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Classic and Contemporary Poetry: Explained

YOU BEGIN, by         Recitation by Author     Poet Analysis     Poet's Biography

"You Begin" is a poem by Canadian poet Margaret Atwood that reflects on the experience of starting over, whether it be a new relationship, a new phase in life, or a new day. It was first published in her 1987 collection "Selected Poems II." 



The poem begins with the line "You begin this way," suggesting that the speaker is addressing the reader directly and offering advice on how to approach new beginnings. The poem goes on to describe various scenarios in which one might begin again, such as "with something you know," "with a sight or sound or feeling," or "with one question." The repetition of the phrase "you begin" creates a sense of momentum and progress, as if the speaker is urging the reader forward.

Poetic Elements:

  • Imagery: Atwood employs natural imagery, such as references to "the earth" and "the sun," to convey a sense of renewal and regeneration.
  • Theme: The poem centers on the theme of starting anew, suggesting that even in the face of death and destruction, there is always the possibility of rebirth.
  • Tone: The tone of the poem is optimistic and hopeful, as Atwood encourages the reader to embrace change and new beginnings.
  • Structure: The poem is written in free verse and does not have a consistent rhyme scheme. It consists of six stanzas, each with varying numbers of lines, which create a sense of movement and progression throughout the poem.

Poem Snippet:

You begin this way:

this is your hand,

this is your eye,

that is a fish, blue and flat


In "You Begin," Margaret Atwood explores the idea of transformation and new beginnings through the metaphor of the moon. By comparing the moon to a mirror, she suggests that every ending is also a beginning, and that even in times of darkness, there is always the possibility of light and renewal. The poem's reflective and meditative tone invites the reader to contemplate their own relationship with change and the unknown.

Overall, "You Begin" is a poignant and thought-provoking work that showcases Atwood's mastery of language and imagery. Through her use of vivid and powerful metaphors, she invites the reader to consider the cyclical nature of life and the infinite possibilities that exist in every moment.

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