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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.

Morning in the Burned House

Margaret Atwood, 1939
In the burned house I am eating breakfast.
You understand: there is no house, there is no breakfast,
yet here I am.

The spoon which was melted scrapes against 
the bowl which was melted also.
No one else is around.

Where have they gone to, brother and sister,
mother and father? Off along the shore,
perhaps. Their clothes are still on the hangers,

their dishes piled beside the sink,
which is beside the woodstove
with its grate and sooty kettle,

every detail clear,
tin cup and rippled mirror.
The day is bright and songless,

the lake is blue, the forest watchful.
In the east a bank of cloud 
rises up silently like dark bread. 

I can see the swirls in the oilcloth,
I can see the flaws in the glass,
those flares where the sun hits them.

I can't see my own arms and legs
or know if this is a trap or blessing,
finding myself back here, where everything

in this house has long been over,
kettle and mirror, spoon and bowl,
including my own body,

including the body I had then,
including the body I have now
as I sit at this morning table, alone and happy,

bare child's feet on the scorched floorboards
(I can almost see)
in my burning clothes, the thin green shorts

and grubby yellow T-shirt
holding my cindery, non-existent,
radiant flesh. Incandescent. 

From Morning in the Burned House by Margaret Atwood. Copyright © 1995 by Margaret Atwood. Published in the United States by Houghton Mifflin Co., published in Canada by McClelland and Stewart, Inc. All rights reserved.

From Morning in the Burned House by Margaret Atwood. Copyright © 1995 by Margaret Atwood. Published in the United States by Houghton Mifflin Co., published in Canada by McClelland and Stewart, Inc. All rights reserved.

Margaret Atwood

Margaret Atwood

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

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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