Tag: Margaret Atwood


Poetry Inspiration: A Mysterious Death

Posted 18 October, 2012 by Heather in Blogs / 3 Comments

Out of True blog tour
Welcome to the Out of True blog tour, put together by Susie of Insatiable Booksluts. Last night I posted some informal thoughts about Out of True, Amy Durant’s first published book of poetry. I asked Amy to guest post here today, to tell us about an author who inspired her to write poetry and to tell us about one of her favorite poems from that particular author. I was all kinds of excited when I found out who Amy intended to write about!

If you click on the Insatiable Booksluts link above, you’ll be taken to the main post for the tour, where you will find the blog tour schedule and where you can enter to win a copy of Amy’s book. How great is that?!

Now, without further ado…welcome, Amy!

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The lovely Heather has asked me to write a guest post about a poet that inspired my own poetry, and talk about one of her poems that best illustrates that inspiration. Well! This combines two things I love: poetry, and talking about myself! Win-win! Thank you, Heather!

Let’s see, where to start. There were, of course, the poets I read first – the poets in my high school textbook, the ones you all probably read as well – the basic Dickinson, Poe, Shakespeare, Whitman. Most of us (at least those of us here in the States) probably read the same stuff, poetry-wise, as kids. I won’t go into them, because it would just be a rehash of what you already know. Let’s talk about a poet that inspired me going forward; one of the first I discovered in college, that showed me that, hey, look, Amy, what you’re doing is A-OK, because look, other poets are doing it, too.

Ladies and gentlemen, my most kickass muse: Margaret Atwood.

I used this photo because of her awesome teeshirt. And because she seems to be backstage at a theater and I’m a theater person. I adore her.

I used this photo because of her awesome teeshirt. And because she seems to be backstage at a theater and I’m a theater person. I adore her.

Heather’s a big Atwood fan, as are we over at Insatiable Booksluts, where I happily am allowed to review all manner of things; over there, Susie’s blogged about Margaret Atwood, and I reviewed her novel Cat’s Eye. I won’t go too much into Atwood background, therefore: you can read more about her in Susie’s Author, Author post. As a budding poet (and still, now), she was (is) writing poetry that I wanted to be writing. Intelligent, strong, feminist, funny, incisive – she was everything I wanted to be. (And her fiction was just as amazing. I’m an unabashed Atwood fangirl. Sometimes, she talks to Susie on Twitter? And I seriously squee like a Twi-hard seeing Pattinson on the street in full vampire regalia. TRUE STORY.)

It was tough for me to choose just one of her poems, but I finally narrowed it down to this one:

This is a Photograph of Me

It was taken some time ago
At first it seems to be
a smeared
print: blurred lines and grey flecks
blended with the paper;

then, as you scan
it, you can see something in the left-hand corner
a thing that is like a branch: part of a tree
(balsam or spruce) emerging
and, to the right, halfway up
what ought to be a gentle
slope, a small frame house.

In the background there is a lake,
and beyond that, some low hills.

(The photograph was taken
the day after I drowned.

I am in the lake, in the center
of the picture, just under the surface.

It is difficult to say where
precisely, or to say
how large or how small I am:
the effect of water
on light is a distortion.

but if you look long enough
eventually
you will see me.)

Gorgeous and spooky and evocative, right? Let’s talk about it a little. I’ll tell you what I love about it.

photographofme

 

I love how the title is not only the title, but part of the poem. It’s really the first line of the poem; it carries over directly into the first stanza. I love that the poem starts one way; describing a photograph which seems extremely straightforward. A somewhat blurry photograph that takes the viewer a moment to understand, then it starts to come into focus. A tree in the foreground; possibly a slope, or what ought to be a slope; a lake; a house. A photograph any of us could have taken on vacation. Right?

