top of page
  • Writer's pictureSnappy notes


Updated: Dec 8, 2020


Mushrooms is a poem from the volume, True Stories, a collection of poetry published in 1981 by Margaret Atwood. This collection is dedicated to the poet Carolyn Forche` with whom Atwood had discussed her trip to EI Salvador as a member of Amnesty International. The poems in the collection both directly and indirectly discuss her views regarding human rights in third-world nations. In it Mushrooms poem investigates both the power and limitation of poetry and language. It also demonstrates theme of life cycle and nature, reflects Atwood’s environmental interests. Mushrooms has also been included in Atwood’s collections, including Selected Poems II: 1976-1986, published in 1987.


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 eye blinks

that burst and powder the air with spores.

They feed in shade, on half leaves

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.


Rainy seasons are mostly moist and wet. Everywhere around lake is covered with mist and thunders are rumbling over there. Noon time is arriving from the distance. Here ‘they’ refers to mushrooms which is growing slowly from the earth during night time. These emerging up process are described as bubbles and bright red balloons filling with water. Where in rain promotes mushroom growth and the release of mushroom spores. A stalk or stripe of mushroom which rises from the ground softly inside out with inaudible sound that human ear cannot detect. When morning arrives, fallen leaves were set with raised region of mold with white spots like fish gills which help to breathe. Purple brains, poisoned moon, pale yellow represent the different kinds of mushroom and their appearance.

Where do they come from?

After a heavy rainfall and a thunderstorm with variety of lightning strikes, a clusters of mushroom popping out as a reaction just like ‘For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction’. Naturally occurring lightning can carry up to a billion volts of electricity, which gets carried through the ground during a lightning strike which affects many division of roots like shed hairs or bundle of loose threads expanded slowly through the mid ground as mushroom. They act as their flowers in which the fungal equivalent of sperm cells that allow mushrooms to reproduce by bursting quickly and the spores released into the air.

These mushrooms were grown under the trees in shade. The deadwood of the trees returns to the water in which it gleams through darkness. These mushrooms merely taste like rotten meat and create astringent taste also a metallic quality that tastes like bruised lips or new snow. Author says her intention to the readers that she didn’t chase these mushrooms for food but for the sake of hunt because they smell like death but born today as fresh flesh. At the end the poet speaks to the mushroom itself by considering ‘poetry’ as the shadow, she says, “Here is the handful/ of shadow I have brought\ back to you:\ this decay, this hope, this mouth-\ful of dirt, this poetry.”


Encyclopedia of world biography






1,192 views2 comments

Recent Posts

See All
bottom of page