Good morning, Examiners.
Today we will be reading the work of a Canadian legend in literature: Margaret Atwood (1939–now).
The woman is a poet, novelist, literary critic, essayist, inventor, teacher, and environmental activist. She has published seventeen books of poetry, sixteen novels, ten books of nonfiction, eight collections of short fiction, eight children’s books, and one graphic novel, as well as a number of small press editions in poetry and fiction. Atwood is–in a word–prolific.
Today we will be examining one of my favourite poems of hers.
It is about the finality of a single life, and the eternality of Life as a whole; Life–uppercase L, if you will; or: nature.
She forces you to look at yourself through the eyes of nature: ultimately a speck in comparison to its incomprehensibly massive expanse.
She repudiates (word of the day: to deny the truth or validity of something) your worldly accomplishments, negating them in the light of the natural sun.
She humbles you, as she has humbled herself. She does this not with the intention of scolding, but rather to remind; a reminder told by an experienced elder to an ambitious child. She understands the world as it is, and for a few brief seconds, she invites you to see it through her eyes.
Here, dear Examiner, are her glasses:
The moment when, after many years
of hard work and a long voyage
you stand in the centre of your room,
house, half-acre, square mile, island, country,
knowing at last how you got there,
and say, I own this,
is the same moment when the trees unloose
their soft arms from around you,
the birds take back their language,
the cliffs fissure and collapse,
the air moves back from you like a wave
and you can’t breathe.
No, they whisper. You own nothing.
you were a visitor, time after time,
climbing the hill, planting the flag, proclaiming.
We never belonged to you.
You never found us.
It was always the other way round.
A beautiful poem that ultimately prods the question: do you agree with Atwood or do you disagree?
If you disagree, what are the eyes you use to see the world?
The Golden Scribe