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Selected Poems: 1965-1975 - Margaret Atwood
Is there anything this woman can't do? I don't think so. Some things are better than others, and not everything engages, but she's remarkable and a favorite.

No one maps the terrain of intimate relationships quite like she does, and over the years I've appreciated the release her words have provided during many inarticulate moments. That's what poetry does best, or should -- it articulates depths of feeling and experience for which most us can find no words.

Atwood's stories often do that as well, and her poems strike me as stories translated into verse, crafted from the rawest and sweetest and strangest and truest bits.

The following are a few passages from this,
my favorite collection,
and I think they will especially resonate with,
you know who you are.


yes at first you
go down smooth as
pills, all of me
breathes you in and then it's

a kick in the head, orange
and brutal, sharp jewels
hit and my
hair splinters

the adjectives
fall away from me, no
threads left holding
me, I flake apart
layer by
layer down
quietly to the bone, my skull
unfolds to an astounded flower

regrowing the body, learning
speech again takes
days and longer
each time
too much of this
is fatal


I remember that
you said
in childhood you were
a tracer of maps
(not making but) moving
a pen or a forefinger
over the courses of the rivers,
the different colors
that mark the rise of mountains;
a memorizer
of names (to hold
these places
in their proper places)

So now you trace me
like a country's boundary
or a strange new wrinkle in
your own well-known skin
and I am fixed, stuck
down on the outspread map
of this room, of your mind's continent


An other sense tugs at us:
we have lost something,
some key to these things
which must be writings
and are locked against us
or perhaps (like a potential
mine, unknown vein
of metal in the rock)
something not lost or hidden
but just not found yet

that informs, holds together
this confusion, this largeness
and dissolving:

not above or behind
or within it, but one
with it: an

something too huge and simple
for us to see.