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About this poet

Margaret Atwood was born in 1939 in Ottawa, Ontario. She earned a B.A. from Victoria College, University of Toronto, and an M.A. from Harvard.

She is the author of over fifteen books of poetry, including Eating Fire: Selected Poems, 1965-1995 (Virago Press Limited, 1998); Morning in the Burned House (1995), which was a co-winner of the Trillium Award; Selected Poems II: Poems Selected and New 1976-1986 (1987); Two-Headed Poems (1978); You Are Happy (1975); and The Animals in That Country (1968).

Among her novels are Oryx and Crake: A Novel (McClelland & Stewart, 2003); The Blind Assassin (2000), which won the Booker Prize and the Dashell Hammett Prize; Alias Grace (1996); The Robber Bride (1993); The Handmaid's Tale (1986), winner of the Los Angeles Times Book Award and the Arthur C. Clarke Award; Bodily Harm (1982); Lady Oracle (1976); and The Edible Woman (1970). Her collections of short fiction include A Quiet Game: And Other Early Works (1997), Good Bones (1992), Wilderness Tips and Other Stories (1991), Murder in the Dark: Short Fictions and Prose Poems (1983), and Dancing Girls and Other Stories (1977).

She is the author of four collections of nonfiction: Strange Things: The Malevolent North in Canadian Literature (1995), Second Words: Selected Critical Prose (1982), Days of the Rebels 1815-1840 (1977), and Survival: A Thematic Guide to Canadian Literature (1972). Her books for children include Princess Prunella and the Purple Peanut (1995), For the Birds (1990), and Up in the Tree (1978).

Atwood's work has been translated into many languages and published in more than twenty-five countries. Among her numerous honors and awards are a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Molson Award, the Ida Nudel Humanitarian Award, and a Canada Short Fiction Award. In 1986 Ms Magazine named her Woman of the Year.

She has served as a Writer-In-Residence and a lecturer at many colleges and universities. Margaret Atwood lives in Toronto.

Variation on the Word Sleep

Margaret Atwood, 1939
I would like to watch you sleeping, 
which may not happen.
I would like to watch you, 
sleeping. I would like to sleep 
with you, to enter 
your sleep as its smooth dark wave 
slides over my head

and walk with you through that lucent 
wavering forest of bluegreen leaves 
with its watery sun & three moons 
towards the cave where you must descend, 
towards your worst fear

I would like to give you the silver 
branch, the small white flower, the one 
word that will protect you 
from the grief at the center 
of your dream, from the grief 
at the center. I would like to follow 
you up the long stairway 
again & become
the boat that would row you back
carefully, a flame
in two cupped hands 
to where your body lies 
beside me, and you enter 
it as easily as breathing in

I would like to be the air
that inhabits you for a moment
only. I would like to be that unnoticed
& that necessary.

From Selected Poems II: 1976-1986 by Margaret Atwood. Copyright © 1987 by Margaret Atwood. Reprinted by permission of Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.

From Selected Poems II: 1976-1986 by Margaret Atwood. Copyright © 1987 by Margaret Atwood. Reprinted by permission of Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.

Margaret Atwood

Margaret Atwood

Margaret Atwood was born in 1939 in Ottawa, Ontario. She earned a

by this poet

poem
The world is full of women
who'd tell me I should be ashamed of myself
if they had the chance. Quit dancing.
Get some self-respect
and a day job.
Right. And minimum wage,
and varicose veins, just standing
in one place for eight hours
behind a glass counter
bundled up to the neck, instead of 
naked as a meat
poem

It was taken some time ago. 
At first it seems to be 
a smeared
print: blurred lines and grey flecks 
blended with the paper;

then, as you scan
it, you see in the left-hand corner 
a thing that is like a branch: part of a tree 
(balsam or spruce) emerging 
poem

 

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