October 2007

Arts & Letters

‘The Door’ by Margaret Atwood

By Greg McLaren

In predicting that “Time will curve like a wind,” the speaker in ‘One Day You Will Reach ...’ hints at the flow and architecture of this new book of poetry, Margaret Atwood’s first in more than ten years. There is a controlled fury at work in the most powerful of these poems: those concerned with history, politics and, in a familiar Atwoodian voice, those toying with the idea of being prophetic. This mode drives the compositions as they dip into the past or roam a near future that is oddly familiar.

The elegiac tone that whispers through many of these poems is tinged with anger, frustration, dismay and guilt (“Did we cause this wreckage by breathing?”). Loss, here, is a piercing, raw sensation. It always has lasting implications, as in ‘Butterfly’: “the brown meandering river / he was always in some way after that / trying in vain to get back to”. Nothing is secure; everything passes, a series of “pure mementoes / of some once indelible day”. The present and future, because their meaning is undecided, are laden more heavily than the past with gothic undertones and preoccupations. Yet the present seems always about to topple into the past, and there is nothing that long history does not eventually swallow: “We feel everything hovering / on the verge of becoming itself.”

Where this somewhat overlong collection shows its flaws is in the numerous poems that merely repeat themselves or, worse, others. That said, where its focus remains tight, The Door feels sharper and more purposeful than its predecessor, Morning in the Burned House. There is a sense also of a rounding-off of a body of work. As Atwood prepares to mourn a world that is, her poems suggest, at a historical crossroads, her best writing retains a penetrating, self-questioning intelligence that sees clearly and asks itself the right questions. One of the finest poems, ‘The Valley of Heretics’, is compelling in its obliqueness, even as it echoes the sentiment found throughout The Door. It is aware, sorrowful, respectful of otherness: “we breathe them in / with unease, a sense of foreboding: / their ashes are everywhere.”

Cover: October 2007

October 2007

From the front page

Morrison on song

The PM set some markers for the public service … but can he be trusted?

Image of Nigel Farage at CPAC in Sydney

Making sense of CPAC

Why the Conservative Political Action Conference should not be dismissed lightly

Image from ‘Midsommar’

Pagan poetry: the studied strangeness of Ari Aster’s ‘Midsommar’

The ‘Hereditary’ director micro-manages the mania in his new film

Impression, Sunrise (1872) by Claude Monet

‘Monet: Impression Sunrise’ at the National Gallery of Australia

Impressionism’s namesake painting is at the heart of a masterful collection from the Musée Marmottan Monet


In This Issue

Words: Shane Maloney | Illustration: Chris Grosz

Billy Hughes & Woodrow Wilson

Illustration by Jeff Fisher.

Caveat emptor

‘The Book is Dead: Long Live the Book’ by Sherman Young

Illustration by Jeff Fisher.

The flatbed scanner of democracy


More in Arts & Letters

Photo of Adam Goodes

Swan song: Documenting the Adam Goodes saga

Two documentaries consider how racism ended the AFL star’s career

Book covers

Robot love: Ian McEwan’s ‘Machines Like Me’ and Jeanette Winterson’s ‘Frankissstein’

Literary authors tackle sentience and rationality in AI, with horrific results

Photo of Margot Robbie

Popcorn maker: Quentin Tarantino’s ‘Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood’

The tide may have turned against the director’s juvenile instincts and misogynist violence

Photo of Lil Nas X

Happy trails: Lil Nas X’s ‘Old Town Road’

The gay country-rapper exposes the complex play of identity, algorithms and capitalism


More in Noted

Cover of ‘The White Girl’ by Tony Birch

‘The White Girl’ by Tony Birch

An emotionally eloquent novel about the necessary inheritance of strength in Indigenous women

Impression, Sunrise (1872) by Claude Monet

‘Monet: Impression Sunrise’ at the National Gallery of Australia

Impressionism’s namesake painting is at the heart of a masterful collection from the Musée Marmottan Monet

Detail of 'Man, Eagle and Eye in the Sky: Two Eagles', by Cai Guo-Qiang

Cai Guo-Qiang’s ‘The Transient Landscape’ and the Terracotta Warriors at the National Gallery of Victoria

The incendiary Chinese artist connects contemporary concerns with cultural history

Cover image of ‘The Other Americans’ by Laila Lalami

‘The Other Americans’ by Laila Lalami

An accidental death in a tale of immigrant generations highlights fractures in the promise of America


Read on

Image of Nigel Farage at CPAC in Sydney

Making sense of CPAC

Why the Conservative Political Action Conference should not be dismissed lightly

Image from ‘Midsommar’

Pagan poetry: the studied strangeness of Ari Aster’s ‘Midsommar’

The ‘Hereditary’ director micro-manages the mania in his new film

Image of director Quentin Tarantino and actor Margot Robbie

Quentin Tarantino’s Sisyphean task

The polarising director and actor Margot Robbie on making ‘Once Upon A Time… In Hollywood’

Image from ‘Succession’

Heirs unapparent: ‘Succession’

The HBO comedy-drama returns for another gleefully toxic season


×
×