August 25, 2007

Grace Paley, Poet & Activist, 1922-2007


When I was in the process of moving back to Albany in 1986 I was thrilled to hear that Gov. Mario Cuomo had named Grace Paley as the first New York State Writer. In the midst of the Reagan era this was a ray of hope. I had known of Grace Paley as much for her activism as for her poetry (I didn't know her short stories at all). In fact, the datebook I had at the time had a picture of her, I think as part of the White House 11, who had been arrested in 1978 for unfurling an anti-nuke banner on the White House lawn. I had read her poems in small press poetry zines & in peace & anti-nuke newsletters & magazines.

There are a lot of pieces about her in the internet, but I like best what's on Democracy Now (www.democracynow.org) that includes a couple poems. I understand that a new book of poems is scheduled to be published next year.

"It is the responsibility of society to let the poet be a poet...It is the poet's responsibility to speak truth to power..." Grace Paley, one of the Elders, now one of the Saints.