190 words about Riot Grrrl

Trawling with a fine net in the depths

Self-proclaimed poets are an often proud, occasionally irritating bunch with a conviction gleaned from the idea that intentionally working at (and pushing against) the limits of language and understanding is somehow elevated from the rest of us. Riot Grrrl makes no such pretension. A scattered, far-reaching collection from Marge Piercy’s early decades of writing, it comes with a dedication to “all the grrrls whose zines and music and manifestoes I have enjoyed,” urging them to remember their anger, their joy. But far from any vivid man-hating broken verse or splatters of affirming written noise as progenitors of Bikini Kill or Team Dresch, what I found instead is a young woman’s grappling with the universally relatable challenge of coming into your own. “The Meaningful Exchange” might be the best poem here, but it’s not really indicative of what’s to follow. Riot Grrrl is almost disorienting in its reverse chronology; rather than ending on a sustained note of enlightened passion, you’re left with Piercy’s embryonic form and, as if to trouble the timeline further, a whole section of poems spanning an unspecified period. Its depth is what makes it, and her, great.