Pamela White Hadas

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Pamela White Hadas was born in Holland, Michigan and received her Bachelor, Master and Doctoral degrees from Washington University in St. Louis. She has published four collections of poetry: Passion of Lilith (1976), Designing Women (1979), In Light of Genesis (1980) and Beside Herself (1983) as well as a book of criticism, Marianne Moore: Poet of Affection (1977).

Hadas’ poems employ the dramatic voice of monologue and often function as performance pieces as well as poems. She is recognized for her skill in developing the voice of historic, unusual women, as evidenced particularly in Designing Women and Beside Herself. She has written plays, a libretto, and has co-translated Chekhov’s Three Sisters.

From Miss America Comes Across Her Daughter

Beginning with the mirror


There you are at the three-way mirror, the same
mirror I grew up in, checking left and right
profiles against each other…

On the one hand you see beauty, on the other beast;
and straight ahead, in plain view of the wall
and door behind you,

I stand, spied and spying on you as you make up
a not original daydream palaver, lips closing
round that kissable “no.”

My reflector, my inquisitor, together you and I
are a much of a muchness, a symmetry
of symmetries

and inner mysteries, oracles and fairy tales,
and from Nancy Drew to Madison Avenue–
copies and copies sold–

retold. Ideally it is difficult to tell us
apart, while all told, together, we are
the prime time American

commercial. You are my living doll; I make you
all over in my image, teach you how to:
cross your ankles,

sit tight with a tiny teacup on your knee; play
fair at hopscotch, dips and Sunday school
picnics; eschew hangnails,

babyfat and fast boys; take bubble baths, wish
on star light star bright, pediddles, dandelion
seeds puffed to air;

use lipstick, white lies, charm and embroidery;
be well-dissembled in the eyes of the fathers;
posture, posture…

Now how glad you must be that I made you slave
in beauty’s Siberia from twelve to seventeen, live
that loser-to-looker cliché

that made me, crowned me half my life ago,
your superlative average Miss America:
five foot six

one hundred and eighteen thirty-five twenty-three
thirty-four golden hair blue eyes
that have seen the glory:

the perfect distillation of pride and pain and magic
potions, an Alice who has eaten her way
to the perfect size;

that impostor Goldilocks with her spiritual hair
at home when she’s lost, that connoisseur-of-beds
consumer from nowhere;

Psyche hard pressed to Eros’ arrow, engaged in unrelenting
search from alligator farms to war zones,
from county fairs to teamsters’

conventions, singing “God Bless America,” launching
Mickey Mouse balloons, kissing tame bears;
the little engine

that could, and did. And now, by the mother-daughter-
holy ghost of poise, by diet and deep knee bend
will you also worship

our shape of success, the hourglass figure with its three
minutes of talent, and the fairy tales will
fall right into place

behind you, shining white pebbles to show you home.


Review of Beside Herself: Pocahontas to Patty Hearst by Steven Ratiner. The Christian Science Monitor. 2 September 1983.
Review of Designing Women: Portraits and Poems. Kirkus Review. 31 January 1979.
Excerpt from Marianne Moore: Poet of Affection by Pamela White Hadas. 1977.


Reading with Charles Wright | October 18, 1989