Books Reviews

Dearly. Poems of a Lifetime, by Margaret Atwood

Dearly: New Poems

Born in Canada in 1939, she is of course not the only one who has been considered a candidate for the Nobel Prize in Literature for years, although the award for Annie Ernaux may not have necessarily increased her chances. Atwood is best known for her novels, above all “The Maid’s Report”, which was published in 1985.

But Atwood is also a prolific poet, and has been since the early 1960s. In the foreword to this volume, which contains poems from the years 2008 to 2019, Atwood reveals her process when writing poems: Noted, drafted, thrown down, they are first written down on loose slips of paper and placed in a drawer. Only later does Atwood pull out her notes to edit them.

This slightly melancholic tone runs through the volume without dominating it completely, because of course Atwood’s poems also deal with farewells and death, but at the same time they are also the committed texts of a political writer, which in the language and in the finely polished words a point of consolation builds up in a damaged world.

And the title poem, effectively placed at the end, also oscillates between thoughtfulness and humor: “Dearly” is an old word that is fading, writes Atwood, and tells of how she moves through the world, carefully, “because of the broken knees , / which don’t give a damn to me even more than you can imagine, / because there are other, more important things.” In this book they are saved.

Tags : Canadian Poetry