Except it’s a photograph of what’s not seen. It’s a photograph of the day after something happened. And what happened? The narrator of the poem drowned. It’s a poem narrated by a dead person. Is he or she still under the water? Has the narrator been taken from the water, or are they still there? Will we really see him or her, if we look long enough, or will we imagine it? Or will the desire to see the narrator make him or her appear? Or will the desperate need to see him or her drive us over the edge enough to see something that’s not there? Will we meet the same fate as the narrator?

It’s a poem about something not seen; it’s a poem with a twist; it’s a poem with a mystery (how did the drowning occur? it sounds vaguely malicious, doesn’t it? And, for the love of all that’s holy, who took the photo? And do they know what they’re taking a photo of? Do they really?) It’s a whole story in a poem. She creates an entire world in these lines. You can see the photo. You can see the details. And then BAM, she throws you the curve in the middle, changing everything you thought you knew. (I also love the punctuation; more specifically, the parentheses in the second half, to set it aside from the first half. I think that’s brilliant.)

I read this and thought, huh. I want this. I want to do this. (Side note: I’ve been writing for twenty years now and haven’t even come CLOSE to doing this. I keep trying, though. Points for trying!)

I love the theme of the not-seen, the not-known. I find that popping up in my own work. I love the use of the photograph; I’ve written multiple poems with photographs as a theme. I love the idea of a moment frozen in time which can mean different things to different people, depending on what the viewer brings to the viewing. (I find there’s a direct correlation in this between poetry and photography; when done well, a poem and a photograph can mean different things to different people. I find that wonderful and brilliant, that who we are informs how we view something, informs what something becomes to us.) I love the idea of an unseen narrator, of not knowing if the voice of the narrator is the poet, or someone else entirely. All of these themes can be seen in my own work, and I owe them directly to finding Atwood when I was just gaining my poetry sea-legs.

Atwood’s other work is equally beautiful; I can’t NOT mention her prose poem “Happy Endings,” which was almost the one I chose to discuss, but decided, since it’s a prose poem, it’d stick with one with a little more traditional poetic form. But seriously, “Happy Endings?” One of my favorite works of all time. It makes me weep. One of the most powerful pieces I’ve ever read. I read this for the first time in the college library sophomore year and burst into tears in the stacks. I remember it clearly. Something like that sticks with you. Click the link. I think you’ll be happy you did.

So there’s a little about where I came from, one of the poets I’ve gotten inspiration from. Whenever I see Atwood’s work, I smile a little. It’s like she’s mine, somehow. She’s like an aunt who encouraged me when I needed it most, even though she doesn’t know it. Thank you, Margaret Atwood, for being there when I needed you! I hope I did you proud. (Or at least didn’t embarrass you too completely.)

 

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September Reading Plans: Atwood, King, Cronin, Díaz, Butler, and Shakespeare

Posted 1 September, 2012 by Heather in Blogs, Read-Alongs / 16 Comments

I don’t usually write a “reading plans” post, but I thought it would be nice to highlight the awesome book clubs and read-alongs that I take part in every month. Rather than write a post for each one individually, I’m going to start writing one post at the beginning of every month that acknowledges them all.

Project Read All Of Atwood

I’m still going strong on Dog Ear Discs‘ “Project Read All Of Atwood.” This month’s book is Life Before Man, which was originally published in 1979. Here is the book’s synopsis from Amazon:

Imprisoned by walls of their own construction, here are three people, each in midlife, in midcrisis, forced to make choices–after the rules have changed. Elizabeth, with her controlled sensuality, her suppressed rage, is married to the wrong man. She has just lost her latest lover to suicide. Nate, her gentle, indecisive husband, is planning to leave her for Lesje, a perennial innocent who prefers dinosaurs to men. Hanging over them all is the ghost of Elizabeth’s dead lover…and the dizzying threat of three lives careening inevitably toward the same climax.

The EPIC Dark Tower Read-a-Long

This next read-along is one that I am super excited about. It runs from this month until July 2013.

