Wednesday, March 26, 2014

A word after a word after a word is power

There is a poem that I've been loving for a few years now. I had to analyze and present a poem for an English course about 4 yeas ago, and I kept searching and searching for poems. Back at that time, poetry didn't really speak to me the way novels did, so I grew more and more stressed at the idea of having to choose a poem. I am one of those people who cannot commit themselves to doing things they don't really love (I mean when I have the luxury to choose what I am to do), so I really wanted to find a poem that I would instantly love, in order to analyze it the best I could and so that during my presentation my excitement for the poem I had chosen would show. 

After many and many researches, i finally thought of an author whose book Alias Grace I particularly loved. She is a feminist, and what better feature to interest me than to be an advocate of the equality of the sexes... By reading through Margaret Atwood's poems, I found this one poem whose meaning I could not grasp at once, which, to me, is a great sign! I became somewhat obcessed with it, and ended up presenting it in class. The name of this poem is "Spelling". 

I don't know what's not to love about this poem. It surely is feministic, but it is also about language and how it empowers people. It is a poem about history of women's mistreatment, called witches when they talked too much, or forced to keep their thighs closed while in labour by the enemies during war. It is also a poem about children, education, and the relationship of a mother to her child. It is a poem about women wanting to be successful, but not wanting to sacrifice their motherly role. In other words, it is a poem about the difficulty of being a woman, because of all the choices or non-choices she has to make in this society. 

This poem may sound harsh, and may seem representing a struggle that women used to face, but the truth is, that women are still not considered the equals of men. If they were, then we wouldn't have all those women constantly reminded that they have to sacrifice their life for whatever our society says they have to. Because even being feminists and acknowledging all the inequalities that women face in the world, we still, in some ways, try to fit a social image that would make us seem "decent" women, girls, mothers, etc. That's why I think a poem like this should stay in our mind as a reminder that inequalities aren't a way of life that we more or less accept. Inequalities shouldn't exist. And I'm not only referring to sexism, but to racism, homophobia, etc. I suppose there will always be some sort of inequality in the world, but that doesn't mean that we should just accept it as a rule. Inequalities are to be fought, not in a violent way, but in a smart way that shows reality as it is. I believe that showing reality and how cruel it can be is the best way to make people realize what is right from wrong. And speaking our mind is the best fight we can get in every single day of our lives, because, as Margaret Atwood said, "a word after a word after a word is power". 

Have a great day and keep your mind sharp!
 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. 

Margaret Atwood

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