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Power Politics

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Margaret Atwood's Power Politics first appeared in 1971, startling its audience with its vital dance of woman and man. It still startles, and is just as iconoclastic as ever. These poems occupy all at once the intimate, the political, and the mythic. Here Atwood makes us realize that we may think our own personal dichotomies are unique, but really they are multiple, univers Margaret Atwood's Power Politics first appeared in 1971, startling its audience with its vital dance of woman and man. It still startles, and is just as iconoclastic as ever. These poems occupy all at once the intimate, the political, and the mythic. Here Atwood makes us realize that we may think our own personal dichotomies are unique, but really they are multiple, universal. Clear, direct, wry, unrelenting -- Atwood's poetic powers are honed to perfection in this important early work.


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Margaret Atwood's Power Politics first appeared in 1971, startling its audience with its vital dance of woman and man. It still startles, and is just as iconoclastic as ever. These poems occupy all at once the intimate, the political, and the mythic. Here Atwood makes us realize that we may think our own personal dichotomies are unique, but really they are multiple, univers Margaret Atwood's Power Politics first appeared in 1971, startling its audience with its vital dance of woman and man. It still startles, and is just as iconoclastic as ever. These poems occupy all at once the intimate, the political, and the mythic. Here Atwood makes us realize that we may think our own personal dichotomies are unique, but really they are multiple, universal. Clear, direct, wry, unrelenting -- Atwood's poetic powers are honed to perfection in this important early work.

30 review for Power Politics

  1. 4 out of 5

    saïd

    You’ve never had a face / but you know that appeals to me This short collection (only around 70 pages) contains my two favourites of Margaret Atwood's poems:you fit into me like a hook into an eye a fish hook an open eyeandA truth should exist, it should not be used like this. If I love you is that a fact or a weapon?Both poems are simple yet perfect. The thing about reading Margaret Atwood's poetry is that every single poem is genuinely brilliant. Margaret Atwood is one of those poets who will cas You’ve never had a face / but you know that appeals to me This short collection (only around 70 pages) contains my two favourites of Margaret Atwood's poems:you fit into me like a hook into an eye a fish hook an open eyeandA truth should exist, it should not be used like this. If I love you is that a fact or a weapon?Both poems are simple yet perfect. The thing about reading Margaret Atwood's poetry is that every single poem is genuinely brilliant. Margaret Atwood is one of those poets who will casually drop lines like, "please die I said / so I can write about it," and then keep going like it's no big deal. In most poetry collections there's at least one or two poems that are just plain bad—no use pretending otherwise; nobody's perfect, least of all a poet. But when you're reading Margaret Atwood's poems, it's more like there are at least one or two poems that you just don't like. I mean, qualifying poetry by whether or not it's good is stupid anyway, right? Right. there is something in your throat that wants to get out and you won’t let it.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Sage

    if i love you is that a fact or a weapon

  3. 5 out of 5

    Cute.Bunny

    “please die i said so i can write about it”

  4. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

    Sometimes I forget how amazing Atwood is, but reading her poetry and early work helps remind me.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Bill

    I readily admit that poetry is not my favourite genre. It's not poetry's fault, it's more that I probably just don't get it. Too thoughtful for my poor mind, maybe. So when one of my book groups decided that March would be poetry month, I decided to try poetry again. I remember reading The Circle Game by Margaret Atwood back in my university days so I thought maybe I'd try some of her offerings for the challenge. Hence finding a copy of Power Politics as one of my choices. I have enjoyed Atwood's I readily admit that poetry is not my favourite genre. It's not poetry's fault, it's more that I probably just don't get it. Too thoughtful for my poor mind, maybe. So when one of my book groups decided that March would be poetry month, I decided to try poetry again. I remember reading The Circle Game by Margaret Atwood back in my university days so I thought maybe I'd try some of her offerings for the challenge. Hence finding a copy of Power Politics as one of my choices. I have enjoyed Atwood's fiction and science fiction very much over the years. What did I think about this poetry offering? From a pure aesthetics perspective, I liked the look of the book, the clean simplicity of the cover and the layout of the words on the page in this Anansi Press edition from 1971. It's a short book so I thought I'd try to read it in one sitting and it was easy to get into the flow of the poems. There was a mood and feel to the book, the struggle and emotions within relationships. I actually could appreciate the feelings. There were some parts that I thought were just perfect; "I can change myself more easily than I can change you" or "A truth should exist, it should not be used like this. If I love you is that a fact or a weapon?" I won't say I got it all, but it did strike a chord, a different mode of story. I'm glad I tried it. (4 stars)

