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Dearly: New Poems

Review

Dearly: New Poems

Walking in the madman’s wood
over the disquieted dry shushing leaves
in early spring.

In DEARLY, a new poetry collection from the wondrous Margaret Atwood, the world of the human intersects with that of the natural and then around back to the world of the uncanny valley --- where the cyborgs, zombies and other partly human beings try to touch the gossamer of human existence and just miss by an inch. Love, sex, death, murder, rape and love again are the spokes on the wheel of Atwood’s poetic land. DEARLY is as dense as it is light and is a poetic magic trick that will delight her legion of fans, old and new alike.

"DEARLY is as dense as it is light and is a poetic magic trick that will delight [Atwood's] legion of fans, old and new alike."

It is very hard to pass judgment on Atwood as she is one of my literary heroines, standing strong among worthy comrades like Virginia Woolf, Toni Morrison, Joyce Carol Oates, Louise Erdrich and Maxine Hong Kingston --- original writers who have made marked contributions in the world of journalism, poetry, literary fiction and screenwriting. Like her colleagues, Atwood seems to harbor no fear of venturing from one genre to another, but she always skirts around a different dimension. This dimension lies just outside our own, a place where the idea of the Mandela effect is real because we exist on several intersecting planes of life at the same time, in keeping with Einstein’s theories. Time is both infinite and definite, and we decide which one to believe in. Actually, we the readers are pushed forward by our literary tour guides, choice among them being Atwood.

Love poems about zombies? Yes, she went there. Enchanting lilting tributes of women who have been raped and murdered? Yes, she went there. In fact, I found myself reading DEARLY to discover who she was writing about --- someone she really knows or someone she has invented to be almost real to us.

                     This is the little robot
                     they have just invented
                     with its cute dollface of soft plastic.
                     Its expression is confiding
                     though slightly fearful:
                     it’s designed to learn like a child.

Atwood’s fascination with the virtual, be it history or robots, provides a through line to all her work over the last four decades. These poems are forthright and brave, yet beautiful in their hard-told truths. But they also give you the creeps because she is talking about both things that actually exist in the world that we see every day and things that we don’t necessarily notice but are there, just under the surface. The latter hide from us, waiting for us to fall down some rabbit hole where we will be face to face with them, and no mask or goggles can keep us safe from their difficult wisdom.

I recommend DEARLY especially to those who only recently have become fans of Atwood’s work. The Grand Dame has so many surprises up her sleeves and on the bookstore shelves for you. You will be amazed at the hurricanes that live underneath the seemingly clear waves of words that will wash over you on an afternoon’s read.

As another lockdown feels near, hold this volume dear for the trips it will take you on while you hunker down on the home front.

Reviewed by Jana Siciliano on November 25, 2020

Dearly: New Poems
by Margaret Atwood

  • Publication Date: November 10, 2020
  • Genres: Poetry, Poetry Collection
  • Hardcover: 144 pages
  • Publisher: Ecco
  • ISBN-10: 006303249X
  • ISBN-13: 9780063032491