1. “A Sad Child” By: Margaret Atwood

You're sad because you're sad.
It's psychic. It's the age. It's chemical.
Go see a shrink or take a pill,
or hug your sadness like an eyeless doll
you need to sleep.

Well, all children are sad
but some get over it.
Count your blessings. Better than that,
buy a hat. Buy a coat or pet.
Take up dancing to forget.
Forget what?
Your sadness, your shadow,
whatever it was that was done to you
the day of the lawn party
when you came inside flushed with the sun,
your mouth sulky with sugar,
in your new dress with the ribbon
and the ice-cream smear,
and said to yourself in the bathroom,
I am not the favorite child.

My darling, when it comes
right down to it
and the light fails and the fog rolls in
and you're trapped in your overturned body
under a blanket or burning car,

and the red flame is seeping out of you
and igniting the tarmac beside you head
or else the floor, or else the pillow,
none of us is;
or else we all are.

Bluntly tackling the subject of failure or disappointment and the resulting efforts or means by which one attempts to cope with the two powerfully negative feelings, Atwood immediately chooses not to sugarcoat her poem, as evidenced by the first line. Writing, “you’re sad because you’re sad”, the narrator directly confronts the reader and defines their present emotion of despair as something quite matter of fact, using the next line to sardonically list various reasons as to why the reader is feeling this particular way. This mocking tone continues for the next three lines as the narrator suggests seeing a shrink or hugging a doll in order to deal with the previously mentioned sadness. Aside from the tone of this first stanza, Atwood’s word choice to describe the doll the narrator suggests the reader hug in order to feel better is rather telling; identifying the doll as “eyeless” gives the toy a very negative connotation, as if it is dirty, beat-up, detached, and something not to be desired. Yet the narrator still tells the reader to hug this seemingly unwanted toy in order to go to sleep and forget his/her pain, placing emphasis on the reader’s reliance on this doll to sleep, potentially highlighting his/her disdain or apathy for the sad child. Indeed, Atwood initiates the next stanza with a similarly blunt opening like in the first, exclaiming that “all children are sad but some get over it”. Following these two lines, the narrator’s tone changes to that of being almost flustered or fed up, as if he/she is frustrated by the child’s inability to cope, rapidly (in a very annoyed manner) advising the reader to buy a hat or a coat or a pet or to even “take up dancing to forget”. This hurried repetition is an extension of the narrator’s initial suggestions (first stanza) yet now the tone has extended beyond simple frankness to utter annoyance. It’s as if you can clearly see the narrator shaking his/her head and urging the child to do anything to get over whatever is bothering him or her. The third stanza begins with a rhetorical question (“Forget what?”) that allows the narrator’s tone to change once again, this time seeming much more uninterested or indifferent, simultaneously using imagery to describe a scene in which the reader (as a child) comes to the conclusion, during a summery and festive party for which she dressed up, that she is “not the favorite child”. This third stanza serves to highlight the true theme of this poem: coming to terms with feeling unloved or unwanted. Yet, the narrator once again takes a rather blunt and dark approach, using the fourth and fifth stanzas to depict a grizzly car crash in which the reader is gruesomely dying (with “red flame seeping out” of him or her). This horrific and pity-inducing scene in turn allows the narrator to apathetically conclude, despite the reader’s apparent agony, that when it comes to being (or not being) the favored child, “none of us is; or else we all are”, basically stating that the reader’s situation is in no way unique; it just is, and therefore simply needs to be dealt with, not drawn out or unnecessarily dramatized.

Link to the Poem: http://www.poemhunter.com/poem/a-sad-child
Link to Video Representation of the Poem: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2TrUXSkwazA

2. “Flying Inside Your Own Body” By: Margaret Atwood

Your lungs fill & spread themselves,
wings of pink blood, and your bones
empty themselves and become hollow.
When you breathe in you’ll lift like a balloon
and your heart is light too & huge,
beating with pure joy, pure helium.
The sun’s white winds blow through you,there’s nothing above you,
you see the earth now as an oval jewel,
radiant & seablue with love.
It’s only in dreams you can do this.
Waking, your heart is a shaken fist,
a fine dust clogs the air you breathe in;
the sun’s a hot copper weight pressing straightdown on the think pink rind of your skull.
It’s always the moment just before gunshot.
You try & try to rise but you cannot.

