#MARM: Margaret Atwood Reading Month 2021

As I’m not co-hosting MARM this year, I was determined to at least participate. This, of course, allows for a much more relaxed timeline (I had until the end of November!) and Dearly is all I have to show for it. But I was happy to finally read it – it escaped me last year when it first came out.

I have consistently liked Margaret Atwood’s poetry; it often tells a story–even if it’s just a short one–and it often makes me giggle. In interviews I have read/heard MA talk about how much she enjoys writing, and it always shows.

One of the great and fun things about reading and writing about Margaret Atwood is that she’s been around a long time, so when you go searching for something specific you end up down a deep, deep rabbit hole of videos and articles about her. I found this one from 1967 when reading a review of Dearly in The Star.

The poems in Dearly are broken up into 5 sections and, according to Atwood, who was interviewed by The Star for their review, they are: 1) things fading away, 2) gender issues, 3) supernatural metaphors, 4) nature and climate, and 5) the fading away and death of her partner Graeme.

A little taste from each section…

“Late Poems” from Section 1:

"These are the late poems.
Most poems are late
of course: too late,
like a letter sent by a sailor
that arrives after he's drowned."

"Cicadas" from Section 2:

"Finally after nine years
of snouting through darkness
he inches up scarred bark
and cuts loose the yammer of desire:

the piercing one-note of a jackhammer, 
vibrating like a slow bolt of lightning
splitting the air
and leaving a smell like burnt tarpaper."

"September Mushrooms" from Section 3:

"In the tree shade, stealthily,
they nosed up through the sandy loam
and the damp leaf litter--

a sliver of colour, then another--
bringing their cryptic news
of what goes on down there:
the slow dissolve of lignum,
the filaments, the little nodes like fists, assembling their nets and mists."

"Tracking the Rain" from Section 4:

"All day it's been pending, the rain.
It gathers, it withholds.
We thumb our touchscreens, 
consulting the odds
on the radar maps: green puddles flow
from west to east, 
vanishing before they hit
the dot that's us.
A stretched red dot, like a comic-book voice
devoid of words,
like an upside-down teardrop.

That's where we're living now,
inside this dot
the colour of a heated toaster; 
inside this dry red bubble."

"Dearly" from Section 5:

"It's an old word, fading now.
Dearly did I wish.
Dearly did I long for.
I loved him dearly.

I make my way along the sidewalk
mindfully, because of my wrecked knees
about which I give less of a shit
than you may imagine
since there are other things, more important--
wait for it, you'll see--"

I had so much fun last year filling out the Bingo grid; my MA-inspired poem, my MA-inspired food art (scroll to the end of the post), and my “Margaret Atwood Fun Fact” List. This year I have some more facts for you – they have been procured from the CBC interview with Tom Power for Margaret’s 80th birthday (2019), which Marcie has included in her Week 3 post. And, just in case you didn’t know, her interviews are always worth listening to–even when you don’t have time–because you never know what you’re going to learn or what she’s going to say. For example, my youngest daughter became an instant fan when she heard Margaret say that “kids did not evolve to sit in desks.”

Margaret Atwood Fun Facts (#2)

1.I already knew that Margaret’s parents were both from Nova Scotia and that her mother was from the Annapolis Valley, but what I didn’t know is that her father was from the South Shore of Nova Scotia, specifically Upper Clyde (born in 1906). I mean, who is from Upper Clyde?! You can’t get much more rural than that. Next time I’m down that way, I just might take a little detour to check it out!

2. Margaret wrote and illustrated her first book at the age of 7 and called it Annie the Ant. Tom Power reads the first line: “It was late in the afternoon and all the ants were busy, some of them were pulling bugs, others crumbs of bread or cookie, all of these to give their larvae.”

3. Margaret Atwood was a Brownie. I wish I could see a picture of her in her little Brownie dress with the orange and white scarf and brown knee socks.

4. At Sunday School, MA won a prize for best bible verse memorizer AND best essay on Temperance. She argued that when you drink alcohol your capillaries expand which will cause you to freeze to death in a snow bank.

5. As if there was needed another reason to love Margaret Atwood, she loves cats! Her first cat’s name was Percolator and routinely brought her “nocturnal presents.” There are other things to learn about MA and cats in this article in the Guardian from October 2021.

Bonus Fact: This just in! Margaret Atwood is to be celebrated on a stamp by Canada Post.

Have you been reading any Margaret Atwood books, or doing/writing any MA-inspired activities?

