Personal Response to Marge Piercy’s A Work of ArtificeMy initial response to “A Work of Artifice” by Marge Piercy, was one of profound sadness. In defining myself as the actual reader of this poem, my background becomes significant in my emotional response. “It is this reader who comes to the text shaped by cultural and personal norms and prejudices.” (Bressler, p. 72) I come from a family of poets and published writers and have been reading and composing poetry since the age of 4. My first poem was published in the local newspaper, in which I won first prize, at age 5. I have experienced all kinds of texts, as well as many different forms of art.Being exposed to art and literature at such a young age has given me a wide variety of experiences and a huge cultural repertoire. I have even been to Pablo Picasso’s home studio in France a number of years ago.
What strikes the familiar chord in me through this poem, however, lies not in my cultural repertoire nor my literary background, but my own recent personal background. Having spent many years in an abusive relationship, I can identify with this poem on a very sensitive level. “It is your nature/ to be small and cozy,/ domestic and weak” (12-14). Throughout history, women have been subjected to prejudice and discrimination as the “weaker” sex, oft times becoming subservient to their husbands, bosses, etc. Men have been dominant for years, and in such, have squeezed the role of woman into the domestic realm, that which they believed to be “woman’s work.” Experiencing this first hand, although I did work two jobs to support a non-working husband and three children, I have felt a sense of weakness and being oppressed or kept down, kept small, which is the essence of this poem. The idea here represents the cultural norm (although this has changed in our culture today) of keeping women from speaking their mind by relegating them to purely domestic chores of little importance.
I found no key gaps within this poem on a personal level, although I can define some that would occur should a reader not be familiar with the concept of bonsai trees. My father has grown bonsai trees for many many years, thus the concept of pruning back and stunting the growth of such trees has been in my cultural and personal repertoire since childhood.