Thursday, November 29, 2012

Margaret Atwood "Is/Not" Provides NaNoWriMo Procrastination

I just found this blog, Poetry Post, through Twitter.  It will bear more exploration in the future... meanwhile, the entry I linked here has a wonderful poem I hadn't read by one of my favorite authors, Margaret Atwood.  I haven't read much of her poetry, actually.  Mostly novels and short stories, and I'm way behind the times.  Although I did see recently that she is co-writing a zombie serial novel with another writer, which will be published online (or has been already) [Note to self: Find the link and put it on here later.]

I hope this is an accurate copy of the poem.  You know how it is, finding poems online.  You never know...

by Margaret Atwood
Love is not a profession
genteel or otherwise
sex is not dentistry
the slick filling of aches and cavities

you are not my doctor
you are not my cure,

nobody has that
power, you are merely a fellow traveller

Give up this medical concern,
buttoned, attentive,

permit yourself anger
and permit me mine

which needs neither
your approval nor your surprise

which does not need to be made legal
which is not against a disease

but against you,
which does not need to be understood

or washed or cauterized,
which needs instead

to be said and said.
Permit me the present tense.

I am not a saint or a cripple,
I am not a wound; now I will see
whether I am a coward.

I dispose of my good manners,
you don’t have to kiss my wrists.

This is a journey, not a war,
there is no outcome,
I renounce predictions

and aspirins, I resign the future
as I would resign an expired passport:
picture and signature gone
along with holidays and safe returns.

We’re stuck here
on this side of the border
in this country of thumbed streets and stale buildings

where there is nothing spectacular
 to see
and the weather is ordinary

where love occurs in its pure form only
on the cheaper of the souvenirs

where we must walk slowly,
where we may not get anywhere

or anything, where we keep going,
fighting our ways, our way
not out but through.

Is it a breakup poem?  Or is it a "grimly determined to live through the hell that we create through love" poem?  More reflection required.

However, I love some of the ideas and images:  "Permit me the present tense," "there is no outcome," and "fighting our ways, our way/ not out but through." The idea that love is an ongoing series of choices, a process, not so glamorous much of the time, but inevitable, worth it, though we cannot predict where it will take us, nor can we expect a specific reward.  And I appreciate the acknowledgement of anger.

Coming from Atwood, I like the idea that (what I interpret as) the female narrator disposes of manners, is not a saint or a cripple. She doesn't have to be saved or fixed, but on the other hand she isn't seamlessly self sufficient or a self-denying perpetual nurturer, either.  As the wife of an actual cripple, I sometimes become grumpy about running to the other end of the house for something after I'm already in bed (etc., etc.)  And then I feel guilty about being grumpy.  And then I feel stupid for being grumpy because hey, I have two legs.  But, honestly, is it realistic that a person will have the personal energy to be a saint to everyone, all the time?  I try hard to be a loving person.  Mostly, I succeed.  Except when I get grumpy.  Oh, well.  This poem acknowledges those dynamics in a relationship, or at least, that's how I read it.

I have 6,000 words left on NaNoWriMo to meet my truncated goal of 25,000 words (see my last blog entry.)  Will I do it?  Or is writing this blog sign enough that I have capitulated?

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