The Farrar, Straus and Giroux Poetry Blog

April 04, 2008

You Didn't Always Have To Be Taking Trains

Grace_3 Does everybody here know how amazing Grace Paley was? I've been trying for a long time to explain how she embodies everything I believe in--feminist, writer, activist, really funny joke-maker--but then it tends to fall flat in the face of such a multi-faceted person. If you're new to her, I think the best way to learn more is to work your way through Grace in her own words (and just one perfect quote from Joyce Carol Oates):

  • "I think most writers that are serious are experimental. They all have to figure out new forms every time they write.", 1998
  • "How aptly named: Grace Paley. For 'grace' is perhaps the most accurate, if somewhat poetic, term to employ in speaking of this gifted writer..." --Joyce Carol Oates, from her essay The Miniaturist Art of Grace Paley, 1998
  • "When you are a poet, you speak to the world, and when you are a story writer you get the world to speak to you." --Poets & Writers, 2006
  • "Patrimony and matrimony do not say what they mean. Patriarchy and matriarchy do. Patrimony, as any reader probably knows, is what you inherit from your father. Matrimony is the state of being in a marriage." --Ms Magazine, 2003
  • "...I wrote poems, that’s what I wrote. I thought about language a lot. That was important to me. That was my teacher. My fiction teacher was poetry." --PEN American Center
  • "The Peace Center was founded on what everybody talked about later: Act locally, think globally. When we started we were doing very local stuff. We liked it because it was simpler, you didn’t always have to be taking trains." Non-Violent Activist, 1999


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This isn't really such an academic Grace post, but Tayari Jones had a wonderful story about Grace on her blog (,
where Grace tells her an MFA will destroy her. So true...

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