The knock against Marge Piercy’s poems—despite the plethora of work produced by this most prolific of American writers—has always been that she is too willing to sacrifice artistry for polemics. While true that Piercy is a staunchly feminist writer whose overriding thematic concerns are directed toward exposing the nefarious effects of inequality in America, to suggest that one cannot attain artistic flight while exposing the corrupted nature of the national soul is nothing less than ridiculous. One might well as well accuse of Poe of missing the mark on craftsmanship because his mode of expression was too concerned with the macabre. The level craft exhibited by a poet literally has no connection to the content and if Marge Piercy’s work is proof anything it is that.
Piercy’s decision to direct her artistry toward the nature of inequality springs directly from the circumstances of her birth: She came into the world at the height of the Great Depression and enjoyed a childhood constructed upon a solid foundation of oral storytelling. Mother and grandmother entertained the bright young girl with everything fairy tales that helped shaped her notion of narrative to the verse of Walt Whitman which impacted her empathy for the common man. In adolescence, Piercy would discover Simon de Beauvoir and certainly that helped to inject the strong sense of feminist outrage that may be what really has some critics willing to question where on the spectrum to place the value of outright literary worth. Perhaps if Piercy had moved along a path more worn by Dickinson, such illumination of the myopia of critics would not cast such a harsh and unnecessary glare upon her prodigious body of work.
In addition to several volumes of poetry, Marge Piercy has also produced an impressive collection of novels. Some of those novels have put her at the forefront of speculative utopian feminist science fiction. Of course, there are almost certainly those out there who would say that her artistry as a science fiction novelist is held back by her strong political component. Best to ignore the critics and read Piercy for yourself.