The poem "To Have without Holding," by Marge Piercy, is about the speaker trying to reconcile the conflict between her preconceived notion of a personal relationship with present reality. Her partner, whom she must feel worth the pain and effort, apparently has a more liberal and open approach, which causes her to feel insecure. The poem expresses, using metaphor, simile, and symbolism, the speaker's discomfort at a point in time in this emotionally unbalanced relationship. She defines, explains, and personalizes her place in the relationship from a unique and unsettling perspective, while providing a reminder that preconceived notions must eventually be evaluated against one's growing library of empirical evidence obtained, often painfully, via real life experience.
She defines her idea of what is right in a relationship by describing how hard and painful it is for her to stray from that ideal in this instance. As the poem evolves, one can begin to see the author having a conflict with values, while simultaneously expressing which values are hers and which are unnatural to her. She accomplishes this accounting of values by personalizing her position in a somewhat unsettling way throughout the poem.
I was first drawn to the poem by the title. The interesting use of capitalization caught my attention. Why wasn't the letter 'w' in the word "without" capitalized? Upon reading the poem initially, I got an overall impression of being made to feel "uncomfortable," though quite unsure as to why. I had the same impression once I felt I understood the whole poem, but from a completely different perspective. That sort of clarity at differing resolutions is impressive in tha...
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... other party seems unconcerned with all these emotional gymnastics. It seems she is making the compensations for now, though she openly questions the wisdom of this arrangement for the future.
This poem has captured a moment in time of a dynamic, tentative, and uncomfortable relationship as it is evolving. The author, having shared her thoughts, concerns, and opinion of the other party's unchanging definition of the relationship, must surely have gone on to somehow reconcile the situation to her own satisfaction. She relishes the work entailed in changing either of them, perhaps.
Hence, the small "w" in the title. Its absence serves as a prominence to indicate that the point of this poem is about being uncomfortable with the "Having" of a physical relationship without the mutual desire for commitment and security, the moral authority to "Hold" that she craves.
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