Margaret Atwood reads her poetry

Filed under: Poetry

Margaret Atwood in conversation with Peter Kemp.

Margaret Atwood began writing poetry in high school, and the most thrilling moment of her writing career was the publication of her first poem: ‘I mean, all the other things that have happened since then were a thrill, but that was the biggest.’ She has gone on to publish 19 collections of poetry, as well as 14 novels – including The Handmaid’s Tale, ‘The Blind Assassin andMaddAddam, published last summer. Organised and methodical in writing fiction, she writes poetry ‘in a state of free float’, very often in hotel rooms or on planes. Her poems tend to begin with a cluster of words, around which they form – she has compared the process to ‘dipping a thread into a supersaturated solution to induce crystal formation’ – and sometimes they result in novels. In a conversation with Peter Kemp, Chief Fiction Reviewer of the Sunday Times, Atwood talks about how she believes that poetry and fiction use different parts of the brain, explains how poems can open doors into rooms which novels then enter and explore, and reads from her work.

We are grateful to the Canadian High Commission in the UK for hosting this event at Canada House. We are grateful to the TLS for supporting this event.

Recorded on Wednesday 19 February 2014.