This cycle of poems is perhaps the most memorable evocation in modern Canadian literature of the myth of the wilderness, the immigrant experience, and the alienating and schizophrenic effects of the colonial mentality. Since it was first published in 1970 it has not only acquired the stature of a classic but, reprinted many times, become the best-known extended work in Canadian poetry. Susanna Moodie (1805-85) emigrated from England in 1832 to Upper Canada, where she settled on a farm with her husband. She wrote several books in Canada, notably Roughing It in the Bush, a famous account of pioneering that is still widely read. In poems about the arrival and the Moodies' seven years in the bush, which were followed by a more civilized ilfe in Belleville, and about Mrs Moodie in old age and then after death - in the present, when she observes the twentieth century destroying her past and its meaning - Margaret Atwood has created haunting meditations on an English gentlewoman's confrontation with the wilderness, and compelling variations on the themes of dislocation and alienation, nature and civilization. The poems are supplemented by Margaret Atwood's collages and an 'Afterword' in which the poet says: 'We are all imigrants to this place even if we were born here....'
Margaret Atwood is the author of more than thirty books of fiction, poetry and critical essays.
In addition to the classic The Handmaid's Tale, her novels include Cat's Eye, shortlisted for the Booker Prize, Alias Grace, which won the Giller Prize in Canada and the Premio Mondello in Italy, The Blind Assassin, winner of the 2000 Booker Prize and Oryx and Crake, shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize. Her most recent novel, The Year of the Flood, was published in 2009. She was awarded the Prince of Asturias Prize for Literature in 2008.
Margaret Atwood lives in Toronto, Canada.
(Photo credit: George Whitside)