Tuesday, July 8, 2008


In class today, my teacher introduced this poem which I really enjoyed. There are so many more deeper levels than it seems on the surface, and it takes a closer reading to really understand all the references. Those poems, I think, are the best.'

This is Margaret Atwood's poem, "Spelling:"

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.

I don't want to ruin this poem for anyone or give away any meanings, so I would just think of these couple of things: Why the title? What does "spelling" imply? The images throughout can help expose a possible meaning for "spelling." Even think about how the word changes in the first stanza. That's all I'll say.

I really do enjoy Margaret Atwood; I've only read a couple of her poems and The Handmaid's Tale, and today I was told that she wrote the book version of The Princess Bride. Her works can be kind of creepy or super-fem, but I really like her. I like the oddity and the crazy comparisons. She's a smart lady.

So what do you think of the poem? of Margaret Atwood?

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