This cycle of poems is perhaps the most memorable evocation in modern Canadian literature of the myth of the wilderness, the immigrant experience, and the alienating and schizophrenic effects of the colonial mentality. Since it was first published in 1970 it has not only acquired the stature of a classic but, reprinted many times, become the best-known extended work in Canadian poetry.
Susanna Moodie (1805-85) emigrated from England in 1832 to Upper Canada, where she settled on a farm with her husband. She wrote several books in Canada, notably Roughing It in the Bush, a famous account of pioneering that is still widely read. In poems about the arrival and the Moodies' seven years in the bush, which were followed by a more civilized ilfe in Belleville, and about Mrs Moodie in old age and then after death - in the present, when she observes the twentieth century destroying her past and its meaning - Margaret Atwood has created haunting meditations on an English gentlewoman's confrontation with the wilderness, and compelling variations on the themes of dislocation and alienation, nature and civilization.
The poems are supplemented by Margaret Atwood's collages and an 'Afterword' in which the poet says: 'We are all imigrants to this place even if we were born here....'
Author of more than 40 books, Margaret Atwood has won as many awards, including the Union Poetry Prize (Chicago), the Bess Hoskins Prize (Chicago), the Radcliffe Graduate Medal, a Guggenheim Fellowship, the Welsh Arts Council International Writers Prize, the Los Angeles Times Fiction Writers Award, the Ritz Hemingway Prize (Paris), the Arthur C. Clarke Award for best Science Fiction, the John Hughes Prize of the Welsh Development Board, and a Centennial Medal from Harvard University. Her work has been translated into more than sixteen languages.