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Progressive Insanities of a Pioneer

A poem by Margaret Atwood
by

Ashley Bilodeau

on 8 October 2012

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Transcript of Progressive Insanities of a Pioneer

Progressive Insanities of a Pioneer by Margaret Atwood i
He stood, a point
on a sheet of green paper
proclaiming himself the centre,

with no walls, no borders
anywhere; the sky no height
above him, totally un-
enclosed
and shouted:

Let me out!

ii
He dug the soil in rows,
imposed himself with shovels
He asserted
into the furrows, I
am not random.

The ground
replied with aphorisms:

a tree-sprout, a nameless
weed, words
he couldn't understand.

iii
The house pitched
the plot staked
in the middle of nowhere.

At night the mind
inside, in the middle
of nowhere.

The idea of an animal
patters across the roof.

In the darkness the fields
defend themselves with fences
in vain:
everything
is getting in.

iv
By daylight he resisted.
He said, disgusted
with the swamp's clamourings and the outbursts
of rocks,
This is not order
but the absence
of order.

He was wrong, the unanswering
forest implied:

It was
an ordered absence

v
For many years
he fished for a great vision,
dangling the hooks of sown
roots under the surface
of the shallow earth.

It was like
enticing whales with a bent
pin. Besides he thought

in that country
only the worms were biting.

vi
If he had known unstructured
space is a deluge
and stocked his log house-
boat with all the animals

even the wolves,

he might have floated.

But obstinate he
stated, The land is solid
and stamped,

watching his foot sink
down through stone
up to the knee.

vii
Things
refused to name themselves; refused
to let him name them.

The wolves hunted
outside.

On his beaches, his clearings,
by the surf of under-
growth breaking
at his feet, he foresaw
disintegration
and in the end
through eyes
made ragged by his
effort, the tension
between subject and object,

the green
vision, the unnamed
whale invaded. http://www.sparknotes.com/poetry/atwood/ http://cafedes.tripod.com/success.htm Come on, oh, my star is fading
And I swerve out of control
If I, if I'd only waited
I'd not be stuck here in this hole

Come here, oh, my star is fading 5
And I swerve out of control
And I swear I waited and waited
I've got to get out of this hole

But time is on your side
It's on your side now 10
Not pushing you down and all around
It's no cause for concern

Come on, oh my star is fading
And I see no chance of release
And I know I'm dead on the surface 15
But I am screaming underneath

And time is on your side
Is on your side; It's on your side now
Not pushing you down, and all around
No it's no cause for concern 20

Stuck on the end of this ball and chain
And I'm on my way back down again
Stood on a bridge, tied to the noose
Sick to the stomach
You can say what you mean 25
But it won't change a thing
I'm sick of the secrets
Stood on the edge, tied to the noose

You came along and you cut me loose Margaret Atwood http://www.margaretatwood.ca/ Atwood was born November 18th, 1939 in Ottawa, Ontario and is still alive.

She has both a bachelor of arts and a master of arts degree.

The author of more than fifty volumes of poetry, children's literature and both fiction and non-fiction short stories and novels, Atwood is an awarded and well known Canadian author.

Her work has been published in over fourty languages.

