Wednesday, July 30, 2008

"Spelling" by Margaret Atwood

It has been far too long since I've posted a poem. I thought I'd share the poem where "A Word After a Word" was really born--what can I say? Is any idea ever actually original? Atwood was one of my first approachable contemporary poets. This poem speaks to me about the significance of words and language in my own life, in a human life. About what it means to be a woman. About power.

by Margaret Atwood

My daughter plays on the floor
with plastic letters,
red, blue & hard yellow,
learning how to spell,
how to make spells.

I wonder how many women
denied themselves daughters,
closed themselves in rooms,
drew the curtains
so they could mainline words.

A child is not a poem,
a poem is not a child.
there is no either/or.

I return to the story
of the woman caught in the war
& in labour, her thighs tied
together by the enemy
so she could not give birth.

Ancestress: the burning witch,
her mouth covered by leather
to strangle words.

A word after a word
after a word is power.

At the point where language falls away
from the hot bones, at the point
where the rock breaks open and darkness
flows out of it like blood, at
the melting point of granite
when the bones know
they are hollow & the word
splits & doubles & speaks
the truth & the body
itself becomes a mouth.

This is a metaphor.

How do you learn to spell?
Blood, sky & the sun,
your own name first,
your first naming, your first name,
your first word.


Jen said...

I once thought I could write poetry. Then I started reading what other people wrote, and decided I'd rather read that than mine any day. Thanks for something more good to read.

Kimmy said...

I felt like I was in my senior english class in high school again. I have to admit that it takes me a long time to understand a lot of poetry, but certain phrases and words popped out to me and made me ponder a bit in this one. It's got a lot of great stuff about it. I can see why you like it.

Mrs. Bennett said...

Interpret, please!

Alice said...

I always wondered where that came from.

Remember a few Christmas ago when I picked a great poetry book for you by PURE accident. I picked it because the color looked pretty, and her name sounded like it might be a good one. The truth: I have NO idea what I am doing when it comes to poetry.

Rie Pie said...

'the body itself becomes a mouth' I've never heard this poem before. I love it!! Motherhood is such a deep concept. I hope that one day I will get to understand it.