Click for more information

I am not a huge fan of Stephen King’s horror novels (I’m not a huge fan of horror in general), but his Dark Tower series is my all-time favorite series. I am in love with Roland Deschain. This read-along is being hosted by Michelle of The True Book Addict on her Stephen King Challenge blog. We’re reading a book a month, including his newest addition to the series, and the schedule for each book will go up at the beginning of each month. This month’s schedule for The Gunslinger is up now, so if you’d like to join us, click on the image above to be taken to her blog for more information. Synopsis of The Gunslinger from Amazon:

Eerie, dreamlike, set in a world that is weirdly related to our own, The Gunslinger introduces Roland Deschain of Gilead, of In-World that was, as he pursues his enigmatic antagonist to the mountains that separate the desert from the Western Sea. Roland is a solitary figure, perhaps accursed, who with a strange singlemindedness traverses an exhausted, almost timeless landscape. The people he encounters are left behind, or worse—left dead. At a way station, however, he meets Jake, a boy from a particular time (1977) and a particular place (New York City), and soon the two are joined—khefka, and ka-tet. The mountains lie before them. So does the man in black and, somewhere far beyond…the Dark Tower.

#TuesBookTalk

#TuesBookTalk is also hosted by Michelle of The True Book Addict, and starting September 12th we will be reading Justin Cronin’s The Passage. Because the book is a big one, we will be reading this through October with the first discussion taking place on Twitter on September 25th. The reading schedule will be posted in our Goodreads group as the read-along gets closer, so if you’re interested in joining us, you can click on the #TuesBookTalk link above to be taken to the Goodreads group for more information. Discussions take place every Tuesday night at 9:30pm ET using the #TuesBookTalk hashtag, but if you can’t join us on Twitter, Michelle posts discussion questions in the Goodreads group so people can chat there, as well. Synopsis of The Passage from Amazon:

An epic and gripping tale of catastrophe and survival, The Passage is the story of Amy—abandoned by her mother at the age of six, pursued and then imprisoned by the shadowy figures behind a government experiment of apocalyptic proportions. But Special Agent Brad Wolgast, the lawman sent to track her down, is disarmed by the curiously quiet girl and risks everything to save her. As the experiment goes nightmarishly wrong, Wolgast secures her escape—but he can’t stop society’s collapse. And as Amy walks alone, across miles and decades, into a future dark with violence and despair, she is filled with the mysterious and terrifying knowledge that only she has the power to save the ruined world.

#1book140

Coriolanus, by William Shakespeare#1book140 is an international Twitter book club created by Jeff Howe and hosted by The Atlantic. We also have an unofficial website–1Blog140–that a few of the regular bookies put together in order to give us a space to talk about the books using more than 140 characters. Every month we come to an agreement about what kind of book to read, we take nominations for books that fit within that category, and then we vote from a short list using a poll posted on The Atlantic‘s website. This month we nominated books in two categories–auto/biographies and Shakespeare–and although the voting is still going on (until Tuesday at 5pm ET), it looks like we’ll be reading two of  Shakespeare’s plays–Hamlet and Coriolanus. If you’re interested in joining us now or in the future, check out both The Atlantic‘s official #1book140 page and our unofficial 1Blog140 website by clicking their respective links above.

Hamlet is about a guy (Hamlet) whose father is a king, which king has been murdered before the book starts. Then some stuff happens and Hamlet goes kind of insane. It’s a good play–one of my favorites from Shakespeare. Coriolanus is a tragedy based on the life of famed Roman leader Caius Marcius Coriolanus, and will be a first-time read for me.

