Marilyn Hacker’s Selected Poems 1965-1990

Marilyn Hacker’s Selected Poems 1965-1990

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Marilyn Hacker’s Selected Poems 1965-1990


Without question, I found Selected Poems to be the most challenging book we've read for this class.

Strangely enough, in my rush to finish this book, I remained certain that somewhere in this often unsettling collection Marilyn Hacker would find a way to touch a cord or demand a response. When I reached Towards Autumn, the picture finally cleared and crystallized, and I realized I had arrived.

Towards Autumn
Thinking of her's (the daughter) like thinking of a lover
I hope will someday grow to be a friend.
I missed the words to make friends with my mother.
--pg 139

At this moment, it seems that a crossroads has been reached; hope for the future coupled with a recognition of past failure. In this case, we see the writer in the role of mother and daughter, simultaneously. What this excerpt does not make clear, however, is the fact that Hacker seems to have spent her life (if one is correct in assuming the use of "I" throughout her work is a reference to herself) failing to find the words she needed to connect with others. Based on her inability to find "the words" in her personal relationships, her success in becoming friends with her daughter is uncertain.

If one considers the less-than-ideal relationship Hacker shared not only with her mother but also with Iva (see following excerpt*), we might ask, "Is the connection between mothers and daughters cyclical or lineal?" If cyclical, then one might be inclined to assume Hacker will be unable to realize her goal (to one day be friends with her daughter).

*Taking Notice
. . . In
another room, my daughter, home from school,
audibly murmurs `spanking, stupid, angry
voice'--a closet drama where I am
played secondhand to unresisting doll
daughters. Mother and daughter both, I see
myself, the furious and unforgiven;
myself, the terrified and terrible;
the child punished into autonomy;
the unhealed woman hearing her own voice damn
her to the nightmares of the brooding girl.
--pg. 133 Taking Notice

On the other hand, if one ascribes to the lineal school of thought, Hacker may, in fact, be able to break the cycle of her past and create a bridge to her daughter.

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We find the following passage later in Towards Autumn.

. . . Befriend
yourself: I couldn't have known to tell my mother
that, unless I'd learned it for myself.
Until I do. Friendship is earned. A lover
leaps into faith. Earthbound women share bread;
make; do. . .
--pg 140

The topic of most of her work is concentrated more on herself and relationships that do not involve her daughter. Though "Iva's Birthday" is charming, both "Third Snowfall" and "Geography" seem to hint at an underlying annoyance with Iva.
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