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N.H.: Stinehour Press, 1963.

Thomas Lisk

HACKER, MARILYN (1942- ) When Marilyn Hacker began publishing her poetry in the late 1960s, free verse had become the poetic standard (see prosody and free verse). The rise of modernism had led to a rejection of received forms by many poets. Hacker's formalism was further complicated by the belief of many in the women's movement that only a rejection of the male poetics of formalism would enable a woman writer to find her own voice (see female voice, female language). That Hacker, a lesbian and social activist, chose to embrace rather than reject what was then viewed as a "masculine" use of the language was courageous, and this act inspired many women poets who came after her.

Born in New York City, Hacker attended the Bronx High School of Science, skipping her senior year to enroll in New York University at 15. She left college and married the science-fiction writer samuel Delany in 1961, later returning to graduate in 1964. Hacker and Delany had one child, Iva, about whom Hacker has written with grace and beauty; they subsequently divorced. Hackers first book of poetry, Presentation Piece (the 1973 Lamont Poetry Selection of the Academy of American Poets), was published in 1974 and won the National Book Award. The author of nine books of poetry, Hacker has served as editor for a number of publications, including the feminist journal 13th Moon (1982-86) and Kenyon Review (1990-94), and has translated the contemporary poetry of venus Khoury-Ghata and Claire Malroux from the French into English. Among her numerous other awards are the Lenore Marshall Literary Award in poetry (1991 and 1995) and the John Masefield Memorial Award (1994). Hacker has taught at a number of colleges and universities, including Brandeis, Barnard, Columbia, and the City College of New York.

In her sonnet sequence Separations (1976), Hacker directly addresses her use of received poetic forms. In "Sonnet VI," rhyme is her "homely lover" and meter the sound of this lovers boots that "scuff up the stairs." In the sonnet's final couplet, Hacker imagines that others may some day come to love her "homely lover" too. In "Ballad of Ladies Lost and Found" (1985), Hacker demonstrates how received form can be reclaimed by women writers. Hackers poem is a witty response to François Villon's "The Ballad of Dead Ladies" (1461) and answers that poem's ubi sunt theme ("where are those who have passed now?") by showing that the women have always been here, not dead but lost, because they were overlooked. In Hackers poem the women are found through the poet's act of naming each of them within the verse: "Make your own footnotes; it will do you good," Hacker writes, telling women to continue to name themselves, to place themselves in the world so that they do not become lost—or unheard.

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