What Am I Reading: Maja Petric

STIR looks into the reading habits of leading creatives – new media artist Maja Petric seeks to understand the complex meanings of love in Margaret Atwood’s True Stories.

by STIRworld Published on : May 21, 2020

I currently have a hodgepodge of books on my nightstand ranging from the coming-of-age story of Prince, Maya Angelou’s memoir, to Oliver Sacks’ scientific account of inherited blindness among a small Pacific population, and a few recent editions of National Geographic magazines. These cover a wide range of my interests and I reach out to one depending on my mood at any given time dedicated to reading. Currently, my favourite one among these is a book of poetry, True Stories by Margaret Atwood.

- Maja Petric

What is the name of the book?

Maja Petric (MP): True Stories.

Who is the author?

MP: Margaret Atwood.

What is the genre?

MP: Poetry.

Contemporary new media artist Maja Petric seeks to understand complex meanings of love in the poetry of Margaret Atwood | What Am I Reading | Maja Petric | True Stories by Margaret Atwood | STIRworld
Contemporary new media artist Maja Petric seeks to understand complex meanings of love in the poetry of Margaret Atwood Image Credit: Courtesy of Maja Petric

Why this book - could you please highlight its most notable aspects?

MP: I am drawn to Margaret Atwood’s writing in general, her concise and yet sensual observations of the world. She manages to clinically articulate the meaning of love and evoke the sense of it at the same time. In so, she broadens one’s perspective and experience of love at once. It is extraordinary to do that with words and especially with a limited amount of words, which is the case in her poetry.

Variations on the word Love by Margaret Atwood

This is a word we use to plug holes with.
It's the right size for those warm
blanks in speech, for those red heart-
shaped vacancies on the page that look nothing like real hearts.
Add lace and you can sell it.
We insert it also in the one empty
space on the printed form
that comes with no instructions. There are whole
magazines with not much in them
but the word love, you can
rub it all over your body and you
can cook with it too. How do we know
it isn't what goes on at the cool
debaucheries of slugs under damp
pieces of cardboard? As for the weed-
seedlings nosing their tough snouts up
among the lettuces, they shout it.
Love! Love! sing the soldiers, raising
their glittering knives in salute.

Then there's the two
of us. This word
is far too short for us, it has only
four letters, too sparse
to fill those deep bare
vacuums between the stars
that press on us with their deafness.
It's not love we don't wish
to fall into, but that fear.
This word is not enough but it will
have to do. It's a single
vowel in this metallic
silence, a mouth that says
O again and again in wonder
and pain, a breath, a finger
grip on a cliffside. You can
hold on or let go.

The clarity afforded by the Atwood’s words puts me in a frame of mind to creatively process my own work. This fuelling quality is priceless. – Maja Petric

Is there any one thing that you would take home from the read?

MP: Her poetry deals with complex universal human themes such as the complexity of love, ephemeral nature, horrors of repressive regimes. Most of these themes I consider in the creation of my own art. Atwood’s poetry helps me distil my own scattered thoughts and feelings about the depicted themes. It feels cathartic to focus on one's own thoughts and emotionally resonate with the described topics. The clarity afforded by the Atwood’s words puts me in a frame of mind to creatively process my own work. This fuelling quality is priceless. 

A collection of books on the desk of the artist | What Am I Reading | Maja Petric | True Stories by Margaret Atwood | STIRworld
A collection of books on the desk of the artist Image Credit: Courtesy of Maja Petric

What is your favourite quote from the book? Why?

MP: Atwood’s poem Postcards beautifully articulates longing for the connection with loved ones that seems to be a reality for many of us during the COVID-19. The poem helps to make sense of emotional chaos caused by social isolation and validate the need for connecting. 

…Time comes in waves here, a sickness, one
day after the other rolling on;
I move up, it's called
awake, then down into the uneasy

nights but never
forward…

…at this distance
you’re a mirage, a glossy image
fixed in the posture
of the last time I saw you.
Turn you over, there’s a place
for the address. Wish you were
here…

When do you read?

MP: Mostly before bedtime, sometimes during outings in nature, and whenever I need to restore a feeling of balance before continuing with my work. 

What is your take on the book and one reason why you would recommend it?

MP: I happened to have Margaret Atwood’s True Stories on my nightstand, but I recommend all of her writing including children’s books describing humorous adventures, genre-bending novels depicting the gravity of totalitarianism, and her sensually precise poetry. 

Look up more such interesting reads from the series ‘What Am I Reading’ and watch out for more.

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