Friday, October 19, 2012

I Wish I'd Written This


Once I aspired to
Humble black turtleneck sweaters
And spare unheated rooms
With the Kama Sutra, a few madrigals, and
Great literature and philosophy.

Once I considered money
Something to be against
On the grounds that
Credit cards, 
Installment-plan buying,
And a joint checking account
Could never coexist with
Great literature and philosophy.

Once I believed 
That the only kind of marriage I could respect
Was a spiritual relationship
Between two wonderfully spiritual human beings
Who would never argue about money
Because they would be too busy arguing about
Great literature and philosophy.

I changed my mind,
Having discovered that

Spiritual is hard without the cash
To pay the plumber to unstop the sink
And pay a lady to come clean and iron
So every other Friday I can think about
Great literature and philosophy.

No one ever offers us a choice
Between the Kama Sutra and a yacht.
We're always selling out for diaper service
And other drab necessities that got ignored in
Great literature and philosophy.

A jug of wine, a loaf of bread, and thou
No longer will suffice. I must confess
My consciousness is frequently expanded
By Diner's Club, American Express, and things undreamed of in
Great Literature and philosophy.

I saw us walking hand in hand through life,
But now it's clear we really need two cars.
I looked with such contempt at power mowers,
And now, alas, that power mower's ours.
It seems I'm always reaching for my charge plates,
When all I'd planned to reach for were the stars,
Great literature and philosophy.

(from It's Hard to be Hip Over Thirty and Other Tragedies of Married Life)

I fell in love with Judith Viorst in 1968 when this book was first published. I wasn't the only one. In 1970 The Australian Women's Weekly published my equal-favourite Viorst poem, 'A Women's Liberation Movement Woman', which was later published in her next book, People and Other Aggravations, in 1973. Of course I bought that book as well. 

It was very unusual for the Weekly to publish any poetry, let alone by a non-Australian. Her poetry became very popular in England too. A reviewer described her work as 'wickedly funny'. I agree. It was topical, of her era, but I trust not too long ago to be well understood.

Only a few years older than me, I think she totally spoke for Western women of my generation — well, the educated, middle class ones anyway. (I majored in English Literature and Philosophy at university, and later experienced suburban wife-and-motherhood ... like so many others. I certainly had the black turtle-necks.)

Of the two poems I was tossing up between, I chose this because I couldn't find it anywhere else online. There are some others — though not enough! — at PoemHunter.

The internet informs me that she is best known for her books for children. She has also written a number of other poetry books which I was unaware of. The (online) blurb from her publisher, Simon and Schuster, says:

Judith Viorst was born and brought up in New Jersey, graduated from Rutgers University, moved to Greenwich Village, and has lived in Washington, D.C., since 1960, when she married Milton Viorst, a political writer. They have three sons and seven grandchildren. Viorst writes in many different areas: science books, children’s picture books, adult fiction and nonfiction, poetry for children and adults, and three musicals, which are still performed on stages around the country. She is best known for her beloved picture book, Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.

Wikipedia notes that she is also a journalist and a psychoanalytic researcher.

This talented woman is a prolific writer, and her books (listed at Wikipedia) are available on Amazon.

Poems and photos used in ‘I Wish I’d Written This’ remain the property of the copyright holders (usually their authors).


  1. Good one Judith. You make me realise that being retired and independent has it's benefits. I can live a life of poetry and art philosophy because I took care of the Barclaycards and Visa cards when I was younger. And.... apart from the usual aches and pains... there's far less distraction! Thank you, I enjoyed reading this.
    Best ~ Res Burman

  2. GREAT choice, Rosemary. I love her witty voice, and how she repeats the salient line throughout the poem. I remember reading her back in the day.

  3. I love her writing--always honest. I read Necessary Losses not too long ago and really enjoyed it

    1. Audrey, I saw much mention of that book when researching this post. Sounds like one to get!

  4. Rosemary, I LOVE Judith Viorst, whom I first discovered via children's literature. She possesses a unique sense of humor and shares her fresh point of view in all her work. This particular poem is so very relatable to nearly all women over the age of thirty. Brilliant choice.

  5. Love it! The idea of being a poor, starving artist is only attractive when you're not actually a poor, starving artist! It's the image most seek, not the reality.

  6. *Chuckle.* I'm glad she still speaks to so many besides me.

  7. Fantastic post as usually Rosemary.
    I love the poem you chose so full of honestly.


This community is not meant to be used in a negative manner. We ask that you be respectful of all the people on this site as each individual writer is entitled to their own opinion, style, and path to creativity.

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.

Blog Archive