A creepy little poem


When I was teaching I was always on the look out for poems for my students; despite themselves they liked poetry (and many of them wrote it which was wonderful!) However, because it was an English lesson, and because none of them thought they wanted to be there, there was terrific resistance. I didn’t always choose short poems, but quite often I did… but I’d chooses short poems that were multi-layered and open to many different ways of understanding them.

This poem by Margaret Atwood always provoked a great reaction, there were always arguments about what it meant and so it was open to the students – and I think that was the key for my young people, whatever we read had to be open, open to them taking it and understanding it and working with it and maybe even using it.

As a side, I actually don’t like Margaret Atwood’s work; I have read a couple of her books and struggled to finish them and then I went to hear her speak in St George’s Hall Bristol, a wonderful venue but a most disappointing evening; I wasn’t won over!

So here we have it, this is a photograph of me


This is a photograph of me

It was taken some time ago.

At first it seems to be

a smeared

print: blurred lines and grey flecks

blended with the paper;


Then as you scan

it, you see in the left-hand corner

a thing that is like a branch: part of a tree

(balsam or spruce) emerging

and, to the right, halfway up

what ought to be a gentle

slope, a small frame house.


In the background there is a lake,

and beyond that, some low hills.


(The photograph was taken

the day after I drowned.


I am in the lake, in the centre

of the picture, just under the surface.


It is difficult to say where

precisely, or to say

how large or small I am:

the effect of the water

on light is a distortion


But if you look long enough


you will be able to see me).

by Margaret Atwood



  1. seascapesaus

    I found the poem intriguing, but it breaks the No 1 rule we learnt in Grade IV. We had to write a story as if we were an insect but were cautioned to remember not to kill ourselves off, otherwise we would have been able to tell that story. I suppose some rules are made to be broken!


    1. Lois

      But that’s what makes it so really creepy! I must admit a lot of students thought like you – but that’s the great thing about poetry, it can be understood however the reader wants!


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