Eco-Poems Alicia Ostriker:  GAIA & We Like to Lay Our Heads on Gaia's Breast

           Alicia Ostriker, poet, critic, and activist, was twice a finalist for the National Book Award. Ostriker has published numerous volumes of poetry, including including her latest: The Old Woman, the Tuplip and the Dog  (2015) The Book of Seventy (2009), which received the Jewish National Book Award. Other books of poetry include No Heaven (2005); The Volcano Sequence (2002); Little Space (1998), a finalist for the Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize; The Crack in Everything (1996), which won the Paterson Award and the San Francisco State Poetry Center Award; The Imaginary Lover (1986), winner of the William Carlos Williams Award. She is known for her intelligence and passionate appraisal of women’s place in literature. Her poetry and criticism investigates themes of family, social justice, and personal growth. Her books of criticism include For the Love of God: The Bible as an Open Book (2009), Dancing at the Devil’s Party: Essays on Poetry, Politics, and the Erotic (2000), and Stealing the Language: The Emergence of Women’s Poetry in America (1983). Her writing is provocative, highly imaginative and sometimes iconoclastic of social dogmas and areas of American decadence. She is a treasure of wisdom in her special way. Ostriker has received awards and fellowships from the NEA, the Guggenheim and Rockefeller foundations, the Poetry Society of America, among others. She has taught in the Poetry MFA program of Drew University and New England College. She lives in NY city and is professor emerita of English at Rutgers University.

[Photo credit (c) by 2013 Amy Meier.]


Link to GAIA: video-poem by videographer/ filmmaker Tova Beck-Friedman

Ingratitude after all I have done for them ingratitude 
is the term that springs to mind when I visit your city

when another moist forest is splintered 
chopped paved to extend the ferocious power of the city

or when I smell foul

garbage ringing every city

yet I continue to generate

abundance which they continue to waste in the city

they expect me to go on giving forever

they don’t believe anything I say, not in the city

still I cry aloud with my wet green windy 
hot mouth, far from the city 

I remember when I was young in mind and body 
thunder boomed continually through my body

slashing rain pierced my skin 
I would become mud, pure mud, like a body

Unable to lift itself, struggling 
To free its arms or any part of its body

when like green knives came the grass 
even in pain I enjoyed my body

so full of sensations 
I wanted everyone to admire my body

and now what I want 
is just a little respect for my old body


We like to lay our heads on Gaia's breasts

                                   -- for Daniela Gioseffi

Gaia's breasts pouring milk

the weeds growing out of her hands

the birds and insects flitting up from her scalp

her grey bones challenging our climb

dragon fire from her mouth

her tears--we didn't know a goddess could cry

or that the tears of a goddess could be contaminated

mother please stop it
we do not like to see our mother cry

Copyright (c)2012-2016   by Alicia Ostriker.
All rights including electronic are reserved by the author. Copyright (c) 2016 Video of Gaia by Tova Beck-Friedman. All rights reserved.