HuffPost Book Club

The HuffPost Book Club is hosted by the Huffington Post, and we discuss our voted-on books both on Twitter and on their website. This month we’re reading The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz, and the discussion began on August 29th. By clicking on the HuffPo link above, you will be taken to the main page for Oscar Wao where you will find the reading schedule and the discussion that is taking place. You can also use the #hpbookclub hashtag to follow the discussion on Twitter. This book was published in 2007 and won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2008. It has been raved about by so many people and I’m really enjoying it so far. Here is the synopsis from Amazon:

Oscar is a sweet but disastrously overweight ghetto nerd who—from the New Jersey home he shares with his old world mother and rebellious sister—dreams of becoming the Dominican J.R.R. Tolkien and, most of all, finding love. But Oscar may never get what he wants. Blame the fukú—a curse that has haunted Oscar’s family for generations, following them on their epic journey from Santo Domingo to the USA. Encapsulating Dominican-American history, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao opens our eyes to an astonishing vision of the contemporary American experience and explores the endless human capacity to persevere—and risk it all—in the name of love.

A More Diverse Universe Blog Tour

A More Diverse Universe blog tour button

Click for more information and to sign up

Kindred, by Octavia ButlerDuring the week of September 23-29, Aarti of Booklust is hosting “A More Diverse Universe Blog Tour,” aimed at highlighting speculative fiction authors of color. During that week, Aarti is asking readers (with or without blogs) to read one book in the speculative fiction genre that has been written by a person of color, and then talk about it/review it somewhere on the internet–either on a blog, or Goodreads, or wherever readers have a space to write about the books they read. Sign-ups are open on her blog now, and I have decided to read Kindred by Octavia Butler. I have been meaning to start reading Octavia Butler’s books for a while now, and this gives me an excellent excuse to start sooner rather than later. Synopsis of Kindred from Amazon:

Dana, a modern black woman, is celebrating her twenty-sixth birthday with her new husband when she is snatched abruptly from her home in California and transported to the antebellum South. Rufus, the white son of a plantation owner, is drowning, and Dana has been summoned to save him. Dana is drawn back repeatedly through time to the slave quarters, and each time the stays grow longer, more arduous, and more dangerous until it is uncertain whether or not Dana’s life will end, long before it has a chance to begin.

So those are the books I will be reading for book clubs and read-alongs, along with whatever other books I choose to read just for myself. All of these groups are open to anyone who would like to join us, and we’d love to have you reading along. You will also find links to all of these reading groups in my sidebar, along with what we’re reading for the month, in case you decide to join us at a later date.

If you’re involved in any read-alongs that you’d like to highlight for other readers, don’t hesitate to leave a comment below and let us know what you’re reading!

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New Reading Project: Margaret Atwood

Posted 16 May, 2012 by Heather in Blogs, Read-Alongs / 21 Comments

Yesterday, Brenna of Literary Musings blogged about her favorite book blogs (which you should really check out because there are some really great blogs listed there). I was only familiar with three of the blogs on her list, so I checked out the rest and added them to my RSS reader.

Margaret AtwoodOne of those blogs is Dog Ear Discs, and Brenna mentioned that he had started a project to read all of Margaret Atwood’s fiction (novels and short fiction collections). Be still, my heart. That was the first post I read when I went to check his blog out, and I immediately started looking at my reading “schedule” to see if I would be able to join him. (If you don’t know of my love for Margaret Atwood, let me tell you that I would have found the time to do this no matter what.) Here’s what Dog Ear has to say about Project Read All Of Atwood:

Of course, it will take me some time to read all of her work so I have some rules.

  • I will only be reading her fiction – novels and short story collections.
  • I will only read one book per month, so as not to get in the way of the rest of the TBR and review copies.
  • I will talk about each book here once I’ve read them.
  • I will, of course, be starting with her debut and ending on her most current work at that moment.

He is urging others to join if they’re interested, so if any of my readers would like to join in, please head over to Dog Ear Discs, read his Project Read All Of Atwood post, and let him know that you’re reading along! He has posted the reading schedule/list of books in his sidebar–I have done that here as well–and the first book is The Edible Woman, which we’re reading this month.

Now, Atwood is one of my favorite authors; I have read all of her novels and two or three of her short fiction collections, but it has been a long time since I’ve read some of them–too long, really. I could not be more excited about this project, not only because I’ll be re-reading some of my favorite books, but also because I’ll be reading the short story collections that I hadn’t gotten around to reading, yet. Thank you, Dog Ear, for starting this wonderful project, and thank you, Brenna, for bringing it to my attention!

