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.
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.
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.
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.
In “The gate in his head,” Michael Ondaatje sees reality as chaotic and amorphous. Art, however, imposes the artist. The problem is capturing this chaos without imposing order upon it—a contradictory task. Ondaatje looks towards Victor Coleman for an answer. Coleman is able to direct the reader towards this indescribable reality through a sense of movement and convergence. This motion is crucial to “The gate in his head,” as Ondaatje analyzes and mimics Coleman’s technique, ever sliding closer to that ineffable chaos.