Monday, October 08, 2007


Procedures For Underground
(Northwest Coast)

The country beneath
the earth has a green sun
and the rivers flow backwards;

the trees and rocks are the same
as they are here, but shifted.
Those who live there are always hungry;

from them you can learn
wisdom and great power,
if you can descend and return safely.

You must look for tunnels, animal
burrows or the cave in the sea
guarded by the stone man;

when you are down you will find
those who were once your friends
but they will be changed and dangerous.

Resist them, be careful
never to eat their food.
Afterwards, if you live, you will be able

to see them when they prowl as winds,
as thin sounds in our village, You will
tell us their names, what they want, who

has made them angry by forgetting them.
For this gift, as for all gifts, you must
suffer: those from the underland

will be always with you, whispering their
complaints, beckoning you
back down; while among us here

you will walk wrapped in an invisible
cloak. Few will seek your help
with love, none without fear.

by Canadian writer Margaret Atwood (from Procedures for Underground 1970)

Where the hammer hits the anvil she is there in the sparks!


  1. some choose to walk a difficult path.
    thank you for sharing this poem.

  2. nice poem, well conveyed, i could feel the atmosphere...

  3. I must say I don't read much of Margaret Atwood's work but this one is definitely thought-provoking and takes me many different places. Thanks for posting this Goatman.

  4. I'm never quite sure where Atwood "takes" me. Maybe she just leads us to a crossroads of thoughts and we choose the rest...but she does spark those thoughts. I have to continually re-read her.

    Nice pic too!

  5. errrr ... sounds scary to me ... it's somewhat speculative fictionary type of writing

  6. Atwood, very fine piece, I could feel the realness in it, hear the truth of it, see the fears and anxieties. Thanks for the experience Goatman, she did spark me.

  7. PS: Excellent Picture too, Goatman, really gives the earth in truth, all the tangles and weavings, beautiful waters hidden among the trials and tribulations.

  8. I like this poem and appreciate Atwood's novels even more. My favorite piece was a story called, "Death By Landscape." It's not as well known as her novels but quite amazing.

  9. I love this poem, for the very different paths Atwood gives me to follow. Thank you for posting it.

    The photo of the lake is so lovely and peaceful...great contrast to the poem, Goatman!

  10. Pretty Moonbeams.. :-) Beautiful!

  11. Charming in the beginning, but kind of lost me somewhere near the middle. At first it seemed like she was painting a charming picture of a world in reverse, then it kind of changed to a dark fairy tale.

    As a sidenote, I once wanted to read one of her books. I can't remember the title, maybe it was _The Milkmaid_ or something similar?

  12. Tracey,
    Sounds like "A Handmaids Tale" from which a movie was made. But I think she has written much better. Seems that one of her novels, "Alias Grace" is required reading in some Canadian high schools.

    Sometimes I have to reread her poetry a few times, then glance at it sideways, to come to some sense of her meaning. You can tell by the comments that she is an enigma to many.

  13. I've always liked Atwood's work, dark and smart!

  14. It reminds me of when Odysseus had to enter Hades.

    Thank you for sharing it, I enjoyed reading it.


  15. Nice. Atwood does not disappoint.
    I liked the pix of your '65 Goat, nice.

  16. Hammer and anvil quote was a hit. We fall upon the anvil of life. Do we sparkle?

  17. generally i love margaret atwood's poetry - this one struck me as having too many words - hahahaha (for you goatman, who knows me as a minimalist when it comes to words/poetry).

    I just noticed that you blog title is the opposite of the Sun's 'Sunbeams'....moonbeams. Cool. Very cool.


  18. rdg,
    She can be extremely wordy. Not so much in her poetry but in her novels. You can read for days through drab description and historical notes; but then there will be the one paragraph that will be so perfect and read so well that it will all seem worthwhile.

  19. OH!

    I never read this poem and I was thinking its so lovely!! I really enjoyed that one, thank you so much.

  20. Nice post and blog! I love Margaret Atwood--she's one of my favorite writers!