The handmaid's tale
Subject: Have read it 3 times and still it amaze me
Subject: Margaret Atwood: Some General Perspectives
Margaret Atwood, famous Canadian writer, said in an interview in 1978 when I was just beginning my literary and publishing life after 30 years of reading and writing as a student and teacher: “I began writing at the age of 5, but there was a dark period between the ages of 8 and 16 when I didn't write. I started again at 16. And have no idea why, but it was suddenly the only thing I wanted to do.”
My life-narrative with writing was very different from Atwood’s. I did not have the feeling that writing was “the only thing I wanted to do” until 1992, and insensibly and increasingly until I retired from teaching in 1999. By then I was 55, and I took a sea-change as they say in Australia.
Atwood also made the comment that in North America people have “a somewhat romantic notion about what an author is. They think of "writing" not as something you do but as something you are. The writer is seen as "expressing" herself; therefore, her books must be autobiographical. If the book were seen as something made, like a pot, we probably wouldn't have this difficulty.” As a North American, and until the age of 26 a resident of Canada, I hold some of this romantic view. As a person who has lived more than half his life in the Antipodes I see my writing a little like a pot, but only a little. I also have come to see it in many other perspectives.
Atwood went on to say: “My parents were great readers. They didn't encourage me to become a writer, exactly, but they gave me a more important kind of support; that is, they expected me to make use of my intelligence and abilities, but they did not pressure me in any particular direction. My mother was rather exceptional in this respect from what I can tell from the experiences of other young people my own age. Remember that all this was taking place in the 1950's, when marriage was seen as the only desirable goal for a girl, and parents pushed their kids this way and that.”
This could very well describe my parents. My mother, like Atwood’s, was a very lively person who would rather read poetry than scrub floors.My father scrubbed a lot of floors and did many things in life I scarcely appreciated back then when I was growing-up. -Ron Price with thanks to Margaret Atwood in “Margaret Atwood: Poet,” Joyce Carol Oats, New York Times on the Web, May 21st 1978.
I am absolutely dependent on the details
of the material world to make a space
for my prose-poetry to move around in.
It's dangerous to lift a statement out of
context, out of my poem, and take it as
my view, the poet’s view. The cultural
attitudes in poems are not invented by
poets; they’re reflections of something
the poet sees in the society around him.
Yeats once said that solitary imagination
makes and unmakes mankind and even the
world itself, for does not the 'eye alter
all'? Poetry is one of those things that
can't ever be quite pinned down....still
I do a lot of pinning...I’ve been pinning
for years, and I’ll be pinning for years.(1)
(1) Much of the above prose-poem is taken from an interview published in The New York Times seven months before I left Ballarat for Tasmania in December 1978. I had been living in Australia, at the time, for 7 and 1/2 years.
28/5/’06 to 8/12/’13.
ATWOOD LUTHER AND ME
Margaret Atwood(1939- ) is a Canadian poet, novelist, literary critic, essayist, and environmental activist. She graduated from high school in Toronto the year I entered my last year of primary school in Burlington just 30 miles away: 1957. We are both war-babies or members of what some social scientists call the silent generation. Atwood was always about 5 years ahead of me since she was born at the start of the war, while I was born toward its end.
Considered by one generational descriptor as “cautious, unimaginative and withdrawn,” members of our generation, the war-babies, grew up in the late 1940s and 1950s at a time of social conformity and, “looking for a type of rebirth.”(1) This generation needed a cause. Both Atwood and I only fit some aspects of this generation descriptor. Yes, we both needed a cause. For me it became the Baha’i Faith. For Atwood the cause would seem to be environmental issues, among others. She is one of Canada’s most successful writers with more than a dozen volumes of poetry and 20 volumes of prose to her credit making her cause, in some ways, writing itself.
Atwood got her M.A. in 1962 in literature, the same year I finished my last year of hometown baseball, entered my last year of high school, and began my travelling-pioneering for the Canadian Baha’i community in the small town of Dundas Ontario. As my teaching career developed from primary, to secondary, to post-secondary levels, and as I travelled and worked from town to town in both Canada and Australia, in the late ‘60s and ‘70s, Atwood published book after book.
She was catapulted to celebrity status in 1972, the first year I left Canada and began living in Australia as an international pioneer from Canada, the year I helped establish the first locally elected Baha’i assembly in the steel-port city of Whyalla South Australia, and in western and central Australia outside of the capital cities.
