- Her Own Society:An Acrostic for Emily
An abstract for a poem? I don't think so. Still, to be social, a poet shouldn't blink, soIt's an ACROSTIC- is what I need to say,which means you read it Vertical and Sideway.
This is one of ED's smartest or wisest poems. Her insight here tickles; it also encourages. Even before I knew I was a poet, Something was promising me that my choice, not Only of whom but of what (beauty, art, poetry) to love would be valid; that however Unclear most things were in my world, Love would be clear and Simple. And soulful. Don't you love the s's in that first line? Ever notice there are four of them? And how they slow the line up? Then Look how the next line snaps shut! Emily reproduces, rhythmically, the careful intentionality of selection and its Conclusion. Then she brings politics into it, but sideways. Divinely, "Soul" outvotes all opposition. Majority rules. Soul as majority? How improbable! How painfully I remember, in childhood—and thereafter—always being in the minority. Emily perhaps shared that experience, didn't get mad, got even. Rejection can be fun, and righteous, if it is your soul that is doing the rejecting. Of course, it's especially fun to imagine rejecting your social superiors. Well, it is for me. But did Emily have social superiors? No—but she did have some pompous men in her life. Sweet and pretty fantasy to make them collectively kneel. Open and shut case. And so feminine, Capitalizing, for one's imagery, on feminine anatomy. Those valves! I love the way in the End, they turn impregnable as stone. This is but one of the many reasons I love and thank You, Emily. [End Page 18]
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Alicia Ostriker, a poet and critic, twice a finalist for the National Book Award, has published eleven volumes of poetry, most recently No Heaven (U of Pittsburgh P, 2005). Her most recent prose book is Dancing at the Devil's Party: Essays on Poetry, Politics, and the Erotic (U of Michigan P, 2000). She has received awards and fellowships from the NEA, the Guggenheim and Rockefeller Foundations, the Poetry Society of America, and the San Francisco State Poetry Center, among others. Ostriker lives in Princeton, NJ, is Professor Emerita of English at Rutgers University, and teaches in the low-residency poetry MFA program of New England College.