Two Headed Poems by Margaret Atwood

Two Headed Poems by Margaret Atwood was published in 1978 by Oxford University Press. Some of the themes in Two-Headed Poems are what we have come to expect from Margaret Atwood, like nature, but I also think that this collection allows us to see a new side of Atwood we haven’t seen before.

We see the themes of our mortality in The Woman Who Could Not Live With Her Faulty Heart. This is my favourite of the collection. Daybooks I is the first poem that I can recall her referring to her daughter at least explicitly. Margaret was with Graeme Gibson when this book was published and their daughter Eleanor Jess was born in 1976. She refers to her daughter in a couple other poems in this collection too.

Then, in Five Poems For Grandmothers we learn a bit about Margaret’s maternal grandmother and her relationship with her.

I’m totally guessing here, but I’m thinking that motherhood for Margaret would have her thinking about the mothers who mothered her. She writes about her grandmother and her grandmother’s life, in a beautiful way. We’ve seen themes of aging in some of Atwood’s other poems, but this one I think shows a more personal side of Atwood which is kind of nice.

The title poem or poems are inspired by siamese twins. I think it must have been an intentional decision to put it directly in the middle of the collection because several of the poems have a duality to them. For example There is Daybooks I before Two Headed poems and Daybooks II on the other side after Two Headed Poems. Some of the poems have duality within them. Like The Right Hand Fights the Left. In Two Headed Poems, the idea of the siamese twins is used as a metaphor for the tensions within relationships and perhaps, in particular the relationship of the French and English tensions within Canada.

The poem The Bus To Alliston, Ontario is also a personal one as Atwood was living in Alliston when this collection was published.

The Woman Makes Peace With Her Faulty Heart comes after Two Headed Poems in the collection and I loved the descriptions in this poem as well.

Atwood continues to give us tales of her family in the second half of the collection as well. The Poem The Red Shirt is for her sister Ruth who is twelve years younger than Margaret. Not only is it for Ruth, but somehow, Atwood manages to include her daughter and make it another poem that includes duality and symbols as well as the theme of connection.

I think what I enjoyed most about this collection is that I could see Atwood from another perspective. It feels like she is more than just an academic with a message, but someone who has a bit more life experience and is willing to reflect on that and has something to say about it. Although I think poetry is always personal, there is an obvious personal touch and an opening up of Margaret here. It felt more domestic and homey if that makes sense while still being true to who Atwood is and what’s important to her. I also liked the structure of the collection. The mirroring of the poems on either side of Two Headed poems.

Bookworm Rating: 🐛🐛🐛🐛

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