Dearly: Poems by Margaret Atwood

IMG_7558I am so excited to have scored this one!!! Isn’t it gorgeous?! A HUGE thank you to @eccobooks at @harpercollins for sending me a free ARC of this new book of poems from the great Margaret Atwood! I have been anticipating the release of this since I heard it was being published and I am so so SO excited for the chance to read and review it early. This title will be released in November, so mark your calendars, Atwood fans!!

Margaret Atwood’s new book of poems is just as amazing as her work in fiction, and reminds us that she is as much a poet as talented novelist. Her simple lines are steeped in meaning and paint a hauntingly fresh view of reality.

dearlyIn Dearly, Atwood’s first collection of poetry in over a decade, she touches on a variety of themes, from love and loss to the passage of time. Some of my favorite verses brought up themes of memory and time, something that Atwood often includes in her writing. Her new poetry is as introspective and personal as ever, but this collection really resonated with me personally. Atwood lost her husband last year after a long fight with dementia. My grandmother was diagnosed with it, and I can understand and relate to the pain of coping when someone you love is starting to forget who you are.

The poems move through the phases of life, “like moon phases”, progressing in parts, like maiden to crone.

The very first poem, Late Poems, seems to set the tone for the collection with a reminder: It is never too late. You may not be able to change the past, but it is never too late to learn from the past. Nothing is meaningless, and it is never too late.

Some poems offer haunting warnings:

Were things good then?

Yes. They were good.

Did you know they were good?

No, because I was worrying

or maybe hungry, or asleep …

“Oh, beware…” Beware of losing yourself. We must make good memories and not get mired down in worry and laziness. Appreciate where you are now, but know that you will not always be where you are now. We don’t know the good ol’ days until they are over, so make them last with the ones you love.

Some poems pose questions to the reader, like an existential personality quiz:

If birds are human souls

What bird are you?


If you were a song

What song would you be?

But my favorite lines were the lines on memory and time. In Dream the speaker makes clear comparisons between aging to the seasons: “you are young … and it is summer” becomes “suddenly I’m older … and it is winter”. There are so many beautiful poems about the struggle of aging, fading, and forgetting. Letting go is difficult, but inevitable, and these poems serve as a sort of coping mechanism for dealing with loss.

The clock ticks and the day shrivels.

Dusk sifts down on us.

How long should I stay?

The language Atwood uses to express her losses is simple and straightforward, and that simplicity is what I enjoy most about her verses.  Quick but effective, Atwood’s poignant poems keep readers flipping through pages, getting lost in language.

Books of poetry should be regarded as of the most readable genre of our time. Reader’s attention spans are shorter than they have ever been before; the average person typically will read snippets of text on social media and advertisements throughout the day, but will not sit to read a whole book. Technology is changing our reading habits, and poetry offers a reading experience that imitates the way we read today. Short and simple verses mimic how we read snippets of literature throughout the day (like on Instagram or Twitter). This is the type of book that can be read in a day, and will leave readers returning to it forever.

“Poetry is the past that breaks out in our hearts.” —Rilke

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