The following poem from acclaimed author and poet, Margaret Atwood, is part of her 1971 Power Politics poetry collection:
you fit into me
like a hook into an eye
a fish hook
an open eye
That might be the most powerful short poem I’ve ever read. It’s only 16 words, but whew boy. Sometimes I like when language sings with its beauty and the way certain poets and authors are able to configure it in just the right way to hit the highest of notes. But sometimes, like with this Atwood poem, I like language to knock me down.
To quite simply make me go, “Whoa.”
I think there are a few ways to read this poem, and without the context of knowing how Atwood was writing in 1971 and in particular, how this poem fits into the Power Politics collection, I could be missing author intent in how to interpret it. But, of course, the beauty of art is that the beholder can interpret it how they see it, even if that might be different from the author.
When I read this the first time (which was about 10 minutes ago), I thought, “That’s love. That’s describing love.” The romanticized idea of love, at least, perhaps even the unhealthy idea of love. That is, the idea that a full love is painful, but that it’s almost a utilitarian bargain that the pain is worth it?
And in this case, “an open eye,” seems to suggest that the recipient is willing to enter into that bargain consensually. However, there’s also the sense with the imagery of a “fish hook,” that the recipient is bait, and may be unwittingly entering into a bargain without knowing the full terms. In that interpretation, we can think of love as blinding us to red flags simmering under the surface, waiting to unfurl its warning call.
Then there’s even the basic idea of “you fit into me.” When it comes to love, the romanticized idea of it again, we seem to think our lovers are destined to fit with us, to be compatible with us, otherwise we wouldn’t take them as lovers, right? But perhaps we try to conform a jigsaw puzzle into a slot it’s not meant for, but our brains need to finish the puzzle, so we try to smash that puzzle piece into the slot. That also fits into the idea of love being blind and causing delusion.
But delusion also doesn’t much fit with “an open eye.”
This is a truly great work of art that’s doing so much with so little. There’s not even any fancy words or clever rhymes with this poem. It’s just raw and lays it out there for you. I have more I want to say about this poem, but I think it’s worth leaving it here for now.
For example, there’s much to be said about the style choice for the title itself: [you fit into me]. That seems almost an aesthetic choice inasmuch as a thematic choice, albeit, those can be one-in-the-same.
Notice, I tend to ramble when I get excited by a poem? And I said I was going to stop interpreting for now, and then added more sentences of interpretation? Gah.
What do you think this poem means? Do you like this poem?