NCLA: Marilyn Hacker talk

Embarrassingly, I had not read or even heard of Marilyn Hacker’s work before – and for that I am ashamed. Marilyn Hacker is an intensely intelligent, kind, passionate human being – her work is fluid, beautiful and (most importantly) refreshingly, brutally truthful.

At 72 years old, Hacker is an American poet, translator, critic and retired professor, dividing her time between New York and Paris. Her work is political, personal and unavoidably intimate. Hacker cut to the chase from the moment she got on stage – announcing that she had in fact been in Paris last weekend (Friday 13th), only been a few streets away from the terror.

From there, Hacker appropriately opened with several poems about the city of Paris. Intelligent, lyrical, strong and necessary words. I think what was prominent throughout the evening, and throughout her work is that although some of the subject matter is difficult (although timeless); ultimately kindness prevails – she has so much love.

She spoke of solidarity, support and admiration of her fellow female writers – particularly for Adrienne Rich, in which Hacker declared: ‘She was our conscience, but she died too early.’ This solidarity and appreciation, rather than competitive rivalry I think remains an inspiration as well as a reminder of how we should be treating our colleagues within these creative industries. Love, support, encourage and respect.

Character burst from the pages, the excitement and passion was enchanting, infectious. Time slipped away. She speaks deeper than simply from the heart; it comes from the pit of her stomach, rising through her whole body as her lungs project such passion and truthfulness. Such human descriptions; appreciative of people, of life, of the wonderful ordinariness and extraordinary of the mundane. Joy, peace, uncertainty and sadness rolled off her tongue, off her lips with secret smiles.

My sister turned to me after the applause died down, in awe: “I think I’ve found my new favourite person.”

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