The poem I love best, the poem that I want to memorize and memorialize is: To be of use by Marge Piercy. I discovered this poem to share with Kendra, a young friend who graduated from college. She wants a career that allows her to give back to society so the title caught my attention. Kendra, like me, seeks meaningful work; this poem not only speaks to Kendra, it speaks to me as well; it has since become my favorite poem. The title, To be of use, is appropriate for this piece—Piercy goes on to sing the praises of hard work. I grew up in a blue-collar working class family where my values about work were set at a very young age. Both my parents worked long hours and held down multiple jobs. My father was a welder, my mother a seamstress. All six of us children had numerous responsibilities to keep our family intact; additionally, we were expected to earn our own money by the time we became double digits at the age of 10. My parents instilled a strong work ethic in us, for which I am eternally grateful. Piercy’s poem honors the workers of the world, especially those who do the dirty work-- the low prestige jobs that afford high wages for those on top of the work pyramid.
This poem is written in four stanzas from the first person point of view. The first three stanzas include the phrases “I love” and “I want” which makes the reader believe in Piercy’s sincerity about her subject. Furthermore, the first person point of view has the effect of drawing the reader in. It makes me feel like she’s talking directly to me. The fourth and last stanza is more reflective and conveys her values about work: it must be well done, purposeful, and meaningful. This structure encourages the reader to be reflective about his/her own attitudes about work. The overall tone of this poem is respectful and reverential. Examples include “The people I love the best jump into work head first….harness themselves….submerge in the task...” along with “the thing worth...
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