Friday, December 18, 2009

What Every Woman Knows, a poem by Phyllis McGinley.

Post 394 - Phyllis McGinley (1905 - 1978) was an American poet who wrote about the positive aspects of suburban life. She was born in Ontario, Oregon and studied at the University of Southern California and the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, graduating in 1927. Her poems were published in The American Scholar, The Commonweal, The Critic, Good Housekeeping, Harper's Magazine, Ladies' Home Journal, Mademoiselle, The New Yorker, The Reader's Digest, The Saturday Evening Post, The Saturday Review, The Sign, Woman's Day and the New York Herald Tribune among others. In 1955, she was elected a member of the National Academy of Arts and Letters. In 1961 she won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry; in 1964 she was honored with the Laetare Medal by the University of Notre Dame. She received a number of honorary Doctor of Letters degrees (Boston College, Dartmouth College, Marquette University, St. John's University, Smith College, Wheaton College, Wilson College, among others) as well as the Catholic Book Club's Campion Award (1967), and the Catholic Institute of the Press Award (1960). She also appeared on the cover of Time in 1965.

W. H. Auden praised her poetry and found in her a singular and accessible voice. “I start a sentence: ‘The poetry of Phyllis McGinley is . . .,’ and there I stick,” he wrote, “for all I wish to say is ‘. . . is the poetry of Phyllis McGinley.'”

What Every Woman Knows by Phyllis McGinley

When little boys are able
To comprehend the flaws
In their December fable
And part with Santa Claus,
Although I do not think they grieve,
How burningly they disbelieve!

They cannot wait, they cannot rest
For knowledge nibbling at the breast.
They cannot rest, they cannot wait
To set conniving parents straight.

Branding that comrade as a dunce
Who trusts the saint they trusted once,
With rude guffaw and facial spasm
They publish their iconoclasm,
And find particularly shocking
The thought of hanging up a stocking.

But little girls (no blinder
When faced by mortal fact)
Are cleverer and kinder
And brimming full of tact.
The knowingness of little girls
Is hidden underneath their curls.

Agnostics born but Bernhardts bred,
They hang their stockings by the bed,
Make plans, and pleasure their begetters
By writing Santa lengthy letters,
Only too well aware the fruit
Is shinier plunder, richer loot.

For little boys are rancorous
When robbed of any myth,
And spiteful and cantankerous
To all their kin and kith.
But little girls can draw conclusions
And profit from their lost illusions.

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