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Women Whose Lives Are Food, Men Whose Lives Are Money: Poems

Women Whose Lives Are Food, Men Whose Lives Are Money 

Author: Joyce Carol Oates
Illustrator: Elizabeth Hansell
Publisher: Louisiana State University Press
Year: 1978
Length: 80 pages


Publisher's Blurb

Joyce Carol Oates's fifth volume of poems, like its predecessors, centers on her remarkable and paradoxical vision of the intense intimacy between the self on one hand and nature and history on the other. Whatever happens in nature—whether in the physiological processes of the body, or in the vast processes of wind and water—happens in history. This is the condition of mass technological modern society, and it is, in Oates's vision, notably the condition of American society.

Women Whose Lives Are Food, Men Whose Lives Are Money may well be the most substantial poetic work of the woman who, according to Newsweek "belongs to that small group of writers who keep alive the central ambitions and energies of literature." It is a culminating work—one that augments the themes and craftsmanship of the poems of her previous four volumes. Its structure is a movement from what might be called the center of everyday selves outward into the mysterious metamorphoses of self in life and death, outward to the historical context of the self, and finally outward to the mystery of our disappearance into one another.


  • Women Whose Lives Are Food, Men Whose Lives Are Money
  • Visionary Adventures of a Wild Dog Pack
  • Hauled from River, Sunday 8 A.M.
  • Former Movie Queen, Dying of Cancer, Watches an Old Movie of Hers at a Film Festival in San Francisco
  • The Eternal Children
  • From the Dark Side of the Earth
  • Lovers Asleep
  • The Spectre
  • The Lovers
  • Fever Song
  • Addiction
  • Last Harvest
  • Holy Saturday
  • Skyscape
  • Metamorphoses
  • The Demons
  • At the Seashore
  • After Sunset
  • Guilt
  • Abandoned Airfield, 1977
  • If You Must Go and I must Stay
  • There Are Those Who Die
  • Pretty Death
  • The Suicide
  • The Broken Man
  • Enigma
  • Ice Age
  • Coronary Thrombosis
  • Preventing the Death of the Brain
  • Rumpled Bed
  • The Resurrection of the Dead
  • Happy Birthday
  • Public Outcry
  • American Independence
  • Gala Power Blackout of New York City, July '77
  • The Noisy Sorrowful Ones
  • Revelations
  • At Peace, at Rest
  • Wealthy Lady
  • He Traveled by Jet First Class to Tangier
  • The Creation
  • Not-being
  • Love Poem
  • That
  • An Infant's Song
  • In Medias Res
  • Earth-Rituals
  • Fertilizing the Continent
  • Many Are Called


The Lovers

Locked in love as the sky to its mock color
in a frieze of love like beauty in ancient profile
the lovers are a blantant litany
the lovers are hoarse with shouting of each other
their zeal eyeless and terrible
their moods promiscuous
as shiny black flies

Locked in love like the glowing bodies of wrestlers
in a panic of love as God pushes from every pore
the lovers laugh shrilly
the lovers see nothing funny
locked in love they are immortal
they are writhing in pain

Unlocked they would be like us
like us faintly quizzical
full-faced and glad of borders, walls,
ceilings, sills,
margins and boundaries and floors
and knowing what we are not

Locked in love they are tortured by Furies of thought:
Should one fail, what would the other do?
Should one lose faith, how would the other survive?
Mere death would canonize them
it is not mere death they fear

it is not mere death they fear


  • Publisher's Weekly, May 29, 1978, p. 47
  • Kirkus Reviews, July 1, 1978, p. 744
  • Virginia Quarterly Review, Autumn 1978, p. 145
  • Library Journal, October 1, 1978, p. 1988
  • Choice, December 1978, p. 1371
  • Stand, 1979, v20 n3 p. 73
  • New York Times Book Review, April 29, 1979, p. 15, 59
  • World Literature Today, Summer 1979, p. 512

    Women Whose Lives Are Food