Her book, Survival, provided for Canadians like myself a wonderful insight into Canadian literature and into our very sense of identity.(2)-Ron Price with thanks to (1) M. Nowak and D.T. Miller, The Fifties: The Way We Really Were, Doubleday & Co. Inc., N.Y. 1977, p.18; and (2)Joyce Carol Oates, “Margaret Atwood’s Tale,” The New York Review of Books, 2 November 2006.
Yes, Margaret Atwood, I liked
your characterization and your
leitmotifs of Canadians about a
sense of survival...not triumph
or victory, like the Americans,
and not about those who made it,
but those who made-it-back.....
I made it back, Margaret, from a
Baffin Island crash: ‘here I stand’
as Martin Luther said about half a
millennium ago at the outset of a
(1) Luther is sometimes quoted as saying: "Here I stand. I can do no other". Recent scholars consider the evidence for these words to be unreliable, since they were inserted before "May God help me" only in later versions of the speech and not recorded in witness accounts of the proceedings. -Richard Marius, Luther, Quartet, London, 1975, p.155.
8/1/’12 to 8/12/’13.
MY STORY IS DIFFERENT, MARGARET
The writer, the poet, is an observer, a witness, and such observations are the air they breathe. The poem, the writing, is a vehicle, for their human responsibility. It is a form of testament, a form of eye-witness account, an I-witnessing. The overall opus can often be said to comprise one story.
For Margaret Atwood it is what she calls the story of the disaster which is the world.(1) For Ron Price it is what he calls Pioneering Over Five Epochs. Ron Price with thanks to (1)Margaret Atwood in Women Writers: Margaret Atwood, Barbara Hill Rigney, Barnes and Noble Books, Totowa, NJ, 1987, p.17.
Yes, Margaret, there is pain, tragedy,
disaster, fatigue, fear and loathing in
this Age of Transition, & this eve of
destruction, in which I’ve played my
part. I’ve told it as I’ve seen it in
all these poems, Margaret, this border
country, this half light, and this new
generation of dawnbreaking, in this
burgeoning world of the dazzling &
the chaotic, in this waiting world, the
not-yet-arrived, the not here yet, the
dream and the reality, the beginnings,
chrysalis, the endless repetition, & the
hearing of the story and its meaning
again and again until it has dried out
your soul inside of despair’s bleached
skull, as Roger White put it long ago.
Of course, there’s a flip-side, Margaret;
one of vision, of hope, where one can
just about taste the fragrances, rich &
deep, with meaning. And now, a place
where the light of the countenance of God(1)
shines before me like a beacon in the night.
(1) Baha’u’llah, The Tablet of Carmel.
13/2/’99 to 8/12/’13.
FULFILLING HIS TRUST
Margaret Atwood, Canadian author, explained how she wrote a series of poems that became The Journals of Susanna Moodie:(1) “They came as separate poems and I had no idea when I began that I was going to end up with a book of that size. It wasn’t planned that way. I wrote twelve at first and stopped and thought, you know, this is just short of a long short poem, twelve short poems, that’s it. And then I started writing more of them but I didn’t know where it was going. I don’t write books of poetry as books. I don’t write them like novels.”(2)
My poetry is similar to Atwood’s in terms of the process of writing. My pieces too “came as separate poems and I had no idea when I began that I was going to end up with a book”, or books of poems, the size or the extent to which I now have. “It wasn’t planned that way;” I wrote some 200 poems until the age of 47; of these I kept about 170. That’s about 5 poems a year from adolescence, the age of 13, to 47--35 years—or a poem every 75 days. Not exactly prolific.
“And then I started writing more of them in 1992, but I didn’t know where it was going.” In the years 1992 to 2013 I wrote some 7000++ poems. “I don’t write books of poetry as books. I don’t write them like novels.” I write a batch of about 100 and put them in a plastic binding and give them to some group, or just keep them in my study.-Ron Price with thanks to (1)Margaret Atwood, The Journals of Susanna Moodie, Oxford UP, Toronto, 1970; and (2)Margaret Atwood in Graeme Gibson, Eleven Canadian Novelists, Anansi, Toronto, 1972, p.164.
This is no novel but there’s
a central character, a story,
a set of ideas, a philosophy,
a serendipitous arrangement,
sequentially ordered with pattern
& images in a clear, an especially
modern, sensibility, in millions of
words all over cyberspace now, yes.
There’s a darker side to this persona,
this self in society and its exploration
is part of the trip, the journey through
a complex society and a new religion,
a series of coming to terms with people,
jobs, self, religion, the land, change---
as a tempest sweeps the face of the earth
in unpredictable, unprecedented ways.