In 2004 she co-invented the Long Pen (TM) which is a remote signing device that allows someone to write in ink anywhere in the world using a computer and the internet. X X O X a e i o u a e i o u http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LongPen "If the national mental illness of the United States is megalomania, that of Canada is paranoid schizophrenia." "I've never understood why people consider youth a time of freedom and joy. It's probably because they have forgotten their own." "An eye for an eye only leads to more blindness." "Megalomania is a psycho-pathological condition characterized by delusional fantasies of power, relevance, or omnipotence. 'Megalomania is characterized by an inflated sense of self-esteem and overestimation by persons of their powers and beliefs'." http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Megalomania http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/m/margaret_atwood.html I connected my theme statement to the song Amsterdam by Coldplay. My theme states this: Sometimes in life, individuals may resist a situation or circumstance they are faced with. As a result, they may lose their ground, not only in wherever they are, but in who they are as well. The song is a great connection because it fits into the theme. In the song, the speaker sings, "I've got to get out of this hole." The hole he is in is his circumstance; he doesn't want to be there. He resisted when he "Stood on the edge, tied to the noose..." (Line 28). In the poem, the pioneer resisted when he tried to control the "absence of order", despite the fact it was really "an ordered absence" and that it was meant to be that way. The character in both the poem and the song are "...dead on the surface but... [are] screaming underneath" (Line 15, 16) because they can't find a way to fit into their situation. By resisting it, the characters lose their ground and they both lose their sense of sanity. By losing their grasp on who they are, they, in turn, lost their place in their world. This is why I connected the song Amsterdam to my theme. T//
Progressive//
-moving forwards-building up (or out)
-of, relating to, or characterized by progress (Merriam Webster Dictionary)
Insanity//
-losing your mind-too much to handle
-irrational-a loose grasp on reality
-a deranged state of the mind (Merriam Webster Dictionary)
Pioneer//
-first (or initial)
-Canada-farming/hunting/staking…
-one of the first to settle in a territory (Merriam Webster Dictionary)
Progressive Insanities of a Pioneer//
-‘Pioneer’ is a name that can be paired with the character(s) in the poem
-‘Progressive Insanities’ could represent an idea (something irrational?) that builds and becomes overwhelming or enticing F//
POV//
-the poem is told from a limited omniscient point of view
SPEAKER//
-the narrator is not the character, but someone who can see what is occurring and knows the thoughts and feelings of the character (limited omniscient)
CHARACTER//
-there is only one character, a man, who can be described as a pioneer (of what? That is open to interpretation and I will come back to that later)
WHERE//
-initially, it seems that there is no real place that defines the setting. But as the poem moves forward, we find that the setting is outdoors in the presence of nature-the place does not have a name but a description: as a pioneer, the man began to create a space by farming and building a home and a fence-though he is still alone
WHEN//
-using ‘pioneer’ as a clue, we can infer that the events in the poem occur during a time before civilization and that the character is a pioneer
-or it could be modern day and the man is not the pioneer of a physical place, but instead, a place within himself like an idea or an opinion
WHAT//
-literally, the plot consists of a man in the middle of nowhere who creates a place with borders and confinements
-he struggles with nature and tends to fight against its will
-at the end, he loses his fight against nature and his space is invaded by an unnamed whale-sounds silly, doesn’t it?
-the man resists nature’s pull just as nature resists his changes-nature could be a metaphor for his own will or need - what he is fighting against
-he keeps fighting against nature and its’ ‘unordered absence’, trying to create a sense of order and believing he can do that, he sinks, he falters and unwillingly gives in to the power of the natural order and power of how things are, as they are T//
METAPHOR//
“a point on a sheet of green paper” – he is not really standing on a sheet of green paper but an empty space, outside (green)
PERSONIFICATION//
“The ground
replied with aphorisms:” – the ground cannot speak
“The idea of an animal
patters across the roof.” – an idea cannot ‘patter’
“In the darkness the fields
defend themselves with fences
in vain:” – the fields cannot defend themselves or feel vain
“…the outbursts
of rocks,” – rocks do not have outbursts
“…the unanswering
forest implied:” – forests have no way of implicating
ALLUSION//
“and stocked his log house-
boat with all the animals

even the wolves,

he might have floated.” – this is an allusion to Noah and the ark
SITUATIONAL IRONY//
“stated, The land is solid
and stamped,
Watching his foot sink
down through stone
up to the knee.” – he states the ground is solid, but his foot sinks into the ground
IMAGERY//
Throughout the poem, Atwood uses language that gives us a very definitive picture of what this place looks like and what it feels like to be there, fighting the nature like the pioneer did.
FREE VERSE//
The poem is written in free verse. There is no rhyming or a specific rhythm. A//
The tone of the poem is slow, like the author really meant to drag out the progression of the pioneer’s insanity. The words are broken which suggests the unfamiliarity the pioneer has with where he is and how he struggles with the situation. By separating the words and phrases, however, she also brings a lot of focus to certain words and thoughts throughout the poem. The tone towards the character is rather ‘matter of fact’: This is what happened, and here is what he did. The narrator seems to be siding with nature.

The poem caught my attention because of the panic I felt reading the first section. That initial feeling never goes away but it does get resolved, which is every reason to read the entire poem – over and over again. S//
a. There is no shift in the narrative voice.

b. The poem is split up into seven sections (i, ii, iii, iv, v, vi and vii). Each section has stanzas in it. This way, every new thought is separated and each shift in time if noted.

c. The setting becomes more and more vast, more and more confined, as the story moves forward.

d. Each section is its own event. Each event unravels and leads into the next.

e. A sense of claustrophobia kneads its way into your stomach and it only gets bigger and bigger. At the same time, a sense of feeling lost becomes more and more palpable.

f. The entire poem in in past tense.

g. Enjambment and caesura is consistent throughout the poem. T//
The title of the poem is 100% a, very, very short, explanation of the events that occur in the poem. There is a pioneer, of physical or of psychological means, whose insanities progress as he resists what is, as it is, and tries to change it to fit his own ‘needs’.
I//
Sometimes in life individuals may resist a situation or circumstance they are faced with. As a result, they may lose their ground, not only in wherever they are, but in who they are as well. TFTASTI
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