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...."Mushrooms" by Margaret Atwood
Posted by: Pete (
Date: December 29, 2004 05:32PM

Here is the poem...."Mushrooms" by Margaret Atwood

In this moist season,
mist on the lake and thunder
afternoons in the distance

they ooze up through the earth
during the night,
like bubbles, like tiny
bright red balloons
filling with water;
a sound below sound, the thumbs of rubber
gloves turned softly inside out.

In the mornings, there is the leaf mold
starred with nipples,
with cool white fishgills,
leathery purple brains,
fist-sized suns dulled to the colors of embers,
poisonous moons, pale yellow.

Where do they come from?

For each thunderstorm that travels
overhead there's another storm
that moves parallel in the ground.
Struck lightning is where they meet.

Underfoot there's a cloud of rootlets,
shed hairs or a bundle of loose threads
blown slowly through the midsoil.
These are their flowers, these fingers
reaching through darkness to the sky,
these eyeblinks
that burst and powder the air with spores.

They feed in shade, on halfleaves
as they return to water,
on slowly melting logs,
deadwood. They glow
in the dark sometimes. They taste
of rotten meat or cloves
or cooking steak or bruised
lips or new snow.

It isn't only
for food I hunt them
but for the hunt and because
they smell of death and the waxy
skins of the newborn,
flesh into earth into flesh.

Here is the handful
of shadow I have brought back to you:
this decay, this hope, this mouth-
ful of dirt, this poetry.

I have to do a complete analysis in addition to citing references and websites i need to use a part of the requirement..i have tried every search engine possible for days n can not locate a thing that helps please help!!!

Re: need help finding references
Posted by: Marian-NYC (
Date: December 29, 2004 06:43PM

I did a net search for [Atwood + mushrooms] and found -- as you did, probably -- a lot of information about mushrooms. Which was NOT always a mistake! There's a site called that links its readers to Atwood's books because of her (and her charaters') interest in edible wild stuff.

However, I also hit a page for another poem called "Mushrooms," this one by Sylvia Plath. So that's available on line and maybe you could do some comparison-and-contrast.

Then I tried searching for ["margaret atwood" + mushrooms] and found quite a few websites, perhaps your search engine isn't working quite right.

Here's some of what I turned up that way:

A Margaret Atwood resource page:
[] />
That includes links to a couple of her speeches about writing and to the Margaret Atwood Society's website.

This one [] includes another Atwood poem that has one line about mushrooms. This website has one person's comments on several poems. Don't give up on a website just because it doesn't mention your poem in particular. Browsing this site, I saw enough reference to things and people at ground level, things rotting, etc., to suppose that mushrooms may be a running metaphor for people (women?) in a lot of Atwood's work. You can refer to that sort of thing.

This one [] says the mushrooms (in an Atwood poem) represent INNOCENCE. Even if you find that to be the opposite of what they represent in your poem, you can still refer to it.

Here [] is a revew of Atwood's novel CATS EYE, including a passage from the book where someone compares her own toes to mushrooms. You can refer to this in context of her comparison of mushrooms to other living things.

And here [] is "The Margaret Atwood Reference Site," and if it mostly refers you to books (rather than to other websites), then you may have to resort of reading actual pages instead of virtual ones.

FROM A DIFFERENT ANGLE - If you're not finding anything to latch onto within the text of the poem itself, consider: (1) "like bubbles" - there's a scene in MACBETH where someone compares the three witches to "bubbles" from the earth. (2) "flesh into earth into flesh" - rings a bit of "word made flesh" and "ashes to ashes," perhaps. (3) If the last lines mean that poetry is the cycle of decay and rebirth, and vice versa, then look for other things in the poem that refer to cycles. (4) Look at all the body parts mentioned in the poem.

Good luck with this.

Re: need help finding references
Posted by: Desi (
Date: December 29, 2004 06:47PM

Have you tried to go to a (university) library near you? It seems it is not a very popular poem on the web, and as you say there is not much to find.

You said elsewhere that you have to link it to the theme of your poetry book, which is nature.

Nature in general plays an important role in the work of Margarat Atwood. In this case, it is evident she is talking about and describing mushrooms. But does she describe them as you would? Why not? What strikes you? What does poetry have in common with mushrooms? Who is she talking to?

What kind of language does she use? What kind of poetic devices does she use? What type of poetry would you say this is? Is this poem in any way related to romanticism?

some links, although not specifically about this poem:

[] /> [] />
Wordsworth preface to lyrical ballads:
[] />
"The principal object, then, which I proposed to myself in these Poems was to chuse incidents and situations from common life, and to relate or describe them, throughout, as far as was possible, in a selection of language really used by men; and, at the same time, to throw over them a certain colouring of imagination, whereby ordinary things should be presented to the mind in an unusual way; and, further, and above all, to make these incidents and situations interesting by tracing in them, truly though not ostentatiously, the primary laws of our nature: chiefly, as far as regards the manner in which we associate ideas in a state of excitement."

Re: need help finding references
Posted by: Hugh Clary (
Date: December 29, 2004 07:34PM

Here is the Macbeth (Act I, scene III):

[Witches vanish]

BANQUO: The earth hath bubbles, as the water has,
And these are of them. Whither are they vanish'd?

MACBETH: Into the air; and what seem'd corporal melted
As breath into the wind. Would they had stay'd!

BANQUO: Were such things here as we do speak about?
Or have we eaten on the insane root
That takes the reason prisoner?

Sure, that could be related, especially the 'insane root' mushroom reference. Not entirely compelling, however. And sure again, there could be some kind of extended metaphor comparing mushrooms to (something else).

Still, it could be about mushrooms, ya know. Various images of how they look, how they grow, how they exist. Why she likes them. A nature poem.

As far as a detailed analysis is concerned, one could rail against the premise that it is a poem at all, of course. No rhyme, no consistent meter. Looks like prose, except for the line breaks. Rhythm it has, though. The form would have to be labeled free verse with such elements.

I wonder why she hyphenated mouth-ful, since it does not contribute to either an enjambment or an end-stopped line, meter and rhyme not being a consideration.

Look for other poetic devices to discuss. Personification, metaphor, simile, assonance & consonance, for example. I guess it all depends on how many pages are required.

Re: ...."Mushrooms" by Margaret Atwood
Posted by: Marian-NYC (
Date: December 30, 2004 04:07PM

"I wonder why she hyphenated mouth-ful, since it does not contribute to either an enjambment or an end-stopped line, meter and rhyme not being a consideration."

Good question. MAYBE she wanted to emphasize a double meaning: mouthful (enough to fill a mouth) and mouth/full (a mouth, stuffed with).

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