Portraits of Women
In this collection, Julie Fay uses narrative poetry to paint meaningful scenes lifted from history and personal experience to create a work that examines the lives of American women. The first section, entitled “Burlington Homestead,” describes an American family’s struggle to make a place for themselves in nineteenth-century southern Iowa, faced with the challenges of both the physical world and the inner world of personal desire. Part Two, “Sarah’s Story,” is about a young woman’s need to leave her marriage in order to discover herself and her art. Both sections analyze a woman’s role in time and place. Marilyn Hacker states in the introduction that this collection is “. . . all the more remarkable considering the range of places [the] book traverses: grasshoppers overwhelming a field of squash blossoms, wild azaleas blooming along a mountain streambed, the lunar landscape of a limestone col. Strongest of all, perhaps, is her more intimate range: the evocation of those gestures that define and preserve our humanity . . .”
The full text of Julie Fay’s Portraits of Women is stored at Albertson Library at Boise State University, and can be downloaded here. The book is out of print.
For At Least Seeds
Eliza, at times God shows mercy:
You’re not here to see the southwest field
Naked as it is. We never talked
About love, but I was always thinking
To tell you sometime when we walked
Before sunset. You’d cry to stand here now,
The fields look all burned.
Today we commenced to shovel the
Bugs away. The children are strong. Leck
Went to town for at least seeds
For your vegetable garden and came back
With reports: The trains stalled.
Hoppers a foot thick
Coming over riverbanks like a flood.
Eliza, when you died I didn’t cry,
But these times could make a sane man
Crazy. Sometimes I imagine you here,
Walking with me and marking off
Each damaged acre.
Copyright © 1991 by Julie Fay
Julie Fay was born in 1951 in Baltimore, Maryland. She grew up in Washington, D.C., California, Michigan, Toronto, and Connecticut. She holds degrees from Bradford College, the University of Connecticut, Arizona State University, and the University of Arizona. Since 1981, she has been on the English faculty at East Carolina University in Greenville, North Carolina, where she teaches writing and American and women's literature. She has lived and traveled widely in France, Italy, Spain, Hungary, and Ireland. She is currently translating the work of the contemporary Belgian poet, Guy Goffette, and working on a novel about witches, wives, and Wamponoags in the 20th and 17th centuries. The novel is based on the life of her ancestor Hannah Dustin.