Don’t forget to pop over to Buried in Print to read more about #MARM!

30 thoughts on “#MARM: Margaret Atwood Reading Month 2021

  1. Rebecca Foster says:

    I loved Dearly so much! My favourite poetry collection of last year. I enjoyed getting a recap of the themes and taste of the language. And that’s a fantastic cover, though I also like the feathers on the UK cover.

    I, too, was a prize-winning Bible verse memorizer! But the temperance essay really shows her age.

    Atwood recently edited a cat-themed anthology. Did you see Karen’s review? https://kaggsysbookishramblings.wordpress.com/2021/11/16/withot-doubt-cats-are-intellectuals-nottinghilleds-margaretatwood/

    • Naomi says:

      I just read Karen’s review – thanks for the link! The article I read about Margaret and her cats might even be the introduction from that anthology… I’m not sure. It sounds like one you might like to read, too. 😉

      About Sunday School, Atwood also mentioned that she *chose* to go to SS, because it was “the forbidden fruit” at her house. And then she ended up exploring all kinds of religions, which I think would be a really interesting thing to do.

  2. Laila@BigReadingLife says:

    A stamp! I wish it were issued in the US!

    I re-read The Blind Assassin and it was another reminder of her brilliance. Although I found it sadder than I remembered! (Really I didn’t remember much about it at all!)

    I’m so glad to have the impetus to dig into her works every November. Otherwise I might forget.

    • Naomi says:

      I don’t know about you, but I find books I read when I was much younger seem more sad to me now. Rilla of Ingleside almost killed me (even though I love it so much!) when I read it a couple of years ago, but I don’t remember feeling so sad about it when I was a teen. Except for the part about the dog. Always the part about the dog.

      Maybe the stamp will entice me to writing a bunch of letters, just so I can use it! 🙂

  3. Nish says:

    I just finished The Testaments and reviewed it on my blog. I had no idea it was MARM, or I would have participated.

    Sadly, I didn’t entirely love The Testaments – it started off amazing, but then descended into generic YA dystopia style novel. A very odd book actually, now that I think of it.

    Have you read Atwood’s short stories? I read Bluebeard’s Egg a few years ago, and absolutely loved it.

    • Naomi says:

      I’m sure you still have time to link to your review over at Buried in Print!

      I love Atwood’s short stories! I’ve read Moral Disorder and Stone Mattress, and loved them both.

      • Marcie McCauley says:

        Sure thing, if anyone wants to have a link included, just leave a message on one of the MARM posts there, if you were reading in November.(MA’s birthday month). Thanks for the suggestion, Naomi!

        I think The Testaments works best if one has read its precursor recently, but I know many people didn’t want to read Handmaid’s again, what with real-life stuff being like her fiction-come-to-life!

  4. annelogan17 says:

    I saw the Atwood stamp at the post office yesterday and almost book a bunch just to keep them (I stopped myself). I love that she loves cats, I just love her. The Dearly poem is beautiful, and i love that she doesn’t care too much about her wrecked knees – she’s a wonderful example of aging gracefully I think.

    • Naomi says:

      I agree! If only we could all age as well as Margaret Atwood has. I think the world has been so fortunate to have her in it.

      I’m going to have to write some letters just so that I can use her stamp! 🙂

  5. Marcie McCauley says:

    I love this collection: I’m so happy you posted about it. You’ve reminded me that I would like to have my own copy, for keeps. (I read it from the library originally.)

    Your facts are fascinating. I also just learned about the Nova Scotia link and I meant to ask you about it!

    And THE STAMP. It’s gorgeous. I just love it. I was also reminded of the Robertson Davies stamp (back when stamps here had denominations on them). Also very striking.

    • Naomi says:

      It would be a nice one to own a copy of!

      The facts are so much fun to do. I wonder if there will ever come a time that I can’t find something I don’t already know…

      Who would we like to see next on a stamp??

  6. lectura si alte pasiuni says:

    When I read about the very rural origins of her father, it made me think about the early childhood of the characters in Cat’s Eye.

  7. lectura si alte pasiuni says:

    In the same book, Cat’s Eye, I was impressed by how she wrote about bullying, about how mean young girls can be with each other and, most of all, about the way the character’s mother decided to deal with the bullying. I wonder about what you think about the strategy to raise her daughter’s resilience and self esteem.

    • Naomi says:

      Hi there! I would love to answer your question, but it’s been too long since I’ve read Cat’s Eye. It’s definitely on my list for a re-read.
      Thanks for joining in the conversation!

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