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A. Mary Murphy

PEACOCK, MOLLY (1947- ) Molly Peacock is an advocate for what is often called "expansive poetry," verse that blends formalist and narrative techniques (see new formalism). With the goal of extending poetry's readership by incorporating "novelistic narrative and traditional forms" (Walzer 11), Peacock utilizes rhyme, form, and strict syllabic count to describe and explore life's most trying, tumultuous, and intimate events. She is known for her personal, almost confessional revelations about abusive family relationships, female sexuality, abortion, marriage, and divorce. Influenced by Anne sextons astonishing revelations, Sylvia plath's intense imagery, and Elizabeth bishop's polished language, as well as by feminist activism of the 1960s and 1970s, Peacock clearly stands out as a poet who speaks dispassionately about her experiences without being deadened by shame or regret.

Peacock was born in Buffalo, New York. She received a B.A. from the State University of New York, Bingham-ton, (1969) and later was a Danforth Fellow at Johns Hopkins University (M.A., 1977), where she studied with the poets Cynthia MacDonald and Richard Howard. Peacocks first book of poems among five collections was And Live Apart (1980). She has also published a creative nonfiction memoir, Paradise, Piece by Piece (1998), and a teaching anthology, How to Read a Poem—and Start a Poetry Circle (1999). She has garnered numerous awards, including fellowships from the Ingram Merrill Foundation (1978 and 1988), New York Foundation for the Arts (1985 and 1990), National Endowment for the Arts (1990), Lila Wallace Foundation (1994), and Woodrow Wilson Foundation (1995). Peacock served as president of the Poetry Society of America from 1989-94, during which time she began "Poetry in Motion," a project that mounted hundreds of short poems in New York City subways and became a model for similar programs across the country.

In Paradise: Piece by Piece, Peacock acknowledges that formal poems, such as sonnets, "were poems with happy barriers" and that working out formal poetic "puzzles" afforded her creative freedom and emotional safety (140). For example, in "Say You Love Me" (1989), she uses the terza rima form as the grounding for a description of her father's alcoholic rampage and his drunken insistence on love and obedience. In this poem the family interacts through threats and lies. The child may be forced to profess love and may, indeed, love the father. Nevertheless isolation and loss envelop everyone in the household: The telephone didn't ring. "There was no world out there, / so we remained, completely alone." This poem underscores Peacocks commitment to direct, honest communication, which is the basis for personal relationships, family, and community.

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