  6. 5 out of 5

    Tudor Vlad

    I was in the mood for some Margaret Atwood so I thought it was time to dive into some of her poetry for the first time. I wasn't blown away, but it was an enjoyable and quick read. Part of the reason why I chose this book of poetry was the fact that this amazing short poem (below) was featured in last week's episode of The Handmaid's Tale. you fit into me like a hook into an eye a fish hook an open eye I was in the mood for some Margaret Atwood so I thought it was time to dive into some of her poetry for the first time. I wasn't blown away, but it was an enjoyable and quick read. Part of the reason why I chose this book of poetry was the fact that this amazing short poem (below) was featured in last week's episode of The Handmaid's Tale. you fit into me like a hook into an eye a fish hook an open eye

  7. 5 out of 5

    Bambi

    hello this felt like a sucker punch rr2: this book hurts for real rr3: "/ too much of this is fatal" rr4: so ive been thinking abt hannigram- [a sniper kills me] hello this felt like a sucker punch rr2: this book hurts for real rr3: "/ too much of this is fatal" rr4: so ive been thinking abt hannigram- [a sniper kills me]

  8. 4 out of 5

    Kyo

    Really loved this poetry collection by Atwood. I've read some of her other works, but never her poems and I must say I really loved them! There were many different poems: some short, some long; some having very clear syntax, some all over the place, but all in all I liked most of them and some were even extremely great. Really loved this poetry collection by Atwood. I've read some of her other works, but never her poems and I must say I really loved them! There were many different poems: some short, some long; some having very clear syntax, some all over the place, but all in all I liked most of them and some were even extremely great.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Sara

    If I love you is that a fact or a weapon?

  10. 4 out of 5

    Hannah

    you long to be bandaged, before you have been cut

  11. 4 out of 5

    Airam

    A violent testimony of love as battleground. Every word filled with sorrow and a diseased attachment.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Best

    I read this twice back to back, because it was just delicious. Atwood's words shoot to kill with precision in this collection of poems depicting the age-old power struggle between Man and Woman, the brunt of which is mostly borne by the latter. Rich in imagery, the poems look beyond the coupling of two parties with which happy stories traditionally end with, and explore the ways it can't just stay that way, in static, blissful co-existence: the tactics deployed in the games played to even remote I read this twice back to back, because it was just delicious. Atwood's words shoot to kill with precision in this collection of poems depicting the age-old power struggle between Man and Woman, the brunt of which is mostly borne by the latter. Rich in imagery, the poems look beyond the coupling of two parties with which happy stories traditionally end with, and explore the ways it can't just stay that way, in static, blissful co-existence: the tactics deployed in the games played to even remotely appear to have the upper hand (for no apparent reason), the damage each can inflict on the other just to show they can. While most of these are individual poems, it's the sequences - though few and far between - that truly impress. My favorite lines from the "Their attitudes differ" sequence: You held out your hand I took your fingerprints You asked for love I gave you only descriptions Please die I said so I can write about it And the untitled sequence about truth/lie: We are hard on each other and call it honesty, choosing our jagged truths with care and aiming them across the neutral table. The things we say are true; it is our crooked aims, our choices turn them criminal. [...] A truth should exist, it should not be used like this. If I love you is that a fact or a weapon?

