Random Reads · Reviews from the Nook

Book Review: Dearly: New Poems

Erica’s Experience

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Title: Dearly: New Poems

Author: Margaret Atwood

Genre: Poetry

Page Count: 124

Publication Date: 2020


Dear Readers,

I wish I could tell you I intentionally read a book of poetry this month because I preemptively realized it was National Poetry Month– but that would be a boldfaced lie.

I picked Atwood’s book instantly off my shelf after finishing Charming Billy because it has been a mental TBR of mine since I went on my bonus B&N book binge in January. While I’m currently trying to tackle the unread books on my bookshelf, I do have a handful of more recent releases I’ve been itching to sink my imagination into– and this was one of them.

Margaret holds a very special place in my heart. I read The Handmaid’s Tale in 2011, far before it was cool, for my AP American Lit course in high school. The novel was a mind-blowing and provocative experience for a young, albeit naive, Midwestern girl who had yet to explore her internal feminist.

The dystopian nature of the novel pulled me in, but Atwood’s ability to lace societal criticism into a thrilling novel is what won me over. Imagine my delight as a part-time B&N bookseller, when Hulu released The Handmaid’s Tale and it became cool for me to push one of my favorite titles on the visitors looking for a popular read. Ironically enough, I’ve never watched the show. I don’t want Hollywood to taint my experience– I’m that much of a diehard.

Now that you know my personal love for Margaret, I’m hope you have a better understanding of how excited I was to read these poems. The book is broken down into five collections all focused around an individual theme. If I were to give the sections titles, they would be:

  • I: honoring the past
  • II: a feminist critique
  • III: an ode to the supernatural
  • IV: an environmental call-to-action
  • V: a reflection on loss

I find poetry close to impossible to judge. Novels are a writer’s baby, a standalone individual if you will, that takes on a life of its own and has its place in the world outside of its creator. Poetry isn’t that simple.

Poems are a pieces of the soul inked onto paper and passed along into a world of judgement. They’re the empathetic slivers in a person’s brain pushing to the surface, needing to be set free. A poem is something you either get or you don’t get– and that makes them hard to review.

So, when I started reading, I decided to find a poem that stood out to me in each section and an overall favorite collection out of the five in this book. I will leave it up to you, as my fellow readers, to pick up a copy and make your own judgements on which poems speak to you the most. Here are my favorites:

Favorite Poems

  • “Carving the Jacks” (section III; poem 2; pg. 49) – A joyful observation of jack o’lanterns and humanity.
  • “Salt” (Section I; poem 3; pg. 5) – A warning about living in the past
  • “Invisible Man” (section V; poem 6; pg. 111) – A heart wrenching eulogy for a lost love
  • “Oh Children” (Section IV; poem 11; pg. 97) – a prayer for today’s youth
  • “Shadow” (Section II; poem 10; pg. 31) – A brief dissertation about slut shaming

Favorite Section

The third section in Atwood’s book of poetry was far and beyond my favorite. Every poem oozed autumnal whimsical while highlighting some form of societal commentary. It was pure entertainment. Some additional poems that I enjoyed from this section were “Update on Werewolves” (pg. 54) and “The Aliens Arrive” (pg. 58).

Not every poem was prolific and some definitely went right over my head, but as a whole, I loved getting to know the poetic side of Margaret Atwood, my OG in the world of feminist literature.

You can purchase Dearly: New Poems here if you are interested in reading. I will be reviewing Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson for the month of May, which you can purchase here if you’d like to read along. The review will be up May 30th. Stay tuned for this month’s florilegium, a poem formed from poems, coming out Sunday May 2nd! Happy reading!


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