Morning in the Burned House
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Morning in the Burned House

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4.09 of 5 stars 4.09  ·  rating details  ·  1,126 ratings  ·  70 reviews
Morning in the Burned House is Margaret Atwood's first book of new poetry in a decade. The beautifully crafted poems—by turns dark, playful, intensely moving, tender, and intimate—make up her most accomplished and versatile gathering of poems to date, "setting foot on the middle ground/between body and word." Some draw on history, some on myth, both classical and popular....more
Hardcover, 127 pages
Published December 31st 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company (first published 1995)
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T.
I remember this book well. It was 2006: it was before lunch, it was October, it was raining a bit. I was at a workshop, we had a bit of a break, I was nervous and jittery and mooching off somebody's cigarette pack. I hoped buying a book would make me feel better. My favourite book shop at the time was allowed to set up a table outside the hall - maybe they heard that writers have been congregating here for the past two days - and I thought it was a pretty smart decision. We bought a lot of books...more
Kate
I don't actually read a lot of poetry, as a rule. I've read some Akhmatova and some Pushkin, but other than that, I'm not a voracious poetry reader. That said, I absolutely and completely loved this collection of Atwood's poetry.

I've only rated it four stars, because some of the poems read quite flat to me - perhaps I wasn't the required audience, but they weren't hitting me in the right places for them to have the emotional pull I expect from poetry.

But MAN, when Atwood writes a great poem, i...more
Jamie
I must confess up front: while I'm a (perhaps too much so) devoted fan of Atwood's novels, from what I've read of her poetry, I'm just...not all that impressed. I always hear people talk about her powerful poetic voice and her wonderful turns of phrase, incredible emotion, and lingering images. For a poet working contemporaneously, however, with people like Anne Sexton, Maxine Kumin, Adrienne Rich, among many many other great poets working from the 60s onward, I don't think Atwood's poetry will...more
DJ
The individual poems are often hit or miss, but when they hit they do so with a depth of insight, a clarity of vision and a stunning beauty of prose that all the mediocre poems are forgiven.

There is a section I love, in which she writes poems about women in history: Ava Gardner, Helen of Troy, Miss July. There, her ability to craft a character in a few words simply shines. Her images, often, aren't as specific as they could be, and some of the poems remind me of things I wrote when I was a teena...more
Lindsay Raining Bird
Feb 14, 2012 Lindsay Raining Bird rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition Recommends it for: Hard-core Atwood fans only.
I'm not a huge fan of Atwood's myth-inspired/persona poetry. It reads forced and pretentious to me. Similarly, I had little interest in the reimagining of her childhood after her father's death, almost attempting to build her own past into myth. There was one or two lines that really hit me but as a whole, at least 2/3 of the book were throwaway, that I would likely have no interest in reading again. That being said, the whole book is worth a handful of poems. It's all they need. The first secti...more
May
Old age, love, loneliness, war, mourning - one could tuck such themes into the thick, wintertime blankets of Margaret Atwood's poetry collection, Morning in the Burned House.

Of the five 'chapters' into which the collection is divided, the second is particularly powerful; in poems such as Helen of Troy Does Counter Dancing and Ava Gardner Reincarnated as a Magnolia, Atwood presents prostitutes as goddesses - superior, desirable, assertive. "I'd rather be a flower [...] to be trampled," saysthe s...more
Rachel
Though I really cannot remember the last time I read a book of poetry, when I spotted this library discard by the well-respected Canadian author, Margaret Atwood, I could not resist. I was hooked with the first poem, as I felt that these words could have echoed from my own thoughts -- a feeling that continued with many more poems in this book. I also loved that she did not feel the need to make her poems rhyme or follow any specific rhythm. I believe the technical term is free verse. At any rate...more
Lisa M.
I will admit, I’m not a huge Atwood fan. I’ve tried to read a few of her novels but never got into them— despite being impressed by their backs and her reputation. I do like her flash fiction/prose poetry, however. So a few months ago I decided to buy this— one of her poetry collections— to see if it impressed me. When I started reading this book I was shocked to see how amateur the poetry read to me. Atwood writes a lot of surreal poetry here, but she doesn’t seem to think her reader will get i...more
Maggie Mason
Margaret Atwood is a favorite author, but this is my first read of her poetry. My favorite poem from Morning in the Burned House:

CRESSIDA TO TROILUS: A GIFT

You forced me to give you poisonous gifts.
I can put this no other way.
Everything I gave was to get rid of you
as one gives to a beggar: There. Go away.
The first time, the first sentence even
was in answer to your silent clamour
and not for love, and therefore not
a gift, but to get you out of my hair
or whatever part of me you had slid into
by stea...more
Anne
Margaret Atwood's brilliance shines in everything that she writes. This is the first volume of her poetry that I have read, and like her novels, the work is complex, moving, and very diverse. At times dark, then humorous, then intimate, they cover a variety of themes. Most moving to me were her tributes to her dying father and her poetry about aging and love. Five plus stars.
Kasandra
This is a mixed bag, many poems seem flat & feel nonconsequential/unimportant/even a bit boring, but when she hits one out of the park, she really hits it. Much of the themes are about the passing of time, loss, death, and (of course) feminine energy/opinion/voices. Atwood's poetry is very plainspoken and straightforward, and I think I'd have liked many of these better if they had more "strange" or "weird" to them, more mystery.... but her persona poems are fantastic. The opener, "You Come B...more
Robin
In this poetry collection, Atwood is smart, sharp, and dark (like most of her work). Her series of poems about her father's death are heartbreaking and real (she is not playing up her grief, just telling it like it is). The poems about mythology/art are more interesting if you familiarize yourself with those stories before reading her poems. I never learned much mythology in school, and haven't made it a priority to do so now, but I should.

Some of her lines/phrasing just punch you in the gut and...more
Amy
I've only ever read her poetry, not any of her bestselling and critically acclaimed fiction, but I do love Margaret Atwood and the way that she weaves words. Pragmatic and lyrical at the same time, she makes emotional impact with no pretense. Highly recommended.
Jeff
Margaret Atwood has long been one of my favorite poets. This was published in 1995, but i sort of drifted away from poetry over the last few years, and am just getting back to it. The poems here are just as good and powerful as her work from the 70s, which i'm more familiar with. Amazing how consistent she is - the voice is unmistakably the same after all these years. Much of the subject matter is the same too - the politics of gender is still front & center (Half-Hanged Mary is an excellent...more
Katie
My first time reading anything by Atwood, and definitely won't be my last. This is an engaging collection of poems where she obviously explores issues of aging, death, grief, loneliness, feminism... Oftentimes the tone is melancholy, but she still incorporates wit and humor in some of the language. I really like how she ties in mythology and history throughout the book, and one of my favorite poems in the collection is actually Half-Hanged Mary. Here she does hourly first-person narratives descr...more
Katie
Sep 13, 2008 Katie rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition Recommends it for: those who have lost a loved one, need some feminist inspiration, love history, love poetry
Recommended to Katie by: can't remember
I bought this book of poetry and read it for the first time during my stay in Britain during my junior year. It has remained a tremendous source of comfort to me. My copy is tattered, bubbled up, and likely should be replaced. I've made copies of poems in it for students, friends, and to tack on my walls. Atwood's voice of mourning, of insight, and of wry wit never fails to show me something new, something urgent, and something relevant. At this point, I'm so emotionally attached to the book tha...more
Suzanne
A book I keep coming back to. I don't know how I ever survived before it. Even in her Selected Poetry--Eating Fire, these are the pages I've marked as my favorites:

"Miss July Grows Older," and "Marsh Languages," You Come Back," and "A Sad Child." OMG, "A Sad Child!" How does she do that?!

Poetically frank, poignant and dry, she tells painful truths in stark strokes of suspicion. But none of this is exclusive to Morning in the Burned House... Maybe it's time to re-read it, cover to lovely cover, a...more
Amy
This is the Atwood I love: cynical, dark, black humorist, very female, very human, brooding over the face of death and aging and history and nature. Poems range from "ok" to "wow, I gotta memorize this one."

