Apr 2, 2013

February by Margaret Atwood

Picture taken in my backyard the weekend before last. I’d be able to appreciate the beauty more if I didn’t resent the cold so much at this point.

April is National Poetry Month in the US, and due to the nature of the Internet these things inevitably get globalised. Stefanie wrote a great post about the pros and cons of special events of this sort, so I won’t rehash her arguments – I’ll just say that I appreciate having the opportunity to remind myself of how much I enjoy poetry.

As in previous years, I’m taking part in Serena’s poetry blog tour, and I thought I’d share a poem that reflects how this very long winter has made me feel. It’s now April, not February; it hasn’t snowed since Saturday and the sun is shining this morning, but it’s still -3 outside and I still “think dire thoughts, and lust for French fries”.

“February” by Margaret Atwood
Winter. Time to eat fat
and watch hockey. In the pewter mornings, the cat,
a black fur sausage with yellow
Houdini eyes, jumps up on the bed and tries
to get onto my head. It’s his
way of telling whether or not I’m dead.
If I’m not, he wants to be scratched; if I am
He’ll think of something. He settles
on my chest, breathing his breath
of burped-up meat and musty sofas,
purring like a washboard. Some other tomcat,
not yet a capon, has been spraying our front door,
declaring war. It’s all about sex and territory,
which are what will finish us off
in the long run. Some cat owners around here
should snip a few testicles. If we wise
hominids were sensible, we’d do that too,
or eat our young, like sharks.
But it’s love that does us in. Over and over
again, He shoots, he scores! and famine
crouches in the bedsheets, ambushing the pulsing
eiderdown, and the windchill factor hits
thirty below, and pollution pours
out of our chimneys to keep us warm.
February, month of despair,
with a skewered heart in the centre.
I think dire thoughts, and lust for French fries
with a splash of vinegar.
Cat, enough of your greedy whining
and your small pink bumhole.
Off my face! You’re the life principle,
more or less, so get going
on a little optimism around here.
Get rid of death. Celebrate increase. Make it be spring.

“February” can be found in the collection Morning in the Burned House, which I’ve been meaning to read in its entirety for ages.

Speaking of Margaret Atwood, I was ridiculous excited to find out the other day that she’s doing an event near me this summer. It’s about MaddAddam, the last book in the Year of the Flood trilogy, so I guess I’d better get my act together and read it before then.


  1. What a wonderful poem! (And in fact I was just talking to my husband about the need for french fries with a dash of vinegar!) And I had NO IDEA she wrote poetry as well! Thanks so much to you and Serena for the introduction! :--)

  2. OMG--I *love* that poem!!! That is a woman who knows cats! "Cat, enough of your greedy whining and your small pink bumhole. Off my face!"<--That bit just killed me because it is oh-so-real-life! :)

    Does it make you feel any better to know that it's snowing away here as I type? Of course here we know better than to really look for spring until May, and I'm sure that makes it easier on us than for all of those who usually firmly ensconced in spring by now. Anyway, I hope yours arrives soon! :D

  3. I love that, possibly the most original poem I've ever read. And I never knew she wrote poetry so I have to thank you for sharing it with us.

  4. Winter has been hanging on here in the states as well. It's very tiring for sure. i really do like this poem you shared, and I think Atwood is someone who is better known for her fiction. Thanks for highlighting her today.

  5. "famine crouches in the bedsheets" oh yes. Our cats hold us responsible for the continued cold weather, so I might as well turn around and tell them it's their fault. I'll yell it at the deaf one right now; that'll help!

  6. I feel the same about the cold and the French fries, but I'll add chocolate. Go away, winter!

  7. Oh, lovely! This had me smiling almost immediately. Thanks for sharing.

  8. A cat poem! I love it. Poems that capture ordinary moments like that (and make them into something bigger) tend to be my very favorites.

  9. I love that poem! I've never read it before but it sums up my February feelings. It's funny too.

  10. I love Atwood's poetry. I wonder if there is anything she can't write? And holy cow! You are so lucky to have her coming to do an event near you!

  11. Great poem, and such a beautiful photo!
    It's been annoyingly chilly here as well, but I still love the way you captured the icycles there :)

    How wonderful that you'll be so close to an event by Margaret Atwood. Tell us all about it, after.

  12. Very Canadian February here :) Think you will enjoy seeing her in person, if you haven't before -- she is truly funny and such an entertaining speaker. I got to see her at a fundraiser for a local women's shelter a few yrs ago, together with Alice Munro. What a day!

  13. I'm with you and Atwood: I want winter to end. It's still hanging on here with its cold.

  14. Atwood is pure genius! Never knew she also wrote poetry though. That definitely goes into my wish list. :-)


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