Archive for the ‘Judith Viorst’ Category

I don’t read poetry.  I want to, I try to, but my success rate is embarrassingly low.  My form teacher in Grades 7 and 8 was a very serious Byron devotee, so much so that she wrote a book about him (Byron Tonight: A Poet’s Plays on the Nineteenth Century Stage by Margaret Howell).  We were even conscripted into a letter-writing campaign for the conservation of Newstead Abbey.  Being twelve years old, we had no interest or knowledge of Byron and I can’t say that the frankly odd associations from that period have ever disappeared.  The Romantics in general are not for me, I haven’t been able to stomach Tennyson since I was an overly romantic preteen, and Beat poetry leaves me cold.  There have been a few exceptions: Dorothy Parker most notably, but my prejudice against the form remains.

However, after reading Verity’s review last week, I knew I had to give It’s Hard to Be Hip Over Thirty by Judith Viorst a go and I’m so glad I did.  The edition I was able to obtain from the library was not a lovely Persephone one but an ultra-retro, orange and black one from 1970 (for ‘retro’, read ‘hideous’).  Even that was not able to mar my enjoyment!

It’s Hard to Be Hip Over Thirty is a short book of deeply domestic poems, dealing with very personal struggles to adjust to life as a wife and mother.  They are hilarious.  Dated at times, yes (oh tranquilizers, your days are long gone), but the essentials, the things that make the poems so touching and recognizable, do not change.  The fear of moving to the suburbs and losing your identity as an urbane city-dweller?  More than covered, beginning with “The Suburbs Are Good for the Children.”  The mother who, even after you’re married, keeps reminding you about that nice bachelor she knows, who is so much preferable to you spouse?  That’s Freddie of course, universally known as “A Good Catch.”

And even though they made me laugh out loud, many of the poems also resonated emotionally, like “Married Is Better”, as I am still the bachelor-girl who, deep in her heart, believes that “married is better”:

And married is better
Than the subway plus a crosstown bus every morning,
And tuna on toasted cheese bread, no lettuce, at Schraff’s,
And a bachelor-girl apartment with burlap and foam rubber and a few droll touches like a Samurai sword in the bathroom,
And going to the movies alone,
And worrying that one morning you’ll wake up and discover you’re an older woman,
And always projecting wholesome sexuality combined with independence, femininity, and tons of outside interests,
And never for a minute letting on
That deep in your heart you believe
Married is better.

Whether you enjoy poetry or, like me, are deeply skeptical of it, I urge you to give this volume a try.  It’s very short but delightful and was immediately added to my “To Purchase” list.  Me.  Buying a book of poetry.  The mind boggles.

I couldn’t resist ending this post without an excerpt from my perhaps my favourite poem in the book, “True Love”:

It is true love because
I put on eyeliner and a concerto and make pungent observations about the great issues of the day
Even when there’s no one here but him,
And because
I do not resent watching the Green Bay Packer
Even though I am philosophically opposed to football,
And because
When he is late for dinner and I know he must be either having an affair or lying dead in the middle of the street,
I always hope he’s dead…

…It’s true love because
When he went to San Francisco on business while I had to stay home with the painters and the exterminator and the baby who was getting the chicken pox,
He understood why I hated him,
And because
When I said that playing the stock market was juvenile and irresponsible and then the stock I wouldn’t let him buy went up twenty-six points,
I understood why he hated me,
And because
Despite cigarette cough, tooth decay, acid indigestion, dandruff, and other features of married life that tend to dampen the fires of passion,
We still feel something
We can call
True love.


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