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Margaret Atwood: Up and coming poet

Poet, novelist, storywriter and essayist — the Ottawa native is a Canadian literary giant. Margaret Atwood first raised eyebrows as a young poet in the 1960s. Since then, one of Canada's most written about writers has struggled to keep her personal life private. Over her prolific career, Atwood has earned a reputation for being brilliant but aloof. But her caustic tongue and wicked sense of humour only fuel Atwood's stature as an internationally acclaimed writer.

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A 28-year-old Margaret Atwood reads two poems on CBC Television's Extensions. She is part of a series dedicated to new Canadian poets. Atwood seems awkward in her horn-rimmed glasses as she reads in front of a live audience at Toronto's Parliament Street Library. Atwood's reserve is at odds with her growing reputation as a celebrated poet. Not yet 30, Atwood's books of poetry have received some prestigious awards. She is the recipient of the E. J. Pratt Medal for Double Persephone(1961) and the Governor General's Award for poetry for The Circle Game (1966).
. Atwood published her first book of poetry at age 21. She printed 200 copies and sold them for 50 cents each.

. Atwood was one of six new poets and the only woman featured in this episode of CBC Television's Extension. Other poets included Michael Ondaatje, Roy Kiyooka, Robert Hogg, Harry Howith and Joe Rosenblatt.

. Atwood's early poetry was influenced by her University of Toronto professors Jay Macpherson and Northrop Frye. At a time when writing was not a viable profession in Canada, Atwood's professors encouraged her to pursue it as a legitimate craft.

. When Atwood started writing in the 1950s and 1960s, she criticized a lack of tradition of Canadian writing. "During one year in the early 1960s, only five Canadian novels were published and the country was considered a kind of hopeless cultural backwater." - in the New York Times, Dec. 1996

. During her years at University of Toronto, Atwood made her poetry reading debut at the Bohemian Embassy, a hip café where the arty crowd hung out.  She later described reading amidst the flushing toilets and the espresso machine as demoralizing. 

. Atwood has published numerous collections of poetry over the decades. Some of these include The Journals of Susanna Moodie (1970), Selected Poems II: Poems Selected and New, 1976-1986 (1986) and Eating Fire (1998).
Medium: Television
Program: Extension
Broadcast Date: July 23, 1967
Guest(s): Margaret Atwood
Host: Phyllis Webb
Duration: 2:47
Atwood reads: "The green man" and "It is dangerous to read newspapers"

Last updated: October 11, 2012

Page consulted on July 24, 2014

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