R.I.P. Grace Paley

Another literary figure has passed away, according to the Associated Press:

Writer and peace activist Grace Paley dies at 84

Poet and short story writer Grace Paley, a literary eminence and old-fashioned rebel who described herself as a “combative pacifist,” has died. She was 84.

Paley, who had battled breast cancer, died Wednesday at her home in Thetford Hill, Vt., according to her husband, playwright Robert Nichols.

A published writer since the 1950s, Paley released only a handful of books over the next half century, mostly short stories and poems. Writing was a passion, but not a compulsion: She never felt the need to put every experience into words. Her fiction, although highly praised, competed for time with work, activism, family and friends.

“None of it happened, and yet every word of it is true,” she once said of her fiction. “It’s truth embedded in the lie.” [full text]

Here is a poem of Ms. Paley’s that was published in the Winter 2000 issue of The Massachusetts Review:

Here

Here I am in the garden laughing
an old woman with heavy breasts
and a nicely mapped face

how did this happen
well that’s who I wanted to be

at last a woman
in the old style sitting
stout thighs apart under
a big skirt grandchild sliding
on off my lap a pleasant
summer perspiration

that’s my old man across the yard
he’s talking to the meter reader
he’s telling him the world’s sad story
how electricity is oil or uranium
and so forth I tell my grandson
run over to your grandpa ask him
to sit beside me for a minute I
am suddenly exhausted by my desire
to kiss his sweet explaining lips.

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2 responses

  1. Grace Paley’s short story collection, ‘Enormous Changes at the Last Minute’ lit up my life. No one else ever wrote like her. I never met her, but she was a friend. Her books will live on.

  2. What a marvelous lady and what a marvelous life–the poem you posted is very, very moving. The world is better for having had her and less in her passing.

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