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The Circle Game by Margaret Atwood


On my BookTube channel, I started my series: Mondays With Margaret in which I am reading most of Atwood's work for the entire year. For the most part, although there are a few exceptions, I will be reading the books in order of original publication. This means that I began with Margaret Atwood's first collection of poetry, The Circle Game.


One of the most well known poems in the collection is the first poem called: This Is A Photograph of Me. This poem is how I was introduced to Margaret Atwood and it continues to have a lot of meaning in my life. I love poems about nature and Atwood often uses nature and the environment in her poems. This poem included. The surrounding area is described, what’s in the foreground, what on the sides, it frames what we are to focus on which is the lake. There has obviously been some kind of tragedy. I think there is profound meaning in the line “just under the surface” and that last line, if you look long enough, eventually you will be able to see me. For me, it has always continued to have meaning and that meaning has changed over time. I think that’s a sign of great writing.


Photographs and photography seem to be a theme in this collection. There is a poem called Camera. A photographer is described as attempting to set up the perfect shot and making sure all of the elements will capture the perfect picture. In the end there is no perfect picture.


The nature theme is seen in so many of Atwood's poems. For example, After The Flood, We, (which also has a feel of dystopia or apocalyptic writing) and Spring In The Igloo, looks at environmental issues.


Evening Trainstation, Before Departure is another poem that I think can have profound meaning depending on how you interpret it. I love the ending; I think it has a bit of a twist. I have read this poem many times, each time imagining what/who is travelling. Is it a person? Is it daylight? I've had many different ideas about it.


Another theme that we see is the theme of play. An Attempted Solution For Chess Problems has the theme of siblings playing. There's chess and costumes waiting. Playing Cards continues this theme of play. I love how the playing cards are described and again, nature comes into play here too.


Man With A Hook was a fun poem that I thought was very clever. There are many lines in these poems that I read and then would have to reread because the imagery was so great. The title poem The Circle Game, Pre-Amphibian, and Against Still Life are all examples of that as well.


The last two poems: The Explorers and The Settlers are poems that are very Canadian. They speak to Canada’s history and how settlers have treated the first people of the land called Turtle Island. This is a sad and tragic story. We still have a long way to go and these poems have probably taken on new meanings in the past 60 years. Every time I hear Margaret speak she talks about the indigenous people of the land. She has always done so with great respect and I’m hoping that as we continue reading Atwood’s poetry and other work that this is a topic she continues to come back to.


Below is a link to the video that I did on The Circle Game




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