top of page
TheConversation-purplebg-461666-450.jpg
Search
  • NYS Writers Institute

Poetry Friday: Happy birthday, Margaret Atwood!

For today's Poetry Friday, we celebrate Margaret Atwood, born on this date in 1939

Happy birthday to Margaret Atwood, a two-time NYS Writers Institute visiting writer (1998 and 2005). (Photo credit: Getty Images)

Happy birthday to Margaret Atwood, a two-time NYS Writers Institute visiting writer (1998 and 2005). (Photo credit: Getty Images)


Decades before Margaret Atwood became an international star with her 1985 blockbuster novel The Handmaid's Tale (1985), she was teaching at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver and writing poetry. Her first book of poetry, Double Persephone, was published as a pamphlet in 1961.

Cover of the April 1969 edition of Poetry Magazine

Atwood's poem "Carrying Food Home In Winter," printed below, was published in the April 1969 edition of Poetry Magazine. That edition featured five of Atwood's poems, four poems by John Ashbery (1927-2017), who would be recognized as New York State Poet from 2001- 2003, and "The Distances" by Jim Carroll (1950-2009), who later wrote the memoir The Basketball Diaries (1978) and visited Albany's legendary QE2 club for readings in the late 1980s.


Atwood first visited the Writers Institute in 1998. Below her poem, you'll find a video excerpt from her second visit in 2005 visit.


A towering figure of contemporary literature, Atwood has written more than 35 books of fiction, short stories, poetry, literary criticism, radio and television scripts, taking on the themes of the human condition, feminist concerns, the dark side of human behavior, and political power.


Carrying Food Home in Winter

By Margaret Atwood


I walk uphill through the snow

hard going

brown paper bag of groceries

balanced low on my stomach,

heavy, my arms stretching

to hold it turn all tendon.


Do we need this paper bag

my love, do we need this bulk

of peels and cores, do we need

these bottles, these roots

and bits of cardboard

to keep us floating

as on a raft

above the snow I sink through?


The skin creates

islands of warmth

in winter, in summer

islands of coolness.


The mouth performs

a similar deception.


I say I will transform

this egg into a muscle

this bottle into an act of love


This onion will become a motion

this grapefruit

will become a thought.


Source: Poetry (April 1969)


bottom of page