Poetry Sunday: February by Margaret Atwood

Poetry may not be what Margaret Atwood is most famous for, but she has in fact published eighteen books of poetry. And, judging by this example, she is quite an accomplished poet. This one made me smile in recognition at her description of the interaction with the cat. Also, her description of our increased appetite in winter seems, unfortunately, spot on. It's not an easy time for those of us who have to watch what we eat. We can only hope that spring will arrive in time to save us.


by Margaret Atwood

Winter. Time to eat fat
and watch hockey. In the pewter mornings, the cat,
a black fur sausage with yellow
Houdini eyes, jumps up on the bed and tries
to get onto my head. It’s his
way of telling whether or not I’m dead.
If I’m not, he wants to be scratched; if I am
He’ll think of something. He settles
on my chest, breathing his breath
of burped-up meat and musty sofas,
purring like a washboard. Some other tomcat,
not yet a capon, has been spraying our front door,
declaring war. It’s all about sex and territory,
which are what will finish us off
in the long run. Some cat owners around here
should snip a few testicles. If we wise
hominids were sensible, we’d do that too,
or eat our young, like sharks.
But it’s love that does us in. Over and over
again, He shoots, he scores! and famine
crouches in the bedsheets, ambushing the pulsing
eiderdown, and the windchill factor hits
thirty below, and pollution pours
out of our chimneys to keep us warm.
February, month of despair,
with a skewered heart in the centre.
I think dire thoughts, and lust for French fries
with a splash of vinegar.
Cat, enough of your greedy whining
and your small pink bumhole.
Off my face! You’re the life principle,
more or less, so get going
on a little optimism around here.
Get rid of death. Celebrate increase. Make it be spring.


  1. Great! We probably don't have every novel written by Margaret Atwood on our shelves, but close to it, but I don't have a single volume of her poetry. I will try to rectify that. I have actually been on a bit of a Margaret Atwood binge of late, rereading her novels. The one I just finished is "Oryx and Crake."

    1. I've read several of her books and enjoyed them all, including Oryx and Crake. I haven't read much of her poetry, but I'll be looking for more of it.

  2. I never knew she wrote poems. I'm going to have to look more into her poetry because I love this one.

    1. You are definitely not alone in being unaware of her poetry. I think the fame of her fiction simply overshadows everything else.

  3. Who knew Margaret Atwood wrote poetry? And such good poems, too! :D

    1. And how exciting it is to learn something new about such a well-known figure.

  4. She's humorous in this poem ... but I can picture it all so well. February is for many up North a long winter's nap with the cat.

    1. She does have a gift for describing things so vividly that you feel like you are there.

  5. Last year I got a volume of her poetry with Inprint, the reading series in Houston. I haven't read it, and, in fact, I'd not planned to read it; I don't think of Atwood as a poet. Maybe I should at least give it a try.

    1. She is a multi-talented writer and one of those talents is poetry.


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