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The Talented Ms. Atwood

March 24, 2009

I’m in the middle of reading Margaret Atwood‘s The Blind Assassin and had to come up for air a moment.

It’s fascinating so far and speaking of form (I know it’s an obsession, this form and content thing), the novel within a novel contrivance absolutely works in this case!

I’m convinced her brilliance at poetry informs and magnifies her skill at fiction. Her particular way of phrasing has always exhibited a poetic dimension- you can almost select a section of any of her novels/short stories and easily tighten it (condensing by only a few words) into a well-structured, equally fantastic poem with little to no modification.

I’ll try and post something from this particular novel to illustrate what I mean some other time. For now, here’s a sample of her poetry for those of you who’ve read her fiction but not her poems:

Variation on the Word Sleep
-Margaret Atwood

I would like to watch you sleeping,
which may not happen.
I would like to watch you,
sleeping. I would like to sleep
with you, to enter
your sleep as its smooth dark wave
slides over my head

and walk with you through that lucent
wavering forest of bluegreen leaves
with its watery sun & three moons
towards the cave where you must descend,
towards your worst fear

I would like to give you the silver
branch, the small white flower, the one
word that will protect you
from the grief at the center
of your dream, from the grief
at the center. I would like to follow
you up the long stairway
again & become
the boat that would row you back
carefully, a flame
in two cupped hands
to where your body lies
beside me, and you enter
it as easily as breathing in

I would like to be the air
that inhabits you for a moment
only. I would like to be that unnoticed
& that necessary.
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