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Selected Poetry of Molly Peacock (1947-)


from Representative Poetry On-line
Prepared by members of the Department of English at the University of Toronto
from 1912 to the present and published by the University of Toronto Press from 1912 to 1967.
RPO Edited by Ian Lancashire
A UTEL (University of Toronto English Library) Edition
Published by the Web Development Group, Information Technology Services, University of Toronto Libraries
© 2004, Ian Lancashire for the Department of English, University of Toronto

Image of Molly Peacock

Index to poems

  1. Altruism
  2. A Favor of Love
  3. Good Girl
  4. Good-bye Hello in the East Village 1993
  5. Have You Ever Faked an Orgasm?
  6. I Must Have Learned This Somewhere
  7. The Lull
  8. My God Why Are You Crying?
  9. The Spell
  10. That Leaf
  11. Yes


Notes on Life and Works

Molly Peacock was born June 30, 1947, in Buffalo, New York, and grew up there. After obtaining her B.A. (magna cum laude) from the State University of New York at Binghamton in 1969, and her M.A. (with honors) at Johns Hopkins University, she worked in academic administration at Johns Hopkins for seven years before turning full-time to the writing of poetry. She was poet-in-residence for the Delaware State Arts Council in Wilmington from 1978 to 1981, at Bucknell University from 1993 to 1994, and the University of Western Ontario from 1995 to 1996, and she now has this position at the Poets' Corner at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, New York City. Between her first volume of poems in 1980 and Cornucopia in 2002, Molly Peacock has been, to use the title of one of her most moving poems, the "Good Girl" of modern American poetry. She has an inexhaustible capacity for nourishing the public life of the spirit through the love of poetry. From 1975 to 1989, her poetry took roots in eight years' creative study at two of the oldest American artists' colonies, MacDowell (in the Monadnock region, New Hampshire) and Yaddo (at Saratoga Springs, New York). Beginning in the mid-1980s, Molly Peacock served as visiting lecturer at the YMCA in New York, Hofstra University, Columbia University, Barnard College, New York University, Sarah Lawrence College, Unterberg Poetry Center, and the University of Toronto School of Continuing Studies. Her life became especially public when, from 1989 to 1995, she served as President of the Poetry Society of America. Molly Peacock then nurtured its transformative Poetry in Motion project into being. Many cities now offer poems freely to their citizens in subway cars and buses all over America. Over the years, she has received many awards and fellowships: Creative Artists Public Service (1977), Ingram Merrill Foundation (1981), New York Foundation for the Arts (1985, 1990), National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship (1990), Lila Wallace Fellowship (1994), and Woodrow Wilson (five times).

Associated with the New Formalist movement of American women poets, Molly Peacock has a knack for writing so naturally that we may be surprised to find in her poems some difficult poetic forms (such as the rare telestich in "The Spell,", and the sonnet lurking in "The Lull"). Yet what makes Molly Peacock so wonderful a writer is that her poems make readers from all walks of life feel both that she confides in them, like a best friend, and that she is listening to them. She writes in How to Read a Poem ... and Start a Poetry Circle:

... the voice of the poem allows us to hear ourselves. It can be a great comfort to hear our own voices emanating through the letters of words that come from someone else. But it can also produce confusion, because we do not always allow ourselves to hear our inner voice and are alarmed by its sound. That is why we say our poets speak for us. Certain poems allow you to feel what you mean, even though you cannot dare to say what that is yourself.
To read the poems of Molly Peacock with care is to accept a dare. The risk that dare entails is a catch in the throat, and a sudden welling up of feelings we did not think we had.

Biographical information

Given name: Molly
Family name: Peacock
Birth date: 30 June 1947
Nationality: American
Family relations
          husband: Jeremy Benton (from 1970 to 1976)
          husband: Michael Groden (from 19 August 1992)
Education
          State University of New York at Binghamton to 1969
          Johns Hopkins University (M.A.) to 1977
Residences
          Buffalo, New York: 1947
          New York City: 1981
          Toronto: 2002
First RPO edition: 2004