The Poetry Concierge Recommends Margaret Atwood

[The Poetry Concierge is an occasional feature here on Rosemary and Reading Glasses wherein I select a poem, poet, or book of poems for individual readers based on a short questionnaire. Come play along! Read the introductory post here, my first recommendation here, and then email me at: rosemaryandreadingglasses [at] gmail [dot] com. ]

This week, our pilgrim in search of poetry is Naomi, who blogs about books over at Consumed by Ink.

1. When you read fiction, who’s your go-to author?

Already, this is a hard question.  I don’t do a lot of re-reading, but there are some authors who I’ve read many of their books:  Margaret Atwood, Ann Patchett, Geraldine Brooks, L. M. Montgomery, Lois Lowry, Michael Crummey.

2. If you read nonfiction, which subjects are most likely to interest you? (cultural history, science, biography, memoir, survival stories?)

Probably memoirs, survival stories, and historical figures.

3. If you were stuck on a desert island for a week, which five books would you bring to keep you entertained?

Ok, a week isn’t too long.  I would probably want to bring 5 books I haven’t read yet, which means I don’t know what they’d be.  A couple on my TBR pile that would be good to bring to a desert island would be Rockbound by Frank Day and The Republic of Nothing by Lesley Choyce. Nothing scary or spooky please.  Maybe something funny, like Christopher Moore and another Will Ferguson book.  One more-maybe a good love story.

4. If you were on a five-year mission to Mars, which five books would you bring to keep you sane?
5 years is much longer than a week, so I would have to either bring books that I know I would like to re-read, or bring some big chunksters.  I have never read Middlemarch, so maybe that one.  A big, fat Dickens to take my time with.  Jane Eyre would be nice to have – I would definitely re-read that one.  The Time Traveler’s wife, so I would have lots of time to get it all straight.  Lastly, either Roots or Lonesome Dove.  I have never read Lonesome Dove, and my mother says I should, but if I took Roots I would know that I already love it.  If I was allowed to count a series as 1 book (which I probably am not), I would bring the Anne books.

5. What kinds of questions are most likely to keep you up at night? (death, the nature of love, politics, environmental issues, meaning of life, end of the world, justice and injustice, etc?)

I’m most likely to be kept up at night thinking about the nature of love, or environmental issues and how they will someday affect the way we live.  Also, I sometimes try to make sense of societal rules, and how I might like to change some of them.

6. If you’ve read poetry before, what have you liked? What have you disliked?

I don’t like poetry that takes a long time to figure out what the person is getting at.  So, I like to be able to know what the poet is saying, whether she’s describing something or telling a story.  When I think of poetry I like, I always think of A.A. Milne’s poems for children (no laughing).  I still love them, and have several memorized. Also, I just thought I would add a little challenge for you.  Along with whatever you choose for me, do you think you might also be able to come up with a Canadian suggestion as well?  If possible.  I actually had been looking at the library for one to read for this month, but didn’t have any luck. 

For Naomi, I’m recommending a Canadian poet who’s more famous for her novels: Margaret Atwood. Yes, THE Margaret Atwood, author of The Handmaid’s Tale, The Blind Assassin, and Oryx and Crake, among many other highly-regarded novels. Ms. Atwood is also a distinguished poet whose collections include The Circle Game, The Animals in That Country, Morning in the Burned House, and, most recently, The Door.

(I almost feel like I’m cheating since Naomi wrote in first answer that Margaret Atwood is one of her go-to novelists, but then again, the questionnaire is meant to be revelatory, right?)

I also think Ms. Atwood’s work is right for Naomi because of their mutual interest in environmental issues and social justice. And Naomi’s pick of Christopher Moore as an author whose novel she’d take to a desert island tells me that she has a great sense of humor, and Margaret Atwood’s work is full of humorous touches. Furthermore, some of the authors and books Naomi singled out for attention deal with women who are isolated in some way, like Jane Eyre, or Anne Shirley (as in Anne of Green Gables); the speaker of the particular poem I’ve picked out for Naomi (though I’m recommending Margaret Atwood’s work as a whole) feels isolated by her profession.

Here’s “The Loneliness of the Military Historian,” by Margaret Atwood.

Naomi, I hope you’ll like this poem’s careful deployment of startling imagery, the strong narrative voice, and its message. Thanks for writing in!


Would you like the Poetry Concierge to make a recommendation for you? Check out the introductory post, and send your answers to the questionnaire, along with the name and/or blog you’d like posted with the reply, to rosemaryandreadingglasses [at] gmail [dot] com.

12 thoughts on “The Poetry Concierge Recommends Margaret Atwood

  1. I know, Naomi’s responses are so good, she makes me want to re-do mine as well to sound all smart like she does 🙂 But I guess I’ll still go with my first responses. -Tania

  2. This is perfect, Carolyn! I love this poem- and I got it, too, which is more what I worry about. I’ve wondered about M. Atwood, but I always thought that her poems would be too smart for me, but maybe I am smarter than I think. 😉

    Also, I want to thank Cecilia and Tania, above, for making me feel better about my answers. 🙂

    I highly recommend the Poetry Concierge! She can work miracles. And, it was fun!

  3. What a great poem! It leaves me with so much to think about. I didn’t know Margaret Atwood wrote poetry. I also love your poetry concierge idea. What a clever way to help people like poetry.

  4. I enjoyed reading Naomi’s answers and your recommendation, Carolyn. “The Loneliness of the Military Historian” is quite powerful and I imagine, when read aloud, has a dramatic cadence. Wonderful selection!

  5. Pingback: No Joke: The Poetry Concierge Returns – Rosemary and Reading Glasses

Leave a Reply to Carolyn O Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s