Atwood, Margaret

Canada, (b. 1939)

Pig Song

  1. This is what you changed me to:
  2. a greypink vegetable with slug
  3. eyes, buttock
  4. incarnate, spreading like a slow turnip,
  5.  
  6. a skin you stuff so you may feed
  7. in your turn, a stinking wart
  8. of flesh, a large tuber
  9. of blood which munches
  10. and bloats. Very well then. Meanwhile
  11.  
  12. I have the sky, which is only half
  13. caged, I have my weed corners,
  14. I keep myself busy, singing
  15. my song of roots and noses,
  16.  
  17. my song of dung. Madame,
  18. this song offends you, these grunts
  19. which you find oppressively sexual,
  20. mistaking simple greed for lust.
  21.  
  22. I am yours. If you feed me garbage,
  23. I will sing a song of garbage.
  24. This is a hymn.

© Margaret Atwood. Selected Poems 1965-1975. Houghton Mifflin Company, 1976.

Circe / Mud Poems (excerpt)

  1. Men with the heads of eagles
  2. no longer interest me
  3. or pig-men, or those who can fly
  4. with the aid of wax and feathers
  5.  
  6. or those who take off their clothes
  7. to reveal other clothes
  8. or those with skins of blue leather
  9.  
  10. or those golden and flat as a coat of arms
  11. or those with claws, the stuffed ones
  12. with glass eyes; or those
  13. hierarchic as greaves and steam-engines.
  14.  
  15. All these I could create, manufacture,
  16. or find easily: they swoop and thunder
  17. around this island, common as flies,
  18. sparks flashing, bumping into each other,
  19.  
  20. on hot days you can watch them
  21. as they melt, come apart,
  22. fall into the ocean
  23. like sick gulls, dethronements, plane crashes.
  24.  
  25. I search instead for the others,
  26. the ones left over,
  27. the ones who have escaped from these
  28. mythologies with barely their lives;
  29. they have real faces and hands, they think
  30. of themselves as
  31. wrong somehow, they would rather be trees.
  32.  
  33. It was not my fault, these animals
  34. who once were lovers
  35.  
  36. it was not my fault, the snouts
  37. and hooves, the tongues
  38. thickening and rough, the mouths grown over
  39. with teeth and fur
  40.  
  41. I did not add the shaggy
  42. rugs, the tusked masks,
  43. they happened
  44.  
  45. I did not say anything, I sat
  46. and watched, they happened
  47. because I did not say anything.
  48.  
  49. It was not my fault, these animals
  50. who could no longer touch me
  51. through the rinds of their hardening skins,
  52. these animals dying
  53. of thirst because they could not speak
  54.  
  55. these drying skeletons
  56. that have crashed and litter the ground
  57. under the cliffs, these
  58. wrecked words.

© Margaret Atwood. You Are Happy. Harper & Row, (1974).

About the Poet

Margaret Atwood, (b. 1939) is regarded as one of Canada’s finest living writers. She is a poet, novelist, short story writer, essayist, critic and environmental activist. Her more recent novels have also explored areas of historical and speculative fiction.

Suffering is common for the female characters in Atwood’s poems, although they are never passive victims – “modern woman’s anguish at finding herself isolated and exploited (although also exploiting) by the imposition of a sex role power structure.”

Atwood’s interest in women and female experience also emerges clearly in her novels, “depicting the painful psychic warfare between men and women”. [Condensed from her biography at The Poetry Foundation.] [DES-11/10]

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