Immitation of Marge Piercy followed by an explination.
They wore expressionless masks as faces.
Their eyes watched her coolly and evenly.
“Unacceptable” they whispered. They were wrong
as she marched in place alongside of them. Not
as a woman but a soldier. They knew
at once that she was weak, too weak to hold her
place within the ranking that were rightfully
hers as she braced herself for the demands
that were forced upon her by commanding
officers and her equals. No, never her equals.
She could have saved them in the field, embraced
them as brothers with love. Instead they loathed and stalked
her with vicious eyes. Their smiles radiated sadistic
thoughts that seeped through their pores. She could
never be accepted as a fellow brethren in war.
As she slept, she slept with fear
on the edge of her mind, as they sodomized
her thoughts, and ran away with her
innocence. They dutifully cut off both her arms so
that she couldn’t hold a gun. They dressed her
in pretty dresses, with pearls and shoes to match.
“This is where you belong” they’d say,
as they molded her face like clay. “A lady
must be refined. Acceptable at last.”
Crystal Rivas November 5, 2010
Poetry Imitation Assignment
Imitation of Marge Piercy
Marge Piercy’s poetry focuses heavily on feminism, and the differences between gender roles within society. I chose to focus on her most visited theme of feminism. Most of Piercy’s poetry focuses on the daily life of the average human being. However, as a woman who was an active feminist I believe that if she found out about the treatment of women in active duty in the army, she would have written this poem.
This poem addresses struggles that a female soldier faces due to her gender. In most of Piercy’s poems such as “Barbie Doll,” “A Work Of Artifices,” “Always Unsuitable,” “The Friend,” and “What Are Big Girls Made Of?” she addresses the common issues that women face within society. “Unacceptable” was modeled after “Barbie Doll,” “A Work Of Artifices,” and “Always Unsuitable,” but of course all of her poems influenced this poem.
My imitation poem “Unacceptable” addresses the issues that women continue to face within the army. Due to their gender they are scrutinized, disrespected and even sexually abused, by the men they work with. This is demonstrated in the poem when I say, “As she slept, she slept with fear/ on the edge of her mind, as, as they sodomized her thoughts and ran away with her / innocence” (16-19). Despite a woman’s capabilities and abilities due to her gender she is looked down upon as weak and frail even if she holds the same position their counterparts have, and answered to the same orders, “as she marched in place alongside of them. Not / as a woman but a soldier. They knew/ at once that she was weak, to weak to hold her / place within the ranking that were rightfully / hers as she braced herself for the demands that were forced upon her by commanding / officers and her equals” (4 – 9). Much like Piercy wrote in “Barbie Doll,” “She was healthy, tested intelligent, / possessed strong arms and back, / abundant sexual drive and manual dexterity”(7-9), no matter how good, talented and gifted a woman may be if she does not fit into the ideal accepted image then she will be denied. Much like Piercy does with “Barbie Doll,” and “A Work of Artifice” the poem I wrote was in a 3rd person perspective. By doing this the idea that this woman that is being spoken of could be any woman and it allows an individual to take part in it.
Piercy’s style of writing is free form yet slightly structured as she forces line breaks in all her poems. Trying to find the right way to line break the poem was difficult. “Always Unsuitable” helped me address this problem as I noticed that each line break occurred with a very strong message then continued on into the next line. “I was exactly what mothers had warned /their sons against. I was quicksand/ I was trouble in the afternoon. I was/ the alley cat you don’t bring home” (12-14). I tried to imitate the way she used line break within the poem “Unacceptable,” this can be seen in the following, “She could have saved them in the field, embraced/ them as brothers with love. Instead they loathed and stalked/ her with vicious eyes. Their smiles radiated sadistic/ thoughts that seeped through their pores” (11- 14). I used Piercy’s poem “Always Unsuitable” to structure my poem, and I used the mother within that poem as a model for the soldiers.
The poem took time to create. I wrote a previous poem before finally deciding on this one. It was difficult for me to imitate her style and techniques. I wanted to create a brand new poem that she had not created but would have created. “Unacceptable” was written then rewritten three times after completion. One important change that I did to my first draft was changing the word on line 15 from “soldier” to “war.” The original sentence was, “never be accepted as a fellow brethren soldier”(15). I took the word soldier and replaced it with “in war” because I felt that it gives the poem a better flow. “Never be accepted as a fellow brethren in war”(15). I also feel that removing the word soldier and placing it with “in war” beside the word “brethren” it emphasizes the unity that is felt among soldiers when in war. It’s already implied that the poem is about soldiers so I don’t feel as though I have to repeat that word here.
Piercy often uses the symbolism of the cutting of the limbs within her poem. She has used this symbolism in her poem, “The Friend” when she says, “We sat across the table./ he said, cut off your hands”(1-2). The use of this symbolism is also seen in her poem “Barbie Doll” when she says, “So she cut off her nose and her legs” (16). I too decided to use this technique as is apparent within my poem Unacceptable when I wrote, “They dutifully cut off both her arms”(19). This line represents how they prefer to disfigure her, force her into submission than actually allow her to fight by their side. I felt that by adding this line it provided the poem with a feeling that Piercy had written it herself.
I changed the word “reflection” (13) to the word “radiated.” I’ve chosen the word radiated because it gives an image of radiation that is harmful to the human body. I felt that the word reflection wasn’t strong enough to give life to the image in the way that Piercy does within her poetry.
Another change that I made within the first draft was the addition of the last stanza. In my first draft the poem ended with the male soldiers changing and dressing up the female soldier in feminine attire because due to her gender she was unsuitable to be anything else (19-21), but there was something unsatisfying about it. When Piercy ends most of her poems she ends them with a message that stands out in your mind. In Piercy’s “What Are Big Girls Made of?” she ends the poem with, When will a woman cease to be made of pain?” (81-82). Ending the poem with this line allows for her message that women hurt themselves trying to follow the latest trends to dance within the readers minds long after they finish reading the poem. I feel that I have managed to do the same by adding the last stanza, “‘This is where you belong’ they’d say, / as they molded her face like clay. ‘A lady / must be refined. Acceptable at last’”(22-24). By writing this in addition to the previous stanza it emphasizes their ideals of the gender roles that Piercy always touches upon within her poetry.