All posts tagged: Margaret Atwood

Transverse threads; two women poets and Homer

The weft of  Margaret Atwood‘s The Penelopiad is contained in and revealed through the chorus voiced by the twelve maids  hung by Telemachus (on Odysseus’ orders) just after the men returned from their manly adventures. Margaret Atwood runs the chorus line throughout her Penelopiad, the executed maids sing their songs at ten intervals in the book. I was struck by a comment that Atwood makes in her notes about the maids. She stated that: ‘The Chorus of Maids is a tribute to such uses of choruses in Greek Drama. The convention of burlesquing the main action was present in the satyr plays before the main drama.’ (Margaret Atwood, Author Notes for The Penelopiad pp. 197-198) I am always interested in how women writers burlesque the heroic perception of the classics through use of device and structural underpinning. In this instance I have been reading Atwood’s The Penelopiad and Alice Oswald‘s Memorial. Both Atwood and Oswald approach Homeric themes in a sidelong fashion to get to the meat of the oral tradition, their poetic focus is decidedly on the lament. Atwood …

Two Cradle songs.

 from : Deep Song and Other Prose, Federico Garcia Lorca Little white bug who comes at the wrong time, at home is the father of the crying child. Little black bug with snowy wings at home is the father of the child who sings. from : The adulteress song that is sung in Alba de Tormes First Published in GB by Marion Boyars Publishers Limited 1980. translations by Christopher Maurer. Deirín Dé. Deirín dé deirín dé, the brown goat calling in the heather, deirín dé,  deirín dé, the ducks are squawking in the marsh. Deirín dé , deirín dé cows go west at dawn of day, deirin de , deirín dé , and my babe will mind them on the grass. Deirín dé , deirin dé, moon will rise and sun will set, deirín dé , deirín dé , and you are my babe and share of life. Deirín de, deirín dé , a thrush’s nest in my little press, deirín dé , deirín dé , yes, and gold for my little darling. Deirín dé , deirín dé , I’ll let my babe out picking berries, deirín dé , deirín dé , if he’ll just sleep sound till the round of day.   from : …

An elegy, lament by an unidentified woman

I was ordered to live in a nest of leaves, in an earthen cave under an oak. I writhe with longing in this ancient hole; The valleys seem leaden, the hills reared aloft, And the bitter towns all bramble patches of empty pleasure. The memory of parting Rips at my heart. my friends are out there, Savoring their lives, secure in their beds, While at dawn, alone, I crawl miserably down Under the oak growing out of my cave. There I must squat the summer-long day, There I can water the earth with weeping For exile and sorrow, for sadness that can never Find rest from grief nor from the famished Desires that leap at unquenched life. This translation of an Old English Elegy is by Burton Raffel and comes from the book,  Poems and Prose from the Old English, it is edited by Burton Raffel and Alexandra H Olsen.  The condition of the woman’s exile is left unexplained but it can be gleaned that she was a leaving, an unwanted wife in exile. She may have been replaced …

‘Night Poem’ By Margaret Atwood.

There is nothing to be afraid of, it is only the wind changing to the east, it is only your father the thunder your mother the rain In this country of water with its beige moon damp as a mushroom, its drowned stumps and long birds that swim, where the moss grows on all sides of the trees and your shadow is not your shadow but your reflection, your true parents disappear when the curtain covers your door. We are the others, the ones from under the lake who stand silently beside your bed with our heads of darkness. We have come to cover you with red wool, with our tears and distant whispers. You rock in the rain’s arms the chilly ark of your sleep, while we wait, your night father and mother with our cold hands and dead flashlight, knowing we are only the wavering shadows thrown by one candle, in this echo you will hear twenty years later.    Dreamboats, excerpted from Margaret  Atwood’s Penelopiad is also on the blog. I like …