‘Late Poems’ by Margaret Atwood

Speaking of late… I appear to have missed another day posting, oops! In my defense, it is a little hectic at the moment with end of semester assessments and also coming to the end of 4 years studying! I can see the finish line, just need to make it to the end.

The poem I am sharing this evening is from Margaret Atwood’s collection Dearly (2020), which contains poems written between 2008 and 2019. It had been over a decade since Atwood had published a poetry collection which made it all the more special when Dearly was released. There is the sharp eye (and wit) we have come to expect and also reflection, as she says in the introduction, “Poetry deals with the core of human existence: life, death, renewal, change; as well as fairness and unfairness, injustice and sometimes justice. The world in all its variety. The weather. Time. Sadness. Joy” (Atwood 2020).

I hope you enjoy the poem I have chosen to share tonight.

‘Late Poems’ by Margaret Atwood

These are the late poems.
Most poems are late
of course: too late,
like a letter sent by a sailor
that arrives after he’s drowned.

Too late to be of help, such letters,
and late poems are similar.
They arrive as if through water.

Whatever it was has happened:
the battle, the sunny day, the moonlit
slipping into lust, the farewell kiss. The poem
washes ashore like flotsam.

Or late, as in late for supper:
all the words cold or eaten.
Scoundrel, plight, and vanquished,
or linger, bide, awhile,
forsaken, wept, forlorn.
Love and joy, even: thrice-gnawed songs.
Rusted spells. Worn choruses.

It’s late, it’s very late;
too late for dancing.
Still, sing what you can.
Turn up the light: sing on,
sing: On.


Atwood, M. (2020) ‘Late Poems’ from Dearly. London: Chatto & Windus

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Wendy Pratt

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