Power Politics

Margaret Atwood's Power Politics reads a little bit like a relic of second-wave feminism now, but that doesn't mean it isn't still valuable.

Picture me, my sixteen-year-old high school self. I had floppy hair and wore oversized t-shirts. In my private imagination I was a poet, although I disliked most poetry we were taught in school because it was boring, had nothing to do with the current world, seemed trapped in the kind of paintings you'd find in a stuffy museum.

Then we read a tiny four line poem:

"you fit into me
like a hook into an eye

a fish hook
an open eye"

And I was totally in love with Margaret Atwood after that. It's ballsy! It's simple! It's a little gross! Of course, I didn't understand the context of the poem then, but years later I stumbled upon Power Politics and saw that this four-line snippet opens the book.

What feminism teaches me is something I've struggled to put into words. On the one hand, I feel unable to access the feminist impulse in poetry because of the privilege I can't escape as a man. But I am forced uncomfortably into a feminine box, at times, because I am gay (although I do not consider much about gay identity to be feminine, but agree that it can be defined as "not masculine," if masculinity is all about beer farts, belching, ESPN, suckerpunches, and shit like that).

But I have tried to write from a place that recognizes power exists. That power seeks to occupy. That power, ultimately, fails to do so unless we allow it to occupy. I want to say the thing everyone knows but refuses to acknowledge.

1 comment:

  1. This is really interesting, Charles. I was thinking of some of the first criticism I ever read, in my first round of graduate school in my early twenties, what was then termed "queer theory" (is it still called that?) and how it made so much sense to me, even though I don't identify as gay - but the fact that it examines power and otherness and how all the really good critics wrote from a position of "outsider" somehow - whether because of gender, sexuality, race, or class. The only reason I really loved postmodernism was because these critics used the position of otherness to show the interesting scaffolding of an author's writing, things I had never thought of before. And that's when I started re-writing stories in my poems, too, when I started thinking about origins and otherness.