Margaret Atwood on Marriage
“Marriage is not a house or even a tent…”
By Maria Popova
“I hold this to be the highest task of a bond between two people: that each should stand guard over the solitude of the other,” Rilke wrote in his meditation on freedom, togetherness, and the secret to a good marriage. But how do two people protect this sacred necessity of the bond from the daily proximity of cohabitation, which now presses their closely neighboring solitudes into inevitable frictions, now pushes them apart into neighboring lonelinesses?
That is what Margaret Atwood explores in a short, stunning poem originally published in her 1970 collection Procedures for Underground, later included in her altogether wondrous Selected Poems: 1965–1975 (public library), and read here by musician, poetry-lover, and my dear friend Amanda Palmer to the serendipitous sound of church bells in the winter-quieted streets of Portugal.
by Margaret Atwood
Marriage is not
a house or even a tent
it is before that, and colder:
the edge of the forest, the edge
of the desert
the unpainted stairs
at the back where we squat
outside, eating popcorn
the edge of the receding glacier
where painfully and with wonder
at having survived even
we are learning to make fire
Complement with Anna Dostoyevskaya on the secret to a happy marriage and Virginia Woolf on what makes love last, then revisit other soulful and stirring readings by Amanda (who supports her music and life-poetry, like I do my writing and life-poetry, via donations): “When I Am Among the Trees” by Mary Oliver, “Questionnaire” by Wendell Berry, “The Mushroom Hunters” by Neil Gaiman, “The Hubble Photographs” by Adrienne Rich, “Having It Out With Melancholy” by Jane Kenyon, “Humanity i love you” by E.E. Cummings, and “Possibilities” by Wisława Szymborska.
Published December 9, 2019