Grace Paley describes herself as a "combative pacifist and cooperative anarchist." Though Begin Againdoes contain some new poems, it could well be described as an excellent retospective of this seasoned poet. A teacher, activist, and National Book Award-winning master of the short story, Paley fashions poems about milkweed pods, Saint John's wort, bees, and ants, as well as poems about El Salvador, Vietnam, and AIDS. War, capitalism, sanitary napkins, old age, and old dogs...no detail is too large or too small. Whether she's writing about New York City or her adopted rural Vermont, Paley speaks with the power of a rebel angel.
A longtime teacher, activist, feminist, and masterful writer of short fiction and essays, Paley is also an accomplished poet. Combining her two previous collections with unpublished work, Begin Again traces the career of a direct, attentive, and always unpredictable poet. Whether describing the vicissitudes of life in New York City or the hard beauty of rural Vermont, whether celebrating the blessings of friendship or protesting against social injustice, her poems brim with compassion and tough good humor.
“She is funny and poignant, a writer of great power and great delicacy. She is one of our finest--and most original--poets.” —Gerald Stern
“What I love most in Grace Paley's poetry is her unquenchable sense that the artist's life is not somewhere at the margins of community, that a dialogue is necessary between the poet and her people. The North American enterprise has injured this dialogue. Paley's exuberant, heartbreaking, committed poems call it back to health.” —Adrienne Rich
“The art that Paley has displayed in her celebrated short stories is generally replaced in her poems by spontaneous, personal speech. These poems provide a tour through Paley's life, telling of her friends, her childhood memories and her struggle to come to terms with age and mortality.” —Adam Kirsch, The New York Times Book Review
“Paley is a master of the short form. . . . Her no-frills poetry, like that of the classic Chinese, speaks worlds with a minimum of words. . . . Paley's attentiveness, wry sense of self, and gift for finding drama in the plainest of moments imbue her poetry with toughness and joy.” —Donna Seaman, Booklist
“In Paley, life, literature and politics converge--nonviolently, of course--in a cunning patchwork quilt of radiance and scruple, witness and example, nurture and nag, subversive humor and astonishing art: a Magical Socialism and a Groucho Marxism.” —John Leonard, The Nation