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What Belongs to Us Summary
Marie Howe

Everything you need to understand or teach What Belongs to Us by Marie Howe.

  • What Belongs to Us Summary & Study Guide

What Belongs to Us Summary

Introduction

"What Belongs to Us" is included in Marie Howe's first book, The Good Thief (1988), which Margaret Atwood picked for the National Poetry Series Award in 1987. In twenty long free-verse lines, the poem lists things that people can never really own, including phone numbers, memories, other people, the past and, ironically, their own pain. Howe's primary theme is the transitory nature of human life, the idea that "all things must pass." Rather than making abstract metaphysical comments on life, however, Howe piles up images to make her point. The cumulative "weight" of her list hits readers, so they reconsider exactly what it is they do own, if anything. Many of the poems in the collection are of a spiritual nature, as is the tone of "What Belongs to Us." Although the speaker uses personal memories to make her claim, memories accessible only to her, she universalizes her experience, suggesting that...

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