"But nothing I ever gave was good for you;
it was like white bread to goldfish.
They cram and cram, and it kills them,
and they drift in the pool, belly-up,
making stunned faces
and playing on our guilt
as if their own toxic gluttony
was not their fault."
Julie
I've long been a fan of Margaret Atwood's, but, other than a handful of her poetry, I have read only her fiction. This is a compelling collection. I was not moved so much by language as by feeling, and it is the only compilation of poetry I've encountered which covers with brutal honesty the topics of middle age, old age, and the death of an elderly parent. Particular stand-outs for me were the poems "A Sad Child," "Bored," and "Shapechangers in Winter."
Destiny Dawn Long
There were a number of individual poems that spoke to me loudly. I re-read the lines and soaked in the imagery. I felt them in my bones. More importantly, though, as a volume of poetry, I also felt a progression and structure that also carried meaning. Each section has a theme to it--and the thematic progression was very organic, though not neccesarily what I would have "expected". I loved her focus on aging as a woman and also the meditations on her father.
Alarie
Wow! Powerful, dark poetry, but with irony and sarcasm (cf. Thomas Lux) that make it delicious, rather than simply depressing reading. As an astute critic said, “Atwood’s savage, back-talking monologues have become her trademark.” “Half-Hanged Mary” is one of the poems that will stay with a reader.
Emilia
Again, this is more of a 3.5/5 stars for me.

This book of poetry was very interesting. Some poems stood out to me and I was utterly impressed by them, but others just struck me as odd and a bit boring. However, I did read most of this book right before bed so most of the time I was almost too tired to pay attention, but I digress. I still love Margaret Atwood though, and her views on life and her exquisite writing mean so much to me.
Tara
One of my favourite books of poetry. Atwood managed to make me love poetry in general with this one collection of poems, each piece seemingly written for me, about me, through me. She has a way of putting into words what everyone else feels or thinks about fleetingly. I keep it in my purse, just so I can read it when I need inspiration. It never lets me down.
Andrea Blythe
My second read of Atwood's lovely collection of poetry ingrained them even more into my imagination. Her poetry creates a mythology of the everyday and brings a feel of reality to mythological tales, often speaking from the point of view of a previously silent woman. This is a beautiful collection, which I will be adding to my personal book shelf as soon as I can.
Melissa
There's just something about a slim, hardcover volume of poetry that makes feel like I should be wearing a 19th century gown and lounge on a chaise in the parlour. I read this book as part of a Canadian poetry course, one of the last classes that I took at UVic, and taught by Jamie Dopp, one of the coolest profs I ever had.
Emily
Dec 01, 2008 Emily rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition Recommends it for: Fans of Atwoods, fans of Emily Dickinson
Recommended to Emily by: Stefanie recommended her poetry in general
Shelves: poetry
My first introduction to Atwood's poetry, and I will most definitely be reading more. The poems dealing with her father's decline and death were just stunning, and definitely cried out for empathy, and I loved plenty of others, too, like "Half-Hanged Mary," about a "witch" who was hung and didn't die.
AB
Hit-and-miss, with a good deal more 'miss' than I've come to expect from The Atwood. However, this collection contains Girl Without Hands, which is one of those Really Important Poems in my life, so I have to give credit where credit is due.
Story
The poem that made me buy this book was "Miss July Grows Older," which rang out like a whip-crack on the processes of age and desire and fading.

I can't say how many breaths this collection took from me. I can't say how hard it was to grieve with her. By far, one of my favorite books of poetry.
Dan Robinson
Aug 02, 2008 Dan Robinson is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
Michael Ondaatje wrote, "Margaret Atwood is the quiet Mata Hari, the mysterious, violent figure ... who pits herself against the ordered, too-clean world like an arsonist" Her poetry is new to me. There is a brutal honesty in her poems - a willingness to face the terrible.... I will read more.
James
As the New York Times said: "Atwood's poems are short, glistening with terse, bright images, untentative, closing like a vise...A plain, explicit poetry, perfectly sure of itself." Now, I often scoff at the linguistics of reviews, but this captures her poetry perfectly.
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Morning in the Burned House 2 16 Jun 09, 2012 03:39AM  
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Margaret Atwood was born in 1939 in Ottawa and grew up in northern Ontario, Quebec, and Toronto. She received her undergraduate degree from Victoria College at the University of Toronto and her master's degree from Radcliffe College.

Throughout her writing career, Margaret Atwood has received numerous awards and honourary degrees. She is the author of more than thirty-five volumes of poetry, childr...more
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“The truth is seldom welcome, especially at dinner.” 39 likes
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