Margaret Atwood Poems

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Margaret Atwood’s collection of poems, Morning in the Burned House, could just as easily have employed morning’s homonym—mourning—in the title. The overriding theme of loss and some of its sources and consequences—aging, grief, death, depression, and anger—permeate this collection and, in particular, Section IV which is a series of elegiac poems about Atwood’s father.
The collection is divided into five sections. Section I opens with the poem “You Come Back.” This poem seems to look back on a life lived in a blur in which much was missed, as evidenced by the lines:
You come back into the room
where you’ve been living
all along. You say:
What’s been going on
while I was away?. . .
. . .You know it was you
who slept, who ate here, though you don’t
believe it. I must have taken
time off, you think, for the buttered
toast and the love. . .
. . . but no,
now you’re certain, someone else
has been here wearing
your clothes and saying
words for you, because there was no time off.
The speaker of this poem seems shocked that he/she has missed so much, has let so much pass him/her by. As this section continues on, we are faced with the speaker’s musing about depression (“Sad Child” and “February”), loneliness (“In the Secular Night”), and aging and/or death (“Waiting” and “Asparagus.”) In the final poem in this section, “Red Fox,” the speaker has no illusions about humanity and how far people will go to get what they need and want. There is also a particularly feminine quality to this form of survival, as evidenced by the use of “vixen” and the references to mothers and children. In this way, “Red Fox” prepares us for what is to come in Section II.
Sections II and III explore the speaker’s anger created by different forms of loss: aging, exploitation, chances not taken, destruction and violence, and, ultimately, death. Many of these poems showcase the speaker’s feminist sensibilities, especially the opening poems of Section II—“Miss July Grows Older,” “Cressida to

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