Vastly different in terms of style, tone and subject matter than the previous poem, Atwood’s “Flying Inside Your Own Body” instead employs the use of breathing (on both an anatomical and whimsical level) as an extended metaphor in order to portray the absolute beauty and freedom of flight. Similar to the previous poem, this piece’s narrator once again speaks directly to the reader, initiating the poem with a direct description of the reader’s lungs as they expand and fill with blood (presumably as the reader inhales). This intake of breath described in lines 1 and 2 serves to provide distinct imagery of a bird spreading its wings and taking flight. This aviary illusion is extended during the third line as well, where the narrator notes how “your bones empty themselves and become hollow”, a characteristic that also applies to the anatomy of bird structure (allowing them to achieve flight). The next three lines depart from the avian metaphor and now liken breathing to the lifting of a buoyant balloon, the metaphorical helium being “pure joy”. Thus, the narrator has now combined bird-like references and feelings of delight to describe the act of flying. Beginning with the 7th line, the next four lines feature the addition of freedom and beauty to the current depiction of flight; “the sun’s white winds blow through you”, speaks the narrator, “there’s nothing above you, you see the earth now as an oval jewel”. It is in these 4 lines where the narrator asserts the pinnacle pleasures of flying, with nothing to concern the reader but the glorious sea below; through flight the reader is free. However, reality soon burst the reader’s metaphorical balloon and the latter plummets back to actuality as the narrator reminds us that “it’s only in dreams you can do this”. Unfortunately for the reader, this pleasure of flight is just an illusion, a reality of which the narrator reminds the reader all too well; “Waking, your heart is a shaken fist, a fine dust clogs the air you breath in; the sun’s hot copper weight pressing straight down on the think pink rind of your skull”. Abruptly, and almost rudely the narrator juxtaposes the simple joys of flying with the jarring reality that such an experience was only a dream. Compared to the previously described freedom of flight, the act of waking seems almost oppressive and hard to bear, with the narrator both struggling to breath and being cruelly subjected to the sun’s repressive glare. This unsettling juxtaposition in turn serves to establish the even more disturbing final two lines: it’s always the moment just before gunshot. You try and try to rise but you cannot”. Whether or not the gunshot here is figurative or literal makes no real difference. The narrator’s main goal is to first establish a beautiful and joyful experience of weightless flight, juxtapose that with the disquieting emergence of reality as the reader wakes from such a wonderful dream, and finally maintain that such an event always occurs before something bad (in this case a gunshot) occurs. Such an ending is cruel in that after going into such lengthy detail about the freedom of flight, the narrator ends by snuffing out any notion of liberty. Instead, the reader is trapped and oppressed by reality’s blunt appearance; he/she is unable to move, and just as the narrator reminds us, such a crippling awakening often precedes a terrible occurrence. Like death.

Link to the Poem: http://www.poemhunter.com/poem/flying-inside-your-own-body/
Link to Video Representation of a Bird in Flight (in order to help convey the atmosphere of freedom and beauty Atwood portrays): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FicoGjryzvA

1. "Siren Song" By: Margaret Atwood
Link to Image of Greek Sirens:http://www.theoi.com/image/img_seirenes.jpg

