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Occasional Poem – Margaret Atwood

Sunday, July 23, 2006

As this is the first Occasional Poem — as well as a lazy Sunday morning — I want to start off nice and simple. So, grab a cup of coffee, settle yourself down at your desk and we’ll go through this untitled poem by Margaret Atwood.


you fit into me

like a hook into an eye


a fish hook

an open eye


This poem feels like it could easily have been written by a Zen master. It says only one thing, but it says it perfectly — one single image which distills an entire relationship down its inherent paradox: this man and woman are meant to be together, as a fish-hook is meant to clip on to an eye of a fishing-rod when it is at rest, but it will always be in a state of constant pain, as a hook into an open eye. The voice of the poem recognizes this, accepts it, even wants it — that’s why the eye is left open.

It is a flawless in its elucidation of a strong, single image and shows that sometimes a poet can say a lot by hardly saying anything at all. meopcco


7 Comments leave one →
  1. Sunday, July 23, 2006 11:32 am

    That’s not how I read this one at all. I took it as a bit o’ progressing wit, snarky and sarcastic. Telling the subject that he/she is only a source of pain, then graphically emphasizing it with an image that is both humourous and guaranteed to make you flinch.

    First line: setup, leads you in one direction — “Aww, a sweet little love poem to her honeypie.”

    Second: the switcheroo — “Pfwuh? Like a hook? Why, you rascal! Bravo!”

    Third: emphasis level one — “Yeowch. That would hurt.”

    Final: emphasis level two, drivin’ it home — “Now I can’t help but picture it, and yeah, it does hurt. Yeowch reiterated.”

  2. Sunday, July 23, 2006 11:19 pm

    I’m somewhere inbetween on this. I took eye to refer to the sensory organ (and I’m still wincing at the image in my head.) It seemed the initial two lines were darkened humour, but the final pair reveal the underlying anguish of a person in a troubled relationshipߞone too complicated and tightly woven to simply walk away from. Because as much a fish hook in the eye hurts, you can’t simply yank that sucker back out. That could hurt just as bad if not worse. Especially if it’s barbed…

    In hindsight, James’ fish-hook/rod-eye interpretation seems more sensible, not to mention more eloquent and far less gruesome.

  3. Sunday, July 23, 2006 11:32 pm

    Oh yeah… forgot to mention that I rather liked this poem. Hence, so far I’m a big fan the Occasional Poem column.

  4. you idiots permalink
    Wednesday, December 17, 2008 5:31 pm

    hook and eye also refers to a common way women’s clothing is fastened and unfastened. you know, like a clasp. see. feel. image. think. know. duh.

  5. Irate in Vancouver permalink
    Tuesday, January 5, 2010 2:22 am

    Christ what a terrible poem.

    • Anonymous permalink
      Tuesday, March 1, 2011 9:33 pm

      thats not a terrible poem. you’re a terrible person.

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