Image by Jim Allen

Margaret Atwood

b. 1939

With a lyric poem, you look, and meditate, and put the rock back. With fiction you poke things with a stick to see what will happen. - Margaret Atwood

The Moment

Margaret Atwood

King Lear in Respite Care

Margaret Atwood

Siren Song

Margaret Atwood

The Immigrants

Margaret Atwood

Previous Next

About Margaret Atwood

Margaret Atwood (b. 1939) is familiar to readers all over the world as the author of some of the finest and most influential fiction of the last few decades. Titles like The Handmaid's Tale, Alias Grace, and The Robber Bride have won many awards, sold in their millions and have been made into films. But her poetry is the equal of her prose and across her many collections she has assembled a powerful and invigorating body of work.

Born in Ottawa, Canada, she grew up in Toronto but spent her summers in northern Quebec. The history and landscape of her country are important influences: in the course of her Archive recording she comments, "one of the primary interests for a Canadian writer always has to be geology followed by geography." However, whilst Canada may provide the context, her poems' scalpel-sharp language transcends national boundaries to address issues of far-reaching concern: feminism, the power-play of personal relationships, global politics, the environment. She is in complete control of the many tones she deploys, from laconic ('February', 'Siren Song'), through world-weary and wise ('Miss July Grows Older') to the fiercely visionary, ('Speeches for Dr Frankenstein', 'The Journals of Susanna Moodie'). As the mood of the reading darkens into poems about the death of her father, she also reveals a pained tenderness that refuses sentimentality as in 'King Lear in Respite Care': "Rage occurs,/followed by supper". Throughout, strong emotion is held in check by a sceptical intelligence that rejects pity (for herself or others) but not compassion.

Atwood's own clipped accent and precise diction are a perfect complement to the work. Her deadpan delivery brings out its humour and irony, but doesn't hold the reader at bay. Listening to her dramatic monologue, 'The Loneliness of the Military Historian', it's hard not to hear in the words of her character something of Atwood's own approach to writing: "My trade is courage and atrocities./I look at them and do not condemn./I write things down the way they happened".

Her recording was made for The Poetry Archive on 14 January 2002 at CBC, Toronto, Canada and was produced by Chuck Jutras.


1967 Centennial Commission Poetry Competition, Winner
1969 Union Poetry Prize, Chicago
1994 Chevalier de L'Ordres des Arts et des Lettres, French Ministry of Education and Culture, Paris
1996 Norwegian Order of Literary Merit
1997 National Arts Club Medal of Honor for Literature
1999 London Literature Award
2003 Harold Washington Literary Award

Selected bibliography

Circle Game, House of Anansi Press Ltd ,Canada, 1983


Door, Virago 2009


Selected Poems, Oxford University Press (Canada), 2004


Eating Fire: Selected Poetry 1965-1995, Virago Press,...


Morning in the Burned House, Toronto, McClelland...


Selected Poems 1966-1984, Oxford University Press, 1990...

Interlunar, Oxford University Press, 1984 and Jonathan...

The New Oxford Book of Canadian Verse in English (editor...


True Stories, Oxford University Press, 1981 and London,...

Two-Headed Poems, Oxford University Press, 1978 - out of...

Selected Poems, Oxford University Press, 1976 and New...

You Are Happy, Oxford University Press, 1974 and New...

Power Politics, Toronto, Anansi, 1971 - out of print


Procedures for Underground, Oxford University Press,...

The Journals of Susanna Moodie, Oxford University Press...


The Animals in That Country, Toronto, Oxford University...

The Circle Game, Canada, Toronto, Contact Press, 1966 -...

Take a tour

Jean Sprackland's tour

There are so many good poems in the Children's Archive, it's hard to know where to start! I'd like to share with you...

Take Jean Sprackland's tour >