Use of Photographs in This Is a Photograph of Me and Photograph, 1958

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Use of Photographs in This Is a Photograph of Me and Photograph, 1958 At first glance, "This Is a Photograph of Me" by Margaret Atwood and "Photograph, 1958" by Patricia Young are strikingly similar works in that both poems utilize the imagery of a photograph as a communication device however, upon closer examination they differ markedly in the approach each poet takes in utilizing this same device. The similarities between these two poems are immediately obvious to the reader; both poems are written by female poets, both poems have the poet as the speaker, both poems describe how the poet feels about herself, and both poems utilize the photograph as a device to convey their message to the reader. Less obvious, is the differing approaches taken by each poet. In the poem "This Is a Photograph of Me" by Margaret Atwood, the photograph is used by the poet as a device to directly communicate her message to the reader. The title of the poem announces in a direct and forthright way that the poem will be a self examination. The poem begins with Atwood directly and literally describing the photograph itself: "It was taken some time ago. / At first it seems to be / a smeared / print: blurred lines and grey flecks / blended with the paper." The poet's use of words like "smeared", "blurred" and "blended" immediately and directly communicates to the reader that the poet feels unclear, directionless and without focus. After this opening stanza, the poet begins to describe the contents of the photograph: "then as you scan / it, you see in the left-hand corner / a thing that is like a branch: part of a tree" and "to the right, halfway up / what ought to be a gentle / slope, a small frame house." Margaret Atwood is gradually drawing the reader inward, from the outside edge of the photograph towards the center of the photograph, the poem, and the poet herself. This can be seen clearly on the following lines: "I am in the lake, in the center / of the picture, just under the surface." The atmosphere created is one of introspection and self examination: "but if you look long enough, / eventually / you will be able to see me." Atwood is using the device of the photograph to draw the reader from the outside world inwards to her world in the center of the photograph.

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