Margaret Atwood's third poetry collection: The Animals In That Country was originally published in 1968. The title poem made me think of how we treat animals as humans and sometimes we treat humans as animals. I thought of the judgments we make, the genocides, and the holocaust. I also thought of how animals are sometimes seen as sacred and how we sometimes treat our pets as humans. Atwood writes a lot about nature and the natural world and how we interact with it - which is what this entire collection is about,
We don’t know what country is being referred to in this particular poem. The first half of the poem talks about "this country" like it’s another world. The animals are described as ceremonial, polite, having elegant deaths, and having conversations. Then the second part of the poem is in contrast to what has already been described in that country. It says that in “this” country - the animals have faces of animals, they are killed, not elegantly and the last line, they have faces of no one. It’s almost like animals are elevated beyond humans at the beginning to be lesser animals by the end.
In several of the poems there are brilliant lines and imagery. In Part Of A Day, there's a line that I loved. "Flying our minds on strings like toy balloons behind us". In the poem, Landlady which I really like. I love the last line... "solid as bacon!"
Atwood continues themes of water and drowning and pictures. In Attitudes Towards the Mainland, it says “You think there is nothing but the lake and various drowners, their numbed grasp on the gunwale their eyes’ quick pictures". In the poem After I Fell Apart there is the line “an absence of revolving seasons which might hold drowning in an emptiness deeper than water”.
There are a couple of poems about current events and politics. The Green Man is a poem written for The Boston Strangler, a man who killed several women in the early 60’s. Atwood’s poem points to the fact that he would get into their apartments by pretending to be a service man or delivery man. The Green Giant Murder is another poem about an investigation. I’m not sure if it’s connected to The Green Man as she named the Boston Strangler or if this is another crime.
A Night in The Royal Ontario Museum is a fun poem for me. In this poem, Margaret imagines what it would be like to be locked in overnight at the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) It’s such a great Museum, I love how she describes some of it and even includes the cafeteria and the bathrooms.
It Is Dangerous To Read Newspapers is a poem that again contrasts what is going on in countries like Canada to places around the world. I think we are so fortunate to live in Canada. This poem points out that we read about things in the paper, but there are real people out in the world who are experiencing horrible things while we go about our daily lives.
Another great poetry collection about nature, current events and human behaviour.
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