After seeing little meaning in my world
around me at the start of my pioneering
journey in ’62, slowly, a union, vision,
past, present and future fell before my eyes,
insinuating, unobtrusive, with wonder,
awe, the foundation of the poetic me(1)
in a poem that is never finished and
helps me fulfil in my life His trust.(2)
(1) D. H. Lawrence quoted in The Psychic Mariner: A Reading of the Poems of D.H. Lawrence, Tom Marshall, Heinemann, London, 1970, p.3.
(2) Baha’u’llah, Hidden Words, p.1
18/9/'05 to 8/12/'13.
Yesterday, while reading in the Launceston library I read some of a biography of Margaret Atwood. On the front page it read: Never trust biographies. Too many events in a man's life are invisible,as unknown to others as our dreams. The autobiographer, on the other hand, can tell of these invisible events and of his dreams and, to that extent, autobiographies are potentially more trustworthy.
My autobiography, spread over several genres, certainly tells of this invisible world, as best I can. It is my hope that it provides, not only a more trustworthy document but one that is a pleasure to read. -Ron Price with thanks to Anne Michaels in Margaret Atwood: A Biography, Nathalie Cooke, Ecw Press, Toronto, 1998, p.5
We need to feel we understand
the world we live in, making
sense of these our days with
a persuasive portrait of who
we are as people & what our
lives are or should be about---
Can it be recorded here?
Is this philosophico-religious
vision of reality, with answers
and values to live by a sign of
things to come. It seems that way
to me after 60 years of association.
This need,for some, is a cry of anguish.(1)
With others there seems to be no cry at all.
(1) Ayn Rand's philosophy
7/11/'01 to 8/12/'13.
Price’s poetic meanderings, his immersion in the process of defining his journey, is partly his way of discovering his past, his childhood, his ancestral roots, his psycho-history; partly his way of defining his identity, his complex personality, his many selves and what composed them; partly his way of giving form and substance to a religious conviction that had, in one way or another, consumed his life and given it meaning; and partly his way of giving expression to the relativity and multiplicity of truth’s many-coloured glass. -Ron Price with thanks to Margaret Atwood in Women Writers: Margaret Atwood, Barbara Hill Rigney, Barnes and Noble Books, Totowa, NJ, 1987.
Yes, Margaret, they defy classification:
men, women, ideas: grey, complicated,
multidimensional, like everything else.
Yet, we classify the ambiguous, the
inexact, the passionate waters, the
incorrigibly murky rivers of our days.
We strive for precision with our
fastidiousness and our disposition
to overcome the casual. With our
logic, our science, and in our desire
to sanitize our art we assault ambiguity
and create many universal definitions.
In the end, though, we are left with
the subtle, the allusive, and the
figurative, the nuances, the ironic,
the ambivalent, the handmaiden of
mysticism, a savoring of mystery:
ambiguity, the promoter of community
in our quest for meaning, our quest
beyond the univocal into a thousand
faces, a thousand voices, a thousand
eyes, and a billion-many meanings!!!
13/2/'99 to 8/12/'13
KEEPING IT IN
The novelists Iris Murdoch and Margaret Atwood(1) say that people need secrets. Secrets are a right and proper part of being human.The world today is obsessed with not having secrets, with letting it all hang out, with telling it all.
These two novelists argue that someone with no secrets is an impossibility. Beginning, perhaps, with St. Augustine, but certainly with the diarist Samuel Pepys in 1659-1669,(2) we find men and women who loved themselves and from a fullness of their knowledge they felt a love for others. They were curious about the world; with their eyes and ears wide open they observed the world. With a genuine and sometimes superficial gregariousness Pepys hid his secret, in a self-obsessed, hermetic existence.
The place where Pepys wrote was his Diary. He wrote for himself in such a delightfully frank way with a special zest to tell it all and with fresh observational details and a less than deep analysis.-Ron Price with thanks to (1) Helen Elliott, "The Sting in the Tale," The Australian: The Review, 3 March 2001, pp.4-5 and (2) Robert Louis Stevenson, "Modern History Sourcebook," Samuel Pepys, 1886.
You can't tell it all:
that's plain to see.
Not everything can
It's better to keep it in
sometimes, the wise course,
the sensible middle,
a question of timing,
suited to the ears,
the sane line.
I've said this before.
I don't tell it all;
I keep some back,
just about all the time,
in poems and in life.
3/3/'01 to 8/12/'13
end of review, of this document
Borrow this book to access EPUB and PDF files.
Uploaded by associate-angela-dugas on