Margaret Atwood: Authors reading



um could you read some of you alright I will explain what I'm going to read the request was for poetry and then they request was somewhat revised to include a genre which is halfway between so short pieces that aren't exactly poetry but nor are they short stories so the first two are from that don't worry these aren't all my books product one of them is one of them is Gary's book it's called no place like home I'll give it a free ad this one is the from the tent and it's about the early life of Helen of Troy as it would have been had it taken place in a small Ontario town so the ladies it does maybe a bit too Canadian but like a lot of Canadian things it's a main launch you know we do a lot of main launch in our country even the word main launch as a main launch it's called it's not easy being half divine and the voice is of that of a rather envious person who grew up with Helen Helen lived down the street from me when we were growing up we used to sell kool-aid off her front porch five cents a glass and she always had to be the one to carry the glass down the steps eyelids lowered and with that pink bow in her hair and mincing along like she was walking on eggs I think she pawned a few nickels being hardly the most honest type I know she's famous and old now but quite frankly she was a pain in the butt then and still is she is to tell the worst lies said her dad was somebody really high up not the Pope but close and of course we teased her about that not that this so-called Big Shot ever showed his face her mum was just another single mother as they called them now but my own mum says they had another name for it once she said they had goings-on at night around there naturally since every man in town thought it was being handed out for free he is to throw pebbles at the door shout names and howl a bit when they got drunk the two boys Helen's brothers they were pretty wild they took off early when she was 10 Helen went through a circus phase liked to dress up thought she'd be a trapeze artist then she got close with the woman who ran the Beauty so long is to do her hair for her and give her product samples and then she started drawing black rims around her eyes and hanging around the bus station fishing for a ticket out of town as my guess she was good looking I'll grant her that so it wasn't surprising she got married early to the police chief a prime catch for both of them as he was pushing 40 then just a few months ago she ran off with some man from the city who was passing through didn't need the bus ticket after all he had his own car quite the boat hobbies pissed as hell he's talking about a posse go into the city smoke them out beat the guy up get her back smack her around a bit a lot of men wouldn't bother with a tramp like that but it seems he doesn't believe in divorce says somebody has to stand for the right values personally I think he's still nuts about her in any way his pride is hurt trouble is she's flaunting it the new man's quite well off set her up in some sort of mansion her picture gets in magazines and people asking about her opinions it's enough to make you sick so there she is all dead heat up in her new pearl necklace and smiling way sweet as pie and saying how happy she is in her new life and how every woman should follow her heart says it wasn't easy when she was growing up being half divine and all but now she's come to terms with it and she's looking at a career in the movies says she was too young to get married that first time but now she knows how fulfilling love can be and the chief wasn't well he just of course everyone thinks she's saying he was nothing in the sack Department so there's been some snickering up the sleeves though not openly because he still got a lot of clout in this along in the short of it is pardon my pun nobody likes to be laughed at that sheeps from a big family a brother and a lot of cousins all of them with muscles and tempers my bet is things will get serious it's worth watching that's the beginning of the Trojan War the other version I was writing that before I wrote the Penelope ad in which it's indeed Penelope and Odysseus rather than Helen and Menelaus this is a short peak piece called faster walking was not fast enough so we ran running was not fast enough so we galloped galloping was not fast enough so we sailed sailing was not fast enough so we rolled merrily along on long metal tracks long metal trucks were not fast enough so we drove driving was not fast enough so we flew flying isn't fast enough not fast enough for us we want to get there faster get where wherever we are not but a human soul can only go as fast as a man can walk they used to say in that case where are all the souls left behind they wander here and there slowly dim lights flickering in the marshes at night looking for us but they're not nearly fast enough not for us we're way ahead of them they'll never catch up that's why we can go so fast our souls don't weigh us down I will read him three poems this one is appropriate for literary festivals and finally it addresses the problem we were talking about earlier which I fact I don't think I answered your question is that the usual trajectory the rest of the answer is so I started in poetry first because I could but all the