More and More

Poem by Margaret Atwood

More and more frequently the edges
of me dissolve and I become
a wish to assimilate the world, including
you, if possible through the skin
like a cool plant’s tricks with oxygen
and live by a harmless green burning.

I would not consume
you or ever
finish, you would still be there
surrounding me, complete
as the air.

Unfortunately I don’t have leaves.
Instead I have eyes
and teeth and other non-green
things which rule out osmosis.

So be careful, I mean it,
I give you fair warning:

This kind of hunger draws
everything into its own
space; nor can we
talk it all over, have a calm
rational discussion.

There is no reason for this, only
a starved dog’s logic about bones.

— Margaret Atwood, The Animals in That Country (1968)

Regarded as one of Canada’s finest living writers, Margaret Atwood was brought to the attention of many by her gothic and speculative fiction, like for instance the famous The Handmaid’s Tale that was recently turned into a television series, and which is dominated by an unforgiving view of patriarchy and its legacies. But beside fiction, Atwood has written also many poems, which like her novels, constantly pit civilisation against the wilderness that surrounds it and society against the savagery from which it arose. She considers these oppositions to be defining our world as much as provide a metaphor for the divisions within the human personality. Society, civilisation, and culture represent the rational, contained side of humanity, while the wild forest represents the very opposite: the irrational,
primeval, and carnal impulses that exist in every living being.

In the similar fashion, the above poem explores the complex dynamics of interpersonal relationships, including desire, sex, and love; female and male identity. Whilst the first part of More and More gives the impression of a pure love poem, its second part talks about the all-consuming desire and greed that destroys the beauty of the world as much as any relationship of a human being to another.

Last July, the author took to Twitter to share her thoughts on sex, gender and how our understanding of them is continuously evolving. Sharing a link to a Scientific American (2017) article “The New Science of Sex and Gender” – sharply telling her followers “some science here” – Atwood wrote that “we’re all part of a flowing bell curve”. “Respect that!” she added. “Rejoice in nature’s infinite variety!”

UKAGP Newsletter – Spring 2021Art & Poetry
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