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The Circle Game

3.86  ·  Rating details ·  565 ratings  ·  54 reviews
The appearance of Margaret Atwood's first major collection of poetry marked the beginning of a truly outstanding career in Canadian and international letters. The voice in these poems is as witty, vulnerable, direct, and incisive as we've come to know in later works, such as Power Politics, Bodily Harm, and Alias Grace. Atwood writes compassionately about the risks of love ...more
Paperback, 96 pages
Published June 1st 1998 by House of Anansi Press (first published 1964)
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Brittney Andrews (beabookworm)
Attagirl, Atwood - 3.5 STARS

I have nothing against this style of poetry, however, this book left me feeling pretty disoriented. It's a shame because--while I appreciated certain poems--I just couldn't appreciate this collection as a whole. I will say this though, when it comes to punctuation, stanzas, and tone: Margaret Atwood gets it!

Look, I don't expect everyone to like traditional poetry like I do, and I am also quite picky which is probably why I'm not super satisfied with this. That being s
Dec 15, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
The children on the lawn
joined hand to hand
go round and round

each arm going into
the next arm, around
full circle
until it comes
back into each of the single
bodies again

They are singing, but
not to each other:
their feet move
almost in time to the singing

We can see
the concentration on
their faces, their eyes
fixed on the empty
moving spaces just in
front of them.

We might mistake this
tranced moving for joy
but there is no joy in it

We can see (arm in arm)
as we watch them go
round and round
intent, almost
Jun 07, 2016 rated it it was ok
Shelves: poetry
Normally, I love Margaret Atwood but this one just gave me a headache. If you read this pace yourself, do not try to read it all in one sitting. I find that reading poetry should be done in stages, at least in my case.
Dec 20, 2016 rated it did not like it
Shelves: poetry
booo *two thumbs down* booooooo
Re-read this collection on the bus ride to the Women's March on Washington!
Mar 18, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry, place-canada
I initially rated this 3 stars, but given the number of poems I photocopied out of the book I am upping it to 4 stars.
Mar 21, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: canlit, 2017-books
I am not really one that appreciates poetry on the whole, though now and then I'll read something I like. I didn't really like this collection though I thought, it being Margaret Atwood, that I would. There's a fairly long foreward that explains the meaning of a number of the poems, what the writer is saying, how it fits the theme of the title of the book. I reckon if it has to be explained to me, I'm not going to "get" it. And I didn't. I'm admitting the fault lies entirely on me. I would read ...more
Apr 03, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm still not sure I "get" poetry. But this wasn't a bad read. There were a few bits I really liked, and it wasn't too hard to get through. I'd probably need to spend more time analysing the poems than I did.

This was one of my favourite bits, from "Some Objects of Wood and Stone"

"and when we spoke /
we spoke /
the sounds of our voices fell /
into the air single and /
solid and rounded and really /
there /
and then dulled, and then like sounds /
gone, a fistful of gathered /
pebbles there was no point /
Marianne Søiland
Aug 16, 2017 rated it liked it
Variabel denne. Noen dikt er absolutt nydelige. Andre, nokså ubegripelige. En samling som kan og bør leses flere ganger.
Oct 16, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Published in 1964, this is Margaret Atwood's first commercially-published poetry collection. Her first, DOUBLE PERSEPHONE, was self-published in 1961. CIRCLE GAME explores womanhood, colonialism and indigenous peoples, environmentalism, and many other topics. The titular poem has seven parts, but Part 1 concerns a group of children who have joined hands and are going round-and-round in a circle, in a "ring around the rosie" fashion. They are singularly focused on their game, ignoring the natural ...more
Jan 19, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: female-author, poetry
So there’s an episode of Parks and Recreation where the main character, Leslie Knope, criticizes slam poetry because it doesn’t rhyme. She goes on to say

anything can be a slam
if you say it
like this.

I agree with Leslie’s comment despite liking slam poetry. That’s not a criticism of slam poetry so much as an admission of my own limitations as a reader when it comes to poetry. I never studied poetry in an academic setting, which means I often don’t understand what a poet is trying to convey th
Aug 22, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I was thinking the other day that there should be more ebooks for poetry and this was one of the books I managed to find from my library's ebook collection and I like Atwood and I want to read more of her so I decided to read this (not expecting much because I really don't get poetry that well) and holy smokes! I am in love. Atwood's poetry is the best! Gonna reread these poems right now.
May 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Get a cup of tea, a couple of your favourite biscuits, and snuggle down into your favourite chair, comfy snuggle blanket is optional. Positioning should be, preferably, by a window overlooking an autumnal garden or a lazy street scene, maybe some buses going by. Don't be outside, be where you can look out there. The weather should be cosy, absolutely not Summer.