But enough talk… on to The Edible Woman!

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Book review: In Other Worlds by Margaret Atwood

Posted 27 October, 2011 by Heather in Book Reviews, Nonfiction, Science Fiction / 1 Comment

Book review:  In Other Worlds by Margaret AtwoodIn Other Worlds: SF and the Human Imagination by Margaret Atwood
Published by Nan A. Talese on October 2011
Genres: Nonfiction, Essays, Fiction
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 272
Source: my shelves
Buy on Amazon
Goodreads

 

In Other Worlds is a collection of essays about the Science Fiction genre, its history, and Margaret Atwood’s relationship to the genre. In her own words:

In Other Worlds is not a catalogue of science fiction, a grand theory about it, or a literary history of it. It is not a treatise, it is not definitive, it is not exhaustive, it is not canonical. It is not the work of a practising academic or an official guardian of a body of knowledge. Rather it is an exploration of my own lifelong relationship with a literary form, or forms, or subforms, both as reader and as writer.

Atwood’s desire to write this book stemmed from a book review that was written for two of her books: Oryx and Crake and The Year of the Flood. In the review written for the Guardian in 2009, Ursula K. Le Guin–a well-established author of the Sci-Fi and Fantasy genres who has won numerous awards for her work–brought up the fact that Atwood doesn’t want any of her work to be called science fiction. She disagreed with Atwood’s definition of what science fiction is, and accused Atwood of sloughing off the category in order to protect herself from a genre “still shunned by hidebound readers, reviewers and prize-awarders.” To the contrary, this is not at all the reason why Atwood doesn’t categorize The Handmaid’s Tale, Oryx and Crake, or The Year of the Flood as science fiction. Atwood realized that the definition of “science fiction” is very fluid, and means different things for different people. Writing In Other Worlds was a way for her to take a closer look at the genre and how it has changed over the many decades that it has been a part of her life.

The book is broken up into three sections. The first section, titled “In Other Worlds,” is Atwood’s personal history with science fiction, and the section’s three chapters originated from the Ellman Lectures Atwood gave at Emory University in 2010. The second section, “Other Deliberations,” is a collection of ten essays that Atwood wrote over a span of years about specific works of SF, including such titles as Bill McKibben’s Enough: Staying Human in an Engineered Age, H.G. Well’s The Island of Dr. Moreau, and Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro. This was by far my favorite part of the book. The last section, titled “Five Tributes,” is a group of Atwood’s own mini-SF pieces, which includes the story of “The Peach Women of Aa’A” from The Blind Assassin.

I have never been disappointed by anything Atwood has written, and In Other Worlds is no exception. I enjoy every bit of her thought processes, her writing, and her candor. Although the whole book was very good, I did have my favorite pieces: “Dire Cartographies,” which discusses utopias and dystopias; her reviews of McKibben’s Enough, Wells’ The Island of Dr. Moreau, and Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go; and “Of the Madness of Mad Scientists,” in which Atwood talks about where the figure of the mad scientist in SF originated. The mad scientist essay was particularly interesting to me. So much goes into the history of SF, though, that anyone with an interest in the genre will find something that they like and can relate to in the book.

If you’re a fan of SF, or if you’re interested in finding out more about the history of the genre, I highly recommend In Other Worlds. If you aren’t familiar with the SF genre and you’re wondering what it’s all about, read this book. It’s very well written, it has a relaxed, personal feel to it, and it’s full of interesting ideas and information.

(Note: There were two quotes that I found particularly relevant and that made me nod vigorously in agreement. They were a little too long to include in this review, but I posted both on my Tumblr. You can find them here and here. Read them. They’re good.)

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(To learn more about Margaret Atwood, please visit her official website.)

**If you choose to purchase this title using the links below, I will receive a small percentage of the sale (to be used toward site maintenance and buying more books).