  13. 4 out of 5

    Irene

    Precise and direct poems juxtapose intimacy and love with violence and catastrophe. Not all of the poems here spoke to me, and many lines didn't make sense to me, but this volume also contains some of the greatest short lines I've read in recent memory. One of the best short poems - probably ever in the English language - kicks off the book: you fit into me like a hook into an eye a fish hook an open eye Precise and direct poems juxtapose intimacy and love with violence and catastrophe. Not all of the poems here spoke to me, and many lines didn't make sense to me, but this volume also contains some of the greatest short lines I've read in recent memory. One of the best short poems - probably ever in the English language - kicks off the book: you fit into me like a hook into an eye a fish hook an open eye

  14. 4 out of 5

    Carolyn Klassen

    I'm surprised I didn't connect or care for almost all of these poems. A few lines here or there resonated, but this wasn't groundbreaking for me. I'm surprised I didn't connect or care for almost all of these poems. A few lines here or there resonated, but this wasn't groundbreaking for me.

  15. 4 out of 5

    ❀ iro ❀

    "I touch you, straighten the sheet, you turn over in the bed, tender, sun comes through the curtains Which of us will survive which of us will survive the other" I always adored the juxtaposition of love and violence in literature, especially in poetry. The way we cut ourselves in small pieces so we can fit into the hands of our lovers. The way we destroy each other through passion, when every kiss is a bullet, and the relationship turns into a battlefield. What can I say, toxic relationships in lit "I touch you, straighten the sheet, you turn over in the bed, tender, sun comes through the curtains Which of us will survive which of us will survive the other" I always adored the juxtaposition of love and violence in literature, especially in poetry. The way we cut ourselves in small pieces so we can fit into the hands of our lovers. The way we destroy each other through passion, when every kiss is a bullet, and the relationship turns into a battlefield. What can I say, toxic relationships in literature are kinda hot. "I can change myself more easily than I can change you" And Margaret Atwood does exactly that. Her poems are raw, full of both tenderness and resentment for the one she loves. She knows the love is destroying her, and yet this catastrophe leaves a sweet taste in her mouth. "If I love you is that a fact or a weapon?" Death plays a big role in this collection, she wishes the death of her lover, not of the in real life person, but of the person she has created in her mind. Of the person she loves and wants to let go. She wishes he would die inside her, so she can be free and immortalize him in her art, maybe as a form of catharsis for them both. "Please die I said so I can write about it" and "of course you'll die but not yet, you'll outlive even my distortions of you" In general, Power Politics is a beautiful collection about the power plays in a relationship, the love, the resentment, the anger, the tenderness. All these feelings exist simultaneously between the lovers, interwoven with one another like limbs. Atwood paints beautiful pictures with her words, sometimes touching the mythical, and others the more mundane, in all cases melancholic. While it doesn't top Dearly for me, that I read earlier this year, it's still a collection that I'll revisit in the future. "I should have used leaves and silver to prevent you instead I summoned you are not a bird you do not fly you are not an animal you do not run you are not a man your mouth is nothingness where it touches me I vanish you descent on me like age you descend on me like earth"

  16. 4 out of 5

    gray

    i quite loved some lines and the atmosphere atwood constructed. really my cup of tea, especially those that jumped from the page and punched me in the gut, but overall i felt like it was more of a visual experience than a reading one? nothing really stood out for me. anyway: We waltz in slow motion through an air stale with aphorisms have to peel you off me in the form of smoke and melted celluloid you long to be bandaged before you have been cut. I will suspend my search for germs if you will keep y i quite loved some lines and the atmosphere atwood constructed. really my cup of tea, especially those that jumped from the page and punched me in the gut, but overall i felt like it was more of a visual experience than a reading one? nothing really stood out for me. anyway: We waltz in slow motion through an air stale with aphorisms have to peel you off me in the form of smoke and melted celluloid you long to be bandaged before you have been cut. I will suspend my search for germs if you will keep your fingers off the microfilm hidden inside my skin Because you are never here but always there, I forget not you but what you look like I touch your mouth, I don’t want to hurt you any more now than I have to It would be so good if you’d only stay up there where I put you, I could believe, you’d solve most of my religious problems yes at first you go down smooth as pills, all of me breathes you in and then it’s a kick in the head, orange and brutal, sharp jewels hit and my hair splinters the adjectives fall away from me, no threads left holding me, I flake apart layer by layer down quietly to the bone, my skull unfolds to an astounded flower the mirage of us hands locked, smiling, as it fades into the white desert. A truth should exist, it should not be used like this. If I love you is that a fact or a weapon? your mouth is nothingness where it touches me I vanish There is no way I can lose you when you are lost already

  17. 5 out of 5

    Peycho Kanev

    you fit into me like a hook into an eye a fish hook an open eye

  18. 4 out of 5

    Bradley

    A gloriously furious little book of poetry

  19. 5 out of 5

    Christy

    i love margaret atwood’s poetry so much

  20. 4 out of 5

    K S.

