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Volume 34, Number 2 (2009)

Dark Stories: Poet-Audience Relations and the Journey Underground in Margaret Atwood’s The Door and Other Works

February 23, 2010


The depiction of the underground journey, being more suggestive of a continuous process of exploration than it is of a transition from one discrete state to another, tempers the uneasy separation that Margaret Atwood often attempts to envision between normal and creative consciousness. Atwood has referred to Northrop Frye’s connections between the unconscious mind and the creative imagination – that “there may be imaginative rewards not afforded by the waking consciousness.” Knowledge gained in unseen realms may be a matter of moving through the darkness: continuously inhabiting both the past and the present at all times. By casting the poetic project as a voyage into a dark underworld – a voyage all people take in one form or another – the poems in The Door develop a subtle yet important case for complicating normative understandings of the poet and the audience. In doing so, they problematize the assumption that there can be a clear distinction between the two.