Putting her own twist on the classic mythical creature, Atwood actually stays rather true to today’s most common perceptions of the infamous sirens and their sad yet deadly songs or calls to wayward sailors. Beginning in line 1, the poem’s narrator starts very vaguely and rather matter of fact, referring to the siren son when stating, “this is the one song everyone would like to learn: the song that is irresistible (lines 1-3). These very factual three lines serve as a means of concisely stating the general content and theme of the poem. Lines four through six delve deeper into the intricacies of the song itself, claiming it is “the song that forces men to leap overboard in squadrons even though they see beached skulls”. Still rather bluntly, the narrator is now openly depicting the song as dangerous, one that ultimately kills those who hear it. Yet, the narrator goes into no verbose or horrifying nature of the song; he/she is simply lulling us into a very factual mindset where we are aware of the song’s resulting death yet are not exactly horrified by it. Still, this lack of information or detail about the song peaks our interest in regards to the rest of the poem’s content, similar to how a siren song itself enthralls sailors. Again, lines seven through nine remind us of the song’s peril, informing us that those who hear it ultimately die; thus no one alive knows it. The fact that nobody alive can truly relay anything about this infamous song once again peaks our interest, prompting the reader to ask “what is this song like?” The remainder of the third stanza serves as a semi introduction, where (in lines 10-18) the reader learns that the narrator is in fact a siren herself, a realization which simultaneously explains why the majority of the poem (her words, effectively) have a rather lulling and soothing tone. True to her infamous nature, the siren asks (in lines 10-12) “Shall I tell you a secret and if I do, will you get me out of this bird suit?”, pleading the reader to help her, implying that she dislikes her physical being, perhaps even disliking her existence as a siren. Continuing, she claims that she does not enjoy residing on an island, though “picturesque” with her “two feathery maniacs”. Once again, you can hear her tone of helplessness, a tone of longing that clearly attempts to draw the reader in, as if her innocence or fragility is the bait. However, lines 17 and 18 give away her true intentions, even before the end of the poem itself. “I don’t enjoy singing”, she says, yet remarks that the trio in which she is involved is both “fatal” and “valuable”. Alas, she has subtly admitted that not only are her please ultimately lethal, but they are also valuable; she needs her song because it brings her that which she ultimately desires. Yet this admission clearly has not ruined her trick. In lines 19-21, she pleads “I will tell the secret to you, to you, only to you, come closer”. She continues her begging, insisting that the reader is special and that she needs our help, a fact which she confirms in lines 22 and 23. By line 24, we are aware that she has ensnared us for she says “at last”. In an ironic twist (though said twist is evident by the subtly of line 18), the siren states, “Alas it is a boring song, but it works every time”. Ultimately, she has tricked the reader, doing so with the confidence that her ploy would work as always. Atwood cleverly executes this poem because while describing how a siren tricks or lures her prey, she simultaneously constructs the poem in a way that makes the reader believe that this siren is different, until finally revealing that we have also been tricked (only revealing the true motives of the siren at the very end. Though this poem is about a mythical creature, it ultimately relays Atwood’s opinion of women in general, whom she believes have the ability to manipulate men (or others) into doing what they want through the same method each time, pretending to be coy or helpless, while really harboring subversive motives. Once again, Atwood has smartly given an often accurate social commentary.

Link to Poem: http://www.poemhunter.com/poem/siren-song/

You Fit Into Me By: Margaret Atwood
Link to Poem: http://www.poemhunter.com/poem/you-fit-into-me/
Link to Visual:http://www.poetrygrrrl.com/2011/08/16/you-fit-into-me-by-margaret-atwood/

Known for her normally long and verbose poetry, Margaret Atwood goes against the grain this time around with her succinct four line, two stanza poem "You Fit Into Me". The first two lines read "You fit into me like a hook in an eye". This brief statement is rather confusing, particularly because it does not seem to make much sense; after all, how does a hook ever fit into an eye? Thus, this leads the reader to assume that the narrator is implying that he/she and her/his significant other are not compatible at all. However, the next and final two lines denote an idea that is slightly different. "A fish hook an open eye". Here the narrator makes the metaphor of the relationship much clearer, considering a fish hook lodged in an open eye is easy to visualize. Thus, I feel as if this poem could be interpreted in a few ways. Firstly, one could view the giant gap between the two brief stanzas as a way of determining finality, as if the narrator is actually telling his/her significant other that they fit together (pause) like a hook in an eye, basically asserting that the two do not fit at all. However, I feel as if the clarity of the fish hook and eye metaphor denotes the fact that the couple actually is compatible. After all, a fish hook often snares the eye of a fish. Yet at the end of the day, the hook was intended for the fish. Thus, I feel as if the narrator is basically claiming "yes we fit together, albeit in a rather harsh or brutal way", as if he/she is saying "love hurts, but it's still love". Or, one could interpret the metaphor as a means for the narrator to say that though the couple is well-suited for each other, the fact that the relationship is like a fishhook in an open eye could signify the narrator’s clouded vision (in terms of his/her ability to think rationally) due to the significant other. It could almost be interpreted as if the narrator is crazy/foolishly in love or is unable to perceive, perhaps, the wickedness or faults of the person he/she is with. After all, it is said that one can be blinded from reality by love.