Friday, August 24, 2007

Grace Paley, 1922-2007

The writer Grace Paley has passed away. The NPR report is here. Despite many opportunities to see her in New York I never had the opportunity. Her poem "Here" appeared in The Best American Poetry 2001:


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 sitting
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

I was bemoaning the fact that I never had the chance to see her to my friend north of the border and he wrote me back the following anecdote:

I met her once, and she was delightful. I got her to inscribe her second book to me (from 1974) formally and to sign a bunch of anthologies, etc. I recall her smiling complaint about signing a Best American Essays proof underneath Cynthia Ozick's signature: "Oh, I'm used to this---Paley always follows Ozick alphabetically." When I presented a book of interviews that had already been gloriously inscribed to me by Joy Harjo ("For _____/for justice/for love...") she craned her neck and said "whose writing is that?" When I replied, "Joy Harjo, isn't her handwriting beautiful?" Paley jokingly responded "she's a show-off!"
There is more great Paley material here at The Paris Review site.


Leon said...

Lengthy obit in todays LATimes with an emphasis on her short stories. Also gave a link to Times interview with her and review of her work at

Anonymous said...

great post. I have really liked the last three.

have a good shabbas