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Thinking of Grace

With all that's happening in Gaza, and with yesterday's arrests of eight Jewish women who were peacefully protesting outside of the Israeli consulate in Toronto, I can't help but think of Grace Paley.

Her courage, activism, anti-war poetry, and unwavering support for peaceful change -- always expressed with a Jewish feminist sensibility -- is sorely needed right now. And so, in an effort to find a bit of hope and reason in this time of violence and chaos, I took a moment to re-read Paley's poem "Responsibility" ...

It is the responsibility of society to let the poet be a poet
It is the responsibility of the poet to be a woman
It is the responsibility of the poet to stand on street corners
giving out poems and beautifully written leaflets
also leaflets you can hardly bear to look at
because of the screaming rhetoric
It is the responsibility of the poet to be lazy
to hang out and prophesy
It is the responsibility of the poet not to pay war taxes
It is the responsibility of the poet to go in and out of ivory
towers and two-room apartments on Avenue C
and buckwheat fields and army camps
It is the responsibility of the male poet to be a woman
It is the responsibility of the female poet to be a woman
It is the poet's responsibility to speak truth to power as the
Quakers say
It is the poet's responsibility to learn the truth from the
powerless
It is the responsibility of the poet to say many times: there is no
freedom without justice and this means economic
justice and love justice
It is the responsibility of the poet to sing this in all the original
and traditional tunes of singing and telling poems
It is the responsibility of the poet to listen to gossip and pass it
on in the way storytellers decant the story of life
There is no freedom without fear and bravery there is no
freedom unless
earth and air and water continue and children
also continue
It is the responsibility of the poet to be a woman to keep an eye on
this world and cry out like Cassandra, but be
listened to this time.

Topics: Poetry
1 Comment
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Grace Paley certainly came to mind for me, too, when I read the article yesterday.

How to cite this page

Namerow, Jordan. "Thinking of Grace." 8 January 2009. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on December 16, 2019) <https://jwa.org/blog/thinking-of-grace>.

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