Margaret Atwood was born in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, in 1939. She earned a BA degree from the University of Toronto, and an AM degree from Radcliffe College in 1962. Atwood is a prolific poet, novelist, and short-story writer whose work is imbued with a social conscience. Stocks notes, “Since 1978's Two-Headed Poems, Atwood's poetry has increasingly addressed political issues on a national and international level.” He also notes that her “involvement with Amnesty International has produced a searing sequence of poems.”
Atwood's long list of works includes the following novels: The Edible Woman (1969), Surfacing (1972), Lady Oracle (1976), Life Before Man (1979), Bodily Harm (1981), The Handmaid's Tale (1985), Cat's Eye (1988), The Robber Bride (1993), Alias Grace (1996), and The Blind Assassin (2000).
Her volumes of poetry include The Circle Game (1964) The Animals in That Country (1969), The Journals of Susanna Moodie (1970), Procedures for Underground (1970), Power Politics (1971), You Are Happy (1974), Selected Poems (1976), Two-Headed Poems (1978), True Stories (1981), Interlunar (1984), Selected Poems II: Poems Selected and New, 1976-1986 (1986), Selected Poems 1966-1984 (1990), Margaret Atwood Poems 1965-1975 (1991), Morning in the Burned House (1995), and Eating Fire: Selected Poems, 1965-1995 (1998). Atwood also publishes criticism and children's books.
Atwood began writing at an early age, starting a novel about an ant when she was only seven. Though she didn't finish the book, she recalls “it started off quite well.” That Atwood cast her central character as an ant perhaps owes something to growing up in the Canadian bush where her father worked as an entomologist. Whatever the case, Atwood's early experimentation in writing reveals the first fruits of a talent grown ripe with age and experience. She is a writer struck by language and its function as a shaper and reflector of society. Of the role of language in the creative process, Atwood says,