time I was actually writing a novel but it took me quite a while to get it published because it being Canada the publisher quest the manuscript this is a true story so there's more to it it's even worse anyway poetry in Canada flourished in the sixties but then things became more normal once we started to be able to publish novels and that is why I am now better known as a novelist all is clear what did you say to your publisher when they lost your manuscript uh I'll tell you what he did he said he that it wasn't him who had lost it he said that it was a woman in the company who had got pregnant and you know what that does to their brains she had left it in a drawer without telling anybody that was not true but it was good at the time did I believe it it's one of those things that you neither believed nor disbelieve it's like is there really a tooth fairy oh yes I had a copy yes and it all came out okay in the end because he took me out for a drink and he said we're going to publish her book and I said have you read it and he said no but I will so I think he published it out of guilt but I had meantime published a book of poetry which was how this all got going for the literary festival the poet's hang on it's hard to get rid of them though lord knows it's been tried we passed them on the road standing there with their begging bowls an ancient custom nothing in those now but dried flies and bad pennies they stare straight ahead are they dead or what yet they have the irritating look of those who know more than we do more of what what is it they claim to know spit it out we hiss at them say it plain if you try for a simple answer that's when they pretend to be crazy or else drunk or else poor they put those costumes on sometime ago those black sweaters those tatters now they can't get them off and they're having trouble with their teeth that's one of their burdens they could do some dental work they're having trouble with their wings as well we're not getting much from them and the flight department these days no more soaring no radiance no skylarking what the hell are they paid for suppose they are paid they can't get off the ground them and their muddy feathers if they fly its downwards into the damp grey earth go away we say and take your boring sadness you're not wanted here you've forgotten how to tell us how sublime we are how love is the answer we always liked that one you've forgotten how to kiss up you're not wise anymore you've lost your splendor but the poet's hang on they're nothing if not today they can't sing they can't fly they only hop and croak and bash themselves against the air as if in cages until the odd tired joke when asked about it they say they speak what they must cripes they're pretentious they know something though they do know something something they're whispering something we can't quite hear is it about sex is it about dust is it about fear this one is called war photo the dead woman thrown down on the dusty road is very beautiful one leg extended the other flexed foot pointed toward the knee the arm flung overhead the hand relaxed into a lovely gesture a dancer might well study for years and never attain her purple robe is shaped as if it's fluttering her head is turned away there are other dead people scattered around like trees blown over left in the wake of frightened men battering their way to some huge purpose they can't now exactly remember but it's this beautiful woman who holds me dancing there on the ground with such perfection Oh dead beautiful woman if anyone had the power to wrench me through despair and arid helplessness into the heart of prayer it would be you instead I'll make for you the only thing I can although I'll never know your name I won't ever forget you look on the dusty ground under my hand on this cheap gray paper I'm placing a small stone here and because I'm an optimist at heart I will close with this poem which is called at brute point brute point is on the island of Bequia which is just south of st. Vincent not a brute point the old people descend the hill in slow motion it's a Windy Hill a hill of treacheries and pebbles and twisted ankles one has a stick one not their clothing is bizarre though wash-and-wear foot over foot they go down the eroded slope flapping like sails they want to get down to the ocean and they accomplish this could it be that we are the old people already surely not not with such hats we may have been here before at least it looks familiar but we are drawn to hills like these remote bleak old history nothing but stones down by the tidal pool there are two plastic bottles a few small mollusks one person pees in a corner out of the Sun the other not at this point once there might have been sex with the waves rampaging in as if in films but we stay fully clothed talk about rocks how did it get this way the mix of igneous and sandstone there's mica to that glitter it's not sad it's bright and clear see how sprightly we climb back one claw and then the other my

7 thoughts on “Margaret Atwood: Authors reading

  1. True! I wish I could talk with so much calm and still make people listen. People just listen to her so intently. But she is also smart- if you don't listen you'll miss a joke only Atwood can make.

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