Poetry Review: “You Heard the Man You Love” by M. Atwood

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Poetry Review:

“You Heard the Man You Love” by M. Atwood


By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez / @ZaraAlexis

the door


Category:  Poetry

Author: Margaret Atwood

Format: Hardcover, 122 pages

Publisher: McClelland & Stewart

ISBN: 978-0-7710-0880-1

Pub Date: September 11, 2011



You heard the man you love

talking to himself in the next room.

He didn’t know you were listening.

You put your ear against the wall

but you couldn’t catch the words,

only a kind of rumbling.

Was he angry? Was he swearing?

Or was it some kind of commentary

like a long obscure footnote on a page of poetry?

Or was he trying to find something he’d lost,

such as the car keys?

Then suddenly he began to sing.

You were startled

because this was a new thing,

but you didn’t open the door, you didn’t go in,

and he kept on singing, in his deep voice, off-key,

a purple-green monotone, dense and heathery.

He wasn’t singing for you, or about you.

He had some other source of joy,

nothing to do with you at all –

he was an unknown man, singing in his own room, alone.

Why did you feel so hurt then, and so curious,

and also happy,

and also set free?

From The Door: Poems by Margaret Atwood, published by McClelland & Stewart, 2007, p. 113.


For me, poetry is a deep image that resonates an equally deep truth. It’s a lyrical or beautiful expression in any stylistic form that attempts to capture what is withheld or unknown—and then becomes known in a startling moment. It’s a dialogue of absence and otherness, a sort of secret map that is intrinsically powerful in its ability to connect us through language, image, and understanding. For me, poetry is a subtle epiphany that resonates in a real and true way to its reader.


The particular poem, “You Heard the Man You Love” by Margaret Atwood, simply and accurately captured the mysterious essence of simultaneous knowing and unknowing, separation and connectedness. It perfectly depicted my own longing, understanding, and acceptance of knowing and not knowing what is withheld from me in the man who I love, my husband of 11 years. And how the beauty of that mystery and discovery as well as the acceptance of it, can be inclusive of hurt, curiosity, joy, and emancipation.


The poem is simple in its language and imagery, and yet profound at the same time. Much like the uniqueness, beauty, and gift found in the unknown and separation and connectedness in relationships, especially of those whom we love.


Zara’s Rating
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The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author, Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez, for the purpose of review and criticism of literary works with all rights reserved. The use of any part of this publication reproduced, transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, or stored in a retrieval system, without the prior written consent of the author is an infringement of copyright law.


The poem “You Heard the Man You Love” is reprinted on The Bibliotaphe’s Closet and because of its criticism and review purposes, is considered fair dealing in Canada under the Copyright Act.


What is poetry to you?

What is your favourite poem?

Who is your favourite poet?

What is your favourite poem by Margaret Atwood?


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