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Volume 02, Number 2 (1977)

Atwood's Gorgon Touch

  • Frank Davey
May 22, 2008


In Margaret Atwood's seven books of poetry between 1961 and 1974, Double Persephone, The Circle Game, The Animals in That Country, The Journals of Susanna Moodie, Procedures for Underground, Power Politics, and You Are Happy, the opposition between the static, the mythological or the sculptural, and the kinetic, the actual or the temporal, has been a central concern. Atwood opposes the aesthetics of space to those of time, with the dynamics of time often overwhelming those of space. The struggle of her historical personae to abandon art and enter historical time is enlarged, by the extra-temporal aesthetic implicit in her use of language and form, into her own personal struggle. Thus, Atwood's poems circle back on themselves, recreating one central drama of artist-woman engaged in an unsuccessful struggle to escape art for mortality. Essential to this drama is the implicit impossibility of resolution, embodied in "the gorgon touch" through which Atwood's language, form, structure, and characterization are directed.