Margaret Atwood at UCSB

La Luna by Luis Gonzalez Palma. I first saw the original painting at an art gallery in Antigua, Guatemala.I was instantly hypnotized with tunnel-vision and stared at this image for close to an hour. Jaw-dropping, mind-racing. This image has been haunting me for the past few days, and although not connected to Atwood’s lecture last night, it seemed to want to come forward. So, here it is.

Last night I had the pleasure of hearing Margaret Atwood at UCSB’s Campbell Hall. She is a feminist literary giant who “enchants us so convincingly that after her spell is over, the ‘real’ world seems temporarily transformed”-NPR. She interrogates issues of gender, politics, technology, wealth, religion, and even vampires (really), with such a wicked sense of humor balanced with an incredible eloquence and grace. With more than 40 books under her belt, including the The Handmaid’s Tale, The Edible Woman, The Blind Assassin, and Oryx and Crake, she is still active in the literary world at 70+ years of age.

Talk about inspiration for doing what makes you truly feel alive, for listening to that thing inside which yearns for breath, for life, be it words, or stories, or love, or adventure.

Last night she read from her vast collection of poetry around the central theme of ‘love’ in honor of Valentine’s Day this coming Thursday. To be honest, I wasn’t too excited about the whole ‘Valentine’s Day’ theme. I didn’t feel like listening to another mushy love poem or enduring another’s deep heartache. But, when she opened up with a hilarious poem about her beloved dead cat’s journey into Heaven and his (the cat’s) dialogue with God asking for his testicles back, I knew this was not going to be just another commercialized love theme purge.

I cannot justly describe the experience of listening to Atwood recite her craft. It’s a felt experience more than anything else; her words so naturally fell from her tongue and greeted me right where I sat. Instead of continuing to write, I will share one of my favorites from last night. I hope you enjoy.

A quick plug for UCSB arts & lectures—a wonderful community resource for music, dance, lectures, etc. and some events are free! Don’t miss out.

Heart

Some people sell their blood. You sell your heart.

It was either that or the soul.

The hard part is getting the damn thing out.

A kind of twisting motion, like shucking an oyster,

your spine a wrist,

and then, hup! it’s in your mouth.

You turn yourself partially inside out

like a sea anemone coughing a pebble.

There’s a broken plop, the racket

of fish guts into a pail,

and there it is, a huge glistening deep-red clot

of the still-alive past, whole on the plate.

It gets passed around. It’s slippery. It gets dropped,

but also tasted. Too coarse, says one. Too salty.

Too sour, says another, making a face.

Each one is an instant gourmet,

and you stand listening to all this

in the corner, like a newly hired waiter,

your diffident, skillful hand on the wound hidden

deep in your shirt and chest,

shyly, heartless.

· Margaret Atwood, The Door

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