Margaret Atwood

“After the poem has passed out of the hands of the one who’s written it down, and after that person may have departed from time and space and be wafting around as atoms, who else can a poem belong to? For whom does the bell toll? For you, dear reader. Who is the poem for? Also for you.

-Margaret Atwood, episode 265 of Talk Easy with Sam Fragoso

Margaret Atwood is the author of over 50 books of poetry, critical essays, graphic novels, and fiction. Her latest short story collection, Old Babes in the Wood, was recently published this March.

Today, we revisit our 2022 conversation, beginning with essay collection Burning Questions (4:47), which wrestles with catastrophe (5:28), Atwood’s upbringing in the wilderness (7:36) under egalitarian parents (10:30), and how she circumvented the traditional roles for women of the 1950s (12:55). She also shares some personal stories: her first book signing event (16:05), the day she met her late husband Graeme Gibson (17:35), and the innumerable ways in which he’d shape her life (20:29).

On the back-half we discuss the historical antecedents behind The Handmaid’s Tale (23:34), its renewed relevance amid threats to reproductive justice (25:04), the debate around ‘the writer as political agent’ (31:24), patriarchal gatekeeping inside the publishing industry (34:12), the limits of art-making (35:08), and why she continues to write at age 82 (38:57). To close, Margaret reads from both her elegiac poem Dearly (41:05) and her essay “Polonia” (47:10).

Original illustration by Krishna Shenoi.

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