    This is not the best book of poetry I have read by Margaret Atwood. However, it is the source of one of the greatest short poems of all time: "you fit into me like a hook into an eye a fish hook an open eye" (1). But that is the first poem and it takes awhile for the poems to return to the basic power of it. But that doesn't mean there weren't some really good moments in this book. Almost all of the poems revolve around a female narrator and an unknown man, obviously romantically linked with the narra This is not the best book of poetry I have read by Margaret Atwood. However, it is the source of one of the greatest short poems of all time: "you fit into me like a hook into an eye a fish hook an open eye" (1). But that is the first poem and it takes awhile for the poems to return to the basic power of it. But that doesn't mean there weren't some really good moments in this book. Almost all of the poems revolve around a female narrator and an unknown man, obviously romantically linked with the narrator. A sort of loving violence? The basic idea of the collection can be summed up in this stanza from "[This is a mistake]": "Next time we commit love, we ought to choose in advance what to kill" (35). Love is power and power is violent, seems to be the central lesson. And, to Atwood's credit, it does not necessarily succumb to the typical idea of man-as-violent-love thing. Both parties are violent in their loving. A couple of times the man is described as being monstrous or reptilian, causing destruction or devastation (see: "[You are the sun]"). But the female narrator is also a destructive force and that sort of balance is really nice. But the issue is that quite a few of these poems lack an impact, immediate or otherwise. They're just kind of there, limp and wet. "[The year I intended children]," "[I am sitting on the / edge]," "[I see you fugitive, stumbling across the prairie]," "What is it, it does not / move like love]," "Hesitations outside the door," and "[They were all inaccurate]" are the poems (aside from the ones quoted above) that I most enjoyed and the ones to which I would most like to return. But, as a whole, I don't know how soon I would return to it. Individually, some strong pieces, but, overall, a bit of a letdown. 3 Empty Hands out of 5

  21. 5 out of 5

    Jamie

    Margaret Atwood is an amazing, versatile writer. I enjoy her novels and her poetry thoroughly. I love this book of poetry in particular. It was a favorite of mine in college and I would quote from it extensively on my .plan (remember those?). These poems inspire me to think and to write, and encourage me to scrutinize myself and my relationships. There's a lot of intensity in these, a focused energy on "You" -- it's very powerful. This one in particular is a favorite, but is not representative of Margaret Atwood is an amazing, versatile writer. I enjoy her novels and her poetry thoroughly. I love this book of poetry in particular. It was a favorite of mine in college and I would quote from it extensively on my .plan (remember those?). These poems inspire me to think and to write, and encourage me to scrutinize myself and my relationships. There's a lot of intensity in these, a focused energy on "You" -- it's very powerful. This one in particular is a favorite, but is not representative of the whole: Beyond truth, tenacity: of those dwarf trees & mosses; hooked into straight rock believing the sun's lies & thus refuting / gravity & of this cactus, gathering itself together against the sand, yes tough rind & spikes but doing the best it can

  22. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    As I read these poems, I imagined each of them penned by a different ex or current wife of DJT. Atwood turns couplets into little, sharp knives.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Lauren

    I love this book. It reminds me of Hades and Persephone, though darker and much more cruel. In this book, love and violence are the same, though the characters are above other humans and only each other understand what they do to each other. This was interesting because it really was all about power and relationships and reminded me a lot of Oryx and Crake. I love this book. It reminds me of Hades and Persephone, though darker and much more cruel. In this book, love and violence are the same, though the characters are above other humans and only each other understand what they do to each other. This was interesting because it really was all about power and relationships and reminded me a lot of Oryx and Crake.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Anya (~on a semi-hiatus~)

    This poem, ladies and gents- you fit into me like a hook into an eye a fish hook an open eye

  25. 4 out of 5

    Kenneth

    I love Atwood, but I would humbly suggest she stick to novels.