Amazon | Powell’s Books | IndieBound

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Time For a Read-a-Thon!

Posted 21 October, 2011 by Heather in Blogs, Read-A-Thons / 13 Comments

This will be the first time I have participated in Dewey’s 24-Hour Read-a-Thon. I always thought I had to commit myself to the entire 24 hours, and I have never been able to stay up that long without feeling all kinds of ill. Then I found out that participating for 24 hours isn’t required, so I signed up. I’m excited to be participating this time!

I’m positive I won’t make it through these four books, but I’m going to do my best. These are the books that I’ve chosen to read:

1. The Taste of Salt, by Martha Southgate  (finished — 288 pages)

2. In Other Worlds: SF and the Human Imagination, by Margaret Atwood (read 140 pages)

3. The Marriage Plot, by Jeffrey Eugenides

4. When She Woke, by Hillary Jordan

I will be posting updates on Twitter every hour (by using Goodreads), and I will update the blog here probably four or five times and post those updates on Twitter. I will also be unofficially cheering others on throughout the day. I’m looking forward to it!

H.L.

1) Where are you reading from today?

I’m reading from my couch in Hollidaysburg, PA, USA.  :)

2) Three random facts about me…

I have a serious aversion to bellybuttons, especially my own. I am a hip-hop head; I love all kinds of music, but hip-hop is my favorite. I also love dancing–I was a dancer for many years and choosing not to take lessons anymore and to kind of give it up was the worst decision I ever made.

3) How many books do you have in your TBR pile for the next 24 hours?

I only have four books in my TBR pile, and I’m not sure I’ll make it through all of them. I’m sure going to try, though.

4) Do you have any goals for the read-a-thon (i.e. number of books, number of pages, number of hours, or number of comments on blogs)?

I have set no concrete goals for this read-a-thon aside from reading the four books I’ve chosen. This is my first time participating in this read-a-thon, and it was a last-minute decision. I will be much more prepared for the next one in the spring.

5) If you’re a veteran read-a-thoner, any advice for people doing this for the first time?

I have participated in other read-a-thons before, but they last for a number of days instead of just 24 hours. I have no advice to give for this read-a-thon this time. I’ve been reading everyone else’s advice instead!

**READING UPDATES BELOW**

10am-2pm: Well, I set my alarm clock for 8am so I could start the read-a-thon on time, but when that alarm went off my body said, ‘No way! It’s Saturday!’ and I went back to sleep. So I started the read-a-thon at 10am. So far I have read 208 pages of The Taste of Salt. (I have also showered, eaten lunch, done some laundry, dealt with children, etc. Unfortunately, my life doesn’t understand my plea to just stop because I want to read all day with no interruptions. Hahaha!) How is everyone else doing out there?

2pm-9pm: I’ve finished The Taste of Salt and I’ve moved on to In Other Worlds, written by Margaret Atwood. So far I’ve read 71 pages of In Other Worlds. I slowed down a bit between 5pm and 7pm because I had to make dinner for the kids, and then I sat down and had dinner with Eric when he got home from work. I’m back to read now, though, and I’m hoping to at least finish In Other Worlds before I get so tired and ill-feeling that I need to go to bed. Hope everyone is having a good time!

9pm-2am: I read much less than I should have for these last five hours. I got distracted by something on the computer and stopped reading for about two hours in there somwhere. But I managed to get another 70 pages of In Other Worlds read before I just got too tired and had to go to bed (which was at 2am). That brought me to 428 pages total. I definitely could have read more than that, but I had far too many interruptions (read: KIDS). Ah, well.

I had a blast doing my first Dewey’s Read-a-Thon, and I will definitely be doing more of them in the future. Now that I see how everything works, I will be more prepared, too. Thank you to everyone who was involved in making it happen, thank you to all of the cheerleaders that cheered us on, and thank you to all of my book blogging friends for making the read-a-thon a super fun experience!

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