Essays

Sheila and Schwartz: The Nuances of Personal Independence

Mavis Gallant’s introduction to Home Truths quotes Boris Pasternak: “Only personal independence matters” (xi). The importance of personal independence is a driving theme in Morley Callaghan’s “One Spring Night” and “A Wedding Dress,” which respectively explores opposite ends of romantic relationships: young Sheila is on her first date with Bob, while the aging Miss Schwartz is finally getting married to Sam after fifteen years of engagement. By its very definition, a relationship is the antithesis of independence—a problem that becomes increasingly evident for Sheila and Schwartz. Continue reading

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Essays

The Literal Persona and the Beauty of Furs

Erin Mouré’s “The Beauty of Furs” and “The Beauty of Furs: A Site Glossary” are complementary poems, with the latter explaining and expanding upon the former. In “The Beauty of Furs,” Mouré’s presumably female persona discusses fur with younger girls. The persona and the younger girls have markedly different understandings of the beauty of furs: the persona associates fur with a host of images and memories; while the younger girls only see fur for its superficial appearance. “The Beauty of Furs: A Site Glossary” decrypts the metaphor in “The Beauty of Furs”: “Later you realize it is a poem about being born” (Mouré 595). But there is a reason that Mouré made “The Beauty of Furs: A Site Glossary” a separate poem—to understand “The Beauty of Furs” in a non-metaphoric sense is to connect with Mouré on a much more personal and literal level.

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Essays

The Multiplicity of Form and Content in a Photograph

It is the title that boldly proclaims the object and subject in Margaret Atwood’s poem: “This is a Photograph of Me.” But while the poem speaks in a simple and straightforward language, Atwood is nonetheless able to obscure almost all meaning. Atwood’s talent lies in creating an image in the reader’s mind, which begins to unravel and multiply. The reader is given the photograph, which is revealed to be polysemic in form and content, and must then confront his own singular understanding of existence and reality.

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Essays

There is something down there: The Reader’s Journey into Internality

In “Dark Pines under Water,” Gwendolyn MacEwen describes the internal journey of the reader as triggered by the reflected landscape. This internality is deliberately shrouded: the trigger, the journey and the destination is never defined. Indeed, naming the internality would rob it of its potency. Instead, MacEwen only approaches through indirect means. By using the strong imagery and connotations inherent in the landscape, MacEwen is able to subvert these associations when describing introspection to create an alien, yet familiar internality. MacEwen’s talent lies in her ability to lead the reader to a subjective conclusion without objectively overstating it. The result is an actual journey that compels the reader to engage with the text.

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Essays

I am the cinnamon: The Paradoxical Position of the Cinnamon Peeler’s Wife

Given the first half of Michael Ondaatje’s “The Cinnamon Peeler,” the poem can be reach as a patriarchal or colonial text, where the titular cinnamon peeler has clear authority and dominance over the cinnamon peeler’s wife. Ondaatje uses the actual past of the second half to subvert this dominance in the hypothetical present, re-examining the power dynamic between the persona and his wife. By exploring the nature of power in love, their actual relationship is revealed to be much more nuanced, with the persona’s wife paradoxically empowered and powerless in relation to the persona at the same time.

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