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Bravery & Erica Jong

This month I'm having my first experience being published in a national magazine (see link under Articles & Essays).  Because the piece is so intensely personal,  I had braced myself for reader backlash, and it's been head-over-heels rewarding to feel instead like I've moved some people, or made them think about domestic intimacy and female rage from a new perspective. The word of praise I keep hearing is "brave," and I love that, but it also makes me a teeny bit sad, because I have had to be brave at times, more often than I would have liked, and it's been hard. It also makes me think about all the female authors and artists I adore, other women who have been brave and whose stories have completely formed me. 

Recently I was in Austin, Texas, looking at UT with my rising senior (as they say) daughter, and we spent a part of Sunday browsing through antique shops. I came across an old book of poetry, Loveroot, by Erica Jong, originally published in 1968, the year before I was born.  I knew instantly  that I had to have it. Now, let's be clear:  I know NOTHING about poetry. I've never taken a poetry class, never memorized a poem, never carried a poem in my pocket. The extent of my poetry knowledge is the biographies I've read of Anne Sexton and Sylvia Plath. But I adore Erica Jong and always have. I think I've read every prose book she's ever written, starting of course with Fear of Flying when I was 12 or 13. Talk about brave!

I read through the book on the flight home and so many of the poems spoke to me, but this one in particular. It reminds me of myself when I was young, and of my daughters.

She Leaps

She leaps into the alien heart
of the passerby, the drunk
the girl who spouts Freudian talk
over Szechuan food.

She is part herself,
part everyone.
"Thank you for writing the story of my life,"
her mash notes read.
& "Can you tell me how to leave my husband?"
& "Can you tell me how to find a husband?"
& "Can you tell me how to write,
or how to feel,
or how to save my life?"

She knows nothing
but how to leap.
She has no answers for herself
or anyone.

One foot after another,
she flies through the air....

She leaps over cracks
& breaks
her father's back.


and this is Erica's gorgeous photo on the back of the book:

Reader Comments (2)

I was genuinely surprised to find out that ELLE piece was the first you've ever published. I was wondering how I had never heard of you before. It made me really want to read your memoir, I hope it gets published.

May 26, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSherry Sly

Thank you so much :) I'm working on it...

May 26, 2011 | Registered CommenterNina
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