Now, shut your eyes for a minute and imagine drowning. Under the weight of water, under relationships you should have left but didn't, u
Nov 26, 2017 rated it liked it
i don't think i "get" poetry, especially margaret atwood, which requires a higher level of literary analysis than i am capable of. i'll revisit this one day, but based on my superficial/visceral first reading, these are some of the poems that stood out to me:

- this is a photograph of me
- evening trainstation before departure
- the city planners
- the circle game
- a sibyl
- migration: c.p.r.
- against still life
Tyler Jones
I liked Buffam's introduction because it gives some hints on how the poems can be approached. This is a remarkably mature work for someone so young, ...well for anyone of any age actually. I was taken with the repeated use of layers of surface; the ground beneath the waves, treetops like islands, fish swimming where the birds once flew. Of course this writer would go on to write a novel called Surfacing.
Oct 29, 2018 rated it did not like it
I love her novels but I can't say I'm a fan of her poetry. They felt too dark and convoluted for me - but then again, maybe it was just me and where I am in my life right now. I wouldn't discourage anyone else from giving it a try. It's just not my cup o tea.
Sarah Eagle
Jul 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I don’t “get” poetry for the most part, but I really dig this collection. I’ll read Atwood’s TO DO lists if I could verify it was she who wrote them.
She’s such a fantastic writer and I was so lucky to find this. You don’t even need to “get” it to like it. The introduction really sealed it for me.
May 21, 2017 rated it liked it
"... they are so Victorian Christmas-card: the cheap paper shows under the pigments of their cheerful fire-places and satin-ribboned suburban laughter..." Pg. 58
Nov 23, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: poetry
Not my favorite collection of Atwood's poetry, but not bad.
Justine Cucchi
Mar 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I was pleasantly surprised by this book. The Handmaid's Tale was one of my least favorite books of all time, and I went into this with low expectations. However, I gave it a chance since I had heard her poetry is much better than her prose, which is an understatement from this experience. I would recommend this to anyone who wants to read some poetry by 20th century authors.
Jul 07, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
This volume is from 1966, and on the whole it is very good poetry.

My own enjoyment of it was mixed. The early poems in particular were stifling to read, such a great sense of compression in the lines, the 'I' speaking always so trapped and cold and invisible, very much of that time and space, a woman in the 60s. But then as it went on, the poems do build upon themselves; when in "The Circle Game" she ends with the line "I want the circle broken" there starts to be more breath, and then as it go
Jun 21, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: poetry
I want to understand poetry. I want to enjoy poetry so I buy books of poetry and wade through a morass of words only few of which penetrate my skull. I have found poetry that speaks to me, that does not bore me, that gives me some perspective on the world of poetry. This book of poetry is not obscure but the writer's thoughts and perspectives are not mine so I am not touched...I do not want to copy any of the poems into my commonplace book. The poems are easy to read, a little sad and bleak to m ...more
Jun 03, 2008 rated it really liked it
I think this is a gorgeous collection, one found by me only after reading most of Atwood's novels. While I like many of her novels (and truly love a few), THE CIRCLE GAME (1966) would have to be one my favorite Atwood works (the other being THE HANDMAID'S TALE). What is revealed in the simplicity of her verse moves me every time. "Letters, Towards and Away" is beautiful with its reluctant hope of love ... while other pieces are affecting as they illuminate the deterioration of the same emotion. ...more
Dec 31, 2013 rated it it was amazing
The amazing and beautiful thing about Margaret Atwood's poetry, to me, is how much it blows me away. I normally don't read much poetry at all. I enjoy some, from time to time, but I tend to read a poem or a two at a time, based on recommendation or assignment, and leave it at that. But with Atwood, I can read an entire collection and feel shivers up my spine.

There were too many wonderful stanzas to count, here, and so many brilliant pieces. So instead I'll just end the review with this:

and here
Padri Veum
Jun 01, 2016 rated it really liked it
I have read reviews that say how obvious it is that this was written by a young Atwood. I disagree. Atwood's voice in this first collection (if you don't count "Double Persephone" as the real first book of Atwood's poetry) is every bit as sharp, incisive, intimate and canny as the books that followed. Her careful balancing of human interactions, the ever present natural world--sometimes terrifying in proximity or vastness--and the tender moments balanced on the razor's edge make this quintessent ...more
Jan 01, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: fab-15
There is so much richness hiding under the surface of these poems – for me, determining their meaning is like trying to make out forms under murky water – just one of Atwood’s own metaphors. Journeys to the interior of countries and personalities and relationships – I read these, and I read these and I read them again, and I know I’ve only barely made out their surface outlines.
Sep 13, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry, favorites

— This is a