At the AWP conference in Chicago last month, I was fortunate enough to be confused about the location of the shuttle bus that ferried writers from one hotel to another. I waited for about twenty minutes in front of the Hilton, when a large black car pulled up. A moment later, Margaret Atwood stepped out of it. A huge fan of both her fiction and poetry – which I studied in graduate school – I instantly recognized her and headed toward the car. After she was done talking to her greeters, I asked her if I could take a picture of her. I’m not sure why I didn’t ask for her autograph, but I had my camera handy. She said sure, and I took a picture. I told her I was a huge fan of her writing, shook her hand, and then set out to find the correct location for shuttle pickup.
Her books The Robber Bride, Alias Grace, and The Blind Assassin are probably my three favorite novels. Although she is well known for her forays into science fiction – The Handmaid’s Tale in particular – I love the way that she dissects female relationships and how strangely vicious they can be. She also shares my love of mythology. I wanted to share a brief excerpt from her “Circe/Mud Poems,” taken from “Men with the Heads of Eagles:”
Men with the heads of eagles
no longer interest me
or pig-men, or those who can fly
with the aid of wax and feathers…
…I search instead for the others,
the ones left over,
the ones who have escaped from these
mythologies with barely their lives;
they have real faces and hands, they think of themselves as
wrong somehow, they would rather be trees.