Margaret Atwood: Biography, Poems & Books

Instructor: Megan Pryor

Megan has tutored extensively and has a Master of Fine Arts Degree in Fiction.

During this lesson, we will learn about Margaret Atwood, a famous Canadian writer. First, we will take a look at her life. Then we will learn about her most famous poems and books. A short quiz will follow.


Since her birth in 1939, Margaret Atwood has been a prolific addition to the Canadian literary scene. She writes in a wide variety of forms, including poems, novels, short prose, and essays, but she is best-known for her novels, especially The Handmaid's Tale. While she does not consider herself a science fiction writer, much of her work could be classified under the larger umbrella term speculative fiction, which encompasses science fiction, fantasy, folktales, myths, and so forth.


Due to her family moving around a lot, Margaret Atwood's early education was spotty, but she loved to read anything and everything. The delay in her education did not hamper her. From a very early age, she began writing, and by the age of 16, she knew that that was what she wanted to do professionally.

She began publishing while in college, through her university's literary magazine, and the same year she graduated, she received the E. J. Pratt Medal for her first book of poems, Double Persephone. Atwood went to graduate school and then became a college professor.

Margaret Atwood Receiving An Honorary Degree
Picture Of Margaret Atwood

She was married once, but got divorced after only a few years. She currently lives with her partner, novelist Graeme Gibson, and their daughter.


Despite being more well-known for her novels, Margaret Atwood has written many books of poetry, including her first published book, Double Persephone, which came out in 1961.

Her other books of poetry include: The Circle Game (1964), Expeditions (1965), Speeches for Doctor Frankenstein (1966), The Animals In That Country (1968), The Journals of Susanna Moodie (1970), Procedures for Underground (1970), Power Politics (1971), You Are Happy (1974), Selected Poems (1976), Two-Headed Poems (1978), True Stories (1981), Love Songs of a Terminator (1983), Snake Poems (1983), Interlunar (1984), Selected Poems 1966-1984, Selected Poems II: 1976-1986, Morning in the Burned House (1995), Eating Fire (1998), and The Door (2007).


As of 2014, Margaret Atwood has written 14 novels.

  • The Edible Woman (1969)
  • Surfacing (1972)
  • Lady Oracle (1976)
  • Life Before Man (1979)
  • Bodily Harm (1981)
  • The Handmaid's Tale (1985)
  • Cat's Eye (1988)
  • The Robber Bride (1993)
  • Alias Grace (1996), won the 1996 Giller Prize
  • The Blind Assassin (200), winner of the 2000 Booker Prize
  • Oryx and Crake (2003)
  • The Penelopiad (2005)
  • The Year of the Flood (2009), sequel to Oryx and Crake
  • MaddAddam (2013), third novel in the Oryx and Crake trilogy, also referred to as the MaddAddam triology

The Handmaid's Tale, one of her most notable works, won the 1987 Arthur C. Clarke Award, 1985 Governor General's Award, and was a finalist for the 1986 Booker Prize. The novel is set in a dystopian future in which the United States government has been overthrown and replaced with a totalitarian government. Since there are widespread problems with infertility, fertile women are taken away from their own families and assigned to high-ranking men in the new Republic. Offred, the main character in The Handmaid's Tale, is one of these so-called handmaids who are expected to bear children for the man to whom they are assigned.

The Oryx and Crake/MaddAddam triology is a dystopian trilogy that focuses on, among other things, GMOs, income disparity, capitalism, and spiritual cults. In it, a widespread apocalyptic event occurs, referred to as a dry flood, and humans have to re-envision their way of life. The trilogy follows a wide cast of characters.

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