And the final Sweet 16 spot belongs to…
Atwood is Canadian, so she’s not represented by Dove’s Penguin anthology of 20th century American poetry; Dunn’s got a couple of poems in the Dove, including this one:
ALLEGORY OF THE CAVE
He climbed toward the blinding light
and when his eyes adjusted
he looked down and could see
his fellow prisoners captivated
by shadows; everything he had believed was false.
And he was suddenly
in the 20th century, in the sunlight
and violence of history, encumbered
by knowledge. Only a hero
would dare return with the truth.
So from the cave’s upper reaches,
removed from harm, he called out
the disturbing news.
What lovely echoes, the prisoners said,
what a fine musical place to live.
He spelled it out, then, in clear prose
on paper scraps, which he floated down.
But in the semi-dark they read his words
with the indulgence of those who seldom read:
It’s about my father’s death, one of them said.
No, said the others, it’s a joke.
By this time he no longer was sure
of what he’d seen. Wasn’t sunlight a shadow too?
Wasn’t there always a source
behind a source? He just stood there,
confused, a man who had moved
to larger errors, without a prayer.
Love is not a profession
genteel or otherwise
sex is not dentistry
the slick filling of aches and cavities
you are not my doctor
you are not my cure,
nobody has that
power, you are merely a fellow/traveller
Give up this medical concern,
permit yourself anger
and permit me mine
which needs neither
your approval nor your surprise
which does not need to be made legal
which is not against a disease
but against you,
which does not need to be understood
or washed or cauterized,
which needs instead
to be said and said.
Permit me the present tense.
This is a love poem, but sounds, even in its wisdom, a little too hectoring. “Love’s not love which alters when it alteration finds,” Shakespeare said, and this is what Atwood is doing: chasing down love’s bad habits, trying to make love behave. You’re objecting too much, Ms. Atwood. If your lover wants to “fill a cavity,” let them, Shakespeare would say.
The Dunn’s a little too obvious, as is the Atwood.
Dunn 74 Atwood 71