Margaret Atwood

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Analyze the poems of Margaret Atwood.

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This is a great poem by Margaret Atwood that really captures the power of the siren's song and the danger of being drawn into it.

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This is rather a broad question to answer as you haven't really identified any poems specifically to respond to or if there are certain issues that you would like us to focus on. I have included some links below to the enotes section of various sites that will give you more information about Atwood as a poet and the kind of themes that she writes about, so I hope that this will help you.

However, I thought it would be good as well to talk about one of her poems that I really enjoy, entitled "Siren Song." This is a great poem that picks up on the mythological sirens, whose song is so irresistible that they tempt men to jump out of their ships to join them even though they perish in the effort. What is great about this poem is the way that the speaker, often ironic about being in her "bird-suit" and not enjoying "looking picturesque and mythical" exerts precisely the same kind of alluring voice and temptation that makes her so successful at killing so many. She draws us in as a reader, making us entranced by her voice, until we too metaphorically jump in to the waters and perish as we are made to believe that we can help and save her and that we are "unique." The sudden, abrupt ending makes it clear the trick that the speaker has played on us:

Alas
it is a boring song
but it works every time.

We have fallen into precisely the same trap as everybody else, even though we knew about the danger.

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A psychoanalytical study of the poems of Margaret Atwood.

A quick survey of some of Atwood's poetry reveals that they are rich and fecund texts and particularly suitable to a psychoanalytical approach. This is because so many of Atwood's poems develop the theme of a search for identity and how we can change ourselves. In "This is a Photograph of Me," for example, the photograph that is presented to us has an image that is at best obscure and one where the speaker is above some kind of watery location. This reflects the way in which the speaker does not feel fully formed yet or that she is developing and in flux. Note how she points out her location:

I am in the lake, in the centre

of the picture, just under the surface.

We, like the speaker, wonder what her form will appear like when she rises out from the lake and is fully formed.

What is more fascinating alongside such poems of uncertain identity is the way that in some of her poems Atwood seems to deliberately question her abilities and status as a poet. In "The Messenger," for example, the "random face / revolving outside the window" vanishes into nothing because the intended recipient is the wrong one and is unable to hear the "desperate messages" that the messenger brings.

Such poems help us to understand some of the deep, abiding concerns in Atwood's poetry as she struggles to define an ever-changing identity that is related to Canada and its relationship with its European settlers and also her own identity as a poet.

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A comparative study of the poems of Margaret Atwood.

This is a very broad question, and you might want to think about what specific poems you want us to compare. Atwood is certainly a prolific writer, and as a result has published successful books of poetry as well as her famous novels.

I suppose one thing that will help you as you think about which poems you want to compare is to identify some of the prevalent and dominant themes in her work. This will also help give you a sense of how to define or to capture the essence of her poetry. Essentially, much of her poetry encompasses the search for identity and how this is worked out against a backdrop of colonial history with the European settling of the Candian wilderness. Allusions to Biblical and mythological stories abound, and key motifs are metamorphosis and adaptation as the individuals in her poems seek to find an identity for themselves.

This is something that should help you to identify two poems or groups of poems to compare. I have included more links below to help you as you research the work of this fascinating author.

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