning, loving, grieving, and fighting for the disenfranchised; and a look forward at what the future holds for herself, her family and friends, and her embattled country. In the opening pages, Piercy tells of her childhood in Detroit, with its vacant lots and scrappy children, the bike that gave her wings, her ambition at fourteen to "gobble" down all knowledge, a too early marriage ("I put on my first marriage / like a girdle my skinny body / didn't need.") We then leap into the Twilight Zone "after the knee has been replaced," where she is "learning to be quiet," learning to give praise despite it all. There are funny poems about medicine ads with their dire warnings, and some possible plusses about being dead: "I will never have to do another load of laundry . . ." There is "comfort in old bodies coming together," in a partner's warmth--"You're always warm: warm hands / smooth back sleek as a Burmese cat./ Sunny weather outside and in."
Piercy has long been known for her political poems and her love of cats, and here there are plenty of both. Illegal immigrants, dying languages, fraught landscapes, abortion, President-speak. She examines her nonbeliever's need for religious holidays and spiritual depth, and the natural world is appreciated throughout. On the Way Out, Turn Off the Light is yet more proof of Piercy's love and mastery of language--it is moving, stimulating, funny, and full of the stuff of life.