  26. 5 out of 5

    M.W.P.M.

    You attempt merely power you accomplish merely suffering - pg. 32 The collection is divided into four sections. Each section begins with a short poem, reminiscent of the way some books are interspersed with quotations or blurbs at the beginning of chapters or what have you. The first part begins... you fit into me like a hook into an eye a fish hook an open eye - pg. 1 How the short poem relates to the poems in the corresponding section isn't apparent. That which is present in this introductory poem is You attempt merely power you accomplish merely suffering - pg. 32 The collection is divided into four sections. Each section begins with a short poem, reminiscent of the way some books are interspersed with quotations or blurbs at the beginning of chapters or what have you. The first part begins... you fit into me like a hook into an eye a fish hook an open eye - pg. 1 How the short poem relates to the poems in the corresponding section isn't apparent. That which is present in this introductory poem is present in the poems throughout the collection. That being a preoccupation with the body, often taking a morbid perspective, accompanied by violent imagery that serves as a euphemism or analogy for some aspect of interpersonal relationships... You take my hand and I'm suddenly in a bad movie, it goes on and on and why am I fascinated - pg. 3 I will suspend my search for germs if you will keep your fingers off the microfilm hidden inside my skin - Their attitudes differ, 1 (pg. 10) You drift down the street in the rain, your face dissolving, changing shape, the colours running together My walls absorb you, breathe you forth again, you resume yourself, I do not recognize you You rest on the bed watching me watching you, we will never know each other any better than we do now - pg. 14 The second part begins... Imperialist, keep off the trees I said. No use: you walk backwards, admiring your own footprints. - pg. 15 Likewise, the poems of the second part follow a sort of backwards logic, contradictions, misgivings... Which begs the question, who is admiring their footprints: Atwood, the reader, or someone else representative of something else? Who is the Imperialist?... These days my fingers bleed even before I bite them Can't play it safe, can't play at all any more Let's go back please to the games, they were more fun and less painful - Small tactics, 1 (pg. 17) Of course your lies are more amusing: you make them new each time. Your truths, painful and boring repeat themselves over & over perhaps because you own so few of them - pg. 24 you become slowly more public, in a year there will be nothing left of you but a megaphone - pg. 30 The third part begins... Returning from the dead used to be something I did well I began asking why I began forgetting how - pg. 39 The third part is characterized by undertones (or overtones) of morbidity and foreboding... I lie mutilated beside you; beneath us there are sirens, fires, the people run squealing, the city is crushed and gutted, the ends of your fingers bleed from 1000 murders - pg. 47

  27. 5 out of 5

    Angela

    Power Politics may have seemed (somewhat) groundbreaking when it was published in 1971, but today it feels like dime-a-dozen confessional poetry. One of the unique aspects of the poems is that they almost always address a presumably male "you." Most poems feature relationships that are quasi-romantic and volatile, sometimes bordering on the surreal. Here, Margaret Atwood uses minimal punctuation—aside from the odd ampersand, parentheses, slash, or comma—which serves no purpose other than looking Power Politics may have seemed (somewhat) groundbreaking when it was published in 1971, but today it feels like dime-a-dozen confessional poetry. One of the unique aspects of the poems is that they almost always address a presumably male "you." Most poems feature relationships that are quasi-romantic and volatile, sometimes bordering on the surreal. Here, Margaret Atwood uses minimal punctuation—aside from the odd ampersand, parentheses, slash, or comma—which serves no purpose other than looking gimmicky. I'm torn about the speaker's voice, which is, one on hand, tough as nails and full of conviction, but on the other hand, can be a little too sparse and blunt. It doesn't surprise me that the second edition was published in 1996; Power Politics has the same kind of edgy feminist energy as Alanis Morisette's Jagged Little Pill. Not necessary a bad thing, but I find it a little overdone. Poems that I liked: "[After the agony in the guest]", "[Like eggs and snails you have a shell]", "[Because you are never here]", "[your back is rough all]", "[Beyond truth]", "He is last seen." =6/45 (13.3%) poems that I liked.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Mare

    This 2018 printing begins with a charming and appropriately speculative introduction by Jan Zwicky that I enjoyed as much as the book of poetry itself. Ms. Zwicky's perspective is expansive, carrying the theme of the power politics within an arguably failing or perhaps settled long-term relationship to the larger landscape of power politics between CisHet men and women in America on the edge of a new decade in the new millennia. Atwood - well what can you say - this body of work is a tightly con This 2018 printing begins with a charming and appropriately speculative introduction by Jan Zwicky that I enjoyed as much as the book of poetry itself. Ms. Zwicky's perspective is expansive, carrying the theme of the power politics within an arguably failing or perhaps settled long-term relationship to the larger landscape of power politics between CisHet men and women in America on the edge of a new decade in the new millennia. Atwood - well what can you say - this body of work is a tightly controlled crash. A spare packet of stanzas in and out of metaphor and blazingly specific. Most often ascribed to a relationship ending, but honestly, I found lots of room for the kind of settledness that happens within a 30-year marriage where both have agreed what to ignore and what to cherish. "Please die I said so I can write about it." I would totally say that to my husband. Pretty sure I have. ;) Favorite excerpt: I hold out for you, your face corroded by truth, crippled, persistent. You ask like the wind, again and again and wordlessly, for the one forbidden thing: love without mirrors and not for my reasons but your own.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Nicole-Rose

    I usually have one of two reactions when finishing a book of poetry. One: I'm so outrageously moved that I feel like I've been punched in the stomach. Two: the 'one of us is crazy' look slowly hardens on my face while I start to contemplate why I still try with this medium. This book falls in the latter category. Know, of course, that this reaction is purely a reflection of me, not of the work itself. I can still recognise a work as something extremely personal and moving without understanding it I usually have one of two reactions when finishing a book of poetry. One: I'm so outrageously moved that I feel like I've been punched in the stomach. Two: the 'one of us is crazy' look slowly hardens on my face while I start to contemplate why I still try with this medium. This book falls in the latter category. Know, of course, that this reaction is purely a reflection of me, not of the work itself. I can still recognise a work as something extremely personal and moving without understanding it myself. These poems were clearly very personal for Atwood, and I can still appreciate that without being able to empathise. Or even follow the author's train of thought. In that sense, and some may definitely disagree with me, I don't think that non-narrative poetry as a medium has the same responsibility as the novel to insure the comprehension of the reader. If most readers don't understand what's going on in your novel, I would say that's a red flag. But I wouldn't necessarily say that about poetry. Was that just me trying to justify for ten minutes the fact that I enjoyed these poems but couldn't understand them? Maybe. But I think it's an important distinction.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Carmen Arribas

    Power Politics deals with latent power relations in traditionally heterosexual relationships. It's the first thing I've read about Atwood and it has left me freaked out. This woman plays with language as if it were a child's thing; Each word, each verse cut and each comma are designed to create surprising, violent, morbid images. Start the book with its famous simile: "You fit into me like a hook into an eye." This is what Atwood does throughout the book: she makes us expect something typically r Power Politics deals with latent power relations in traditionally heterosexual relationships. It's the first thing I've read about Atwood and it has left me freaked out. This woman plays with language as if it were a child's thing; Each word, each verse cut and each comma are designed to create surprising, violent, morbid images. Start the book with its famous simile: "You fit into me like a hook into an eye." This is what Atwood does throughout the book: she makes us expect something typically romantic, something that we will all recognize within our conceptions of love, in the first verse and then it hits us (because that's what this book has been for me: one slap after another) with a raw and bloody image of romantic relationship. The language is mystical, sinister, like a thread of prophecies entangled in the pages. I summarize everything that this book has transmitted to me with one of its verses: "If I love you is that a fact or a weapon?" I loved it. It has been a quick, but hard and exciting read. I recommend it a thousand times.

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