Marge Piercy, 1980
POETRY MISCELLANY: Let's begin by talking about the problematics of language. In your poem, "Lies," you say, "I give too much importance to words / and my words define me. / I am always becoming words / that walk off as strangers." In several other poems the possible duplicity of language is encountered. In "Some Collisions Bring Luck," the relationship seems in trouble at one point because "We coalesced in the false chemistry of words / rather than truly touching." And in "Doing It Differently," you have the lines, "a mistrust of the rhetoric of tenderness / thickens your tongue." Perhaps we could talk about your consciousness of the difficulties of saying things right in language and of the poet's role in this context.
MARGE PIERCY: I think that probably anyone who works with language is very conscious of the state of it. In one poem I say, "Words live, words die in the mouths of everybody." We all make language; we all use language; and we live in a society in which the language is constantly debased by the power system that attempts to control us and by the commercial uses to which it is put. Now, in a lot of poems I'm not talking about the deliberate debasing of language, as in the lies a government will tell, but about more specific and everyday experiences--the false chemistry of words, the social lies people say when they think they agree but don't. These are personal relationships where the other person fails to recognize conflicting wishes, wills, and so forth. Sometimes people just aren't aware of what this or that