Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry: Explained, IN THE SECULAR NIGHT, by MARGARET ATWOOD

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Classic and Contemporary Poetry: Explained

IN THE SECULAR NIGHT, by             Poet Analysis     Poet's Biography

"In the Secular Night" is a poem by Canadian poet Margaret Atwood. It was first published in her 1987 collection "Selected Poems 1965-1975". The poem explores the themes of isolation, loneliness, and the search for meaning in a world that seems to have lost its spiritual center.


The poem is divided into two parts, each of which explores a different aspect of the theme of isolation. In the first part, the speaker describes a world in which "we" are "isolated beings" who "move in our separate orbits". The second part shifts to a more personal focus, with the speaker describing their own sense of isolation and their search for connection with others. The poem suggests that in a world without a clear spiritual center, human beings are left to navigate their own way through a confusing and often alienating landscape.

Poetic Elements:

  • Imagery: Atwood uses vivid imagery throughout the poem, particularly in the first part, to create a sense of a bleak, lonely world in which human beings are cut off from one another.
  • Tone: The tone of the poem is bleak and introspective, reflecting the speaker's sense of isolation and disillusionment with the world.
  • Structure: The poem is written in free verse, with no consistent rhyme scheme or meter. The lack of formal structure reflects the sense of disconnection and disorientation that pervades the poem.

Poem Snippet:

And then there is no choice,

and the world becomes the world again

and the sky is an apology,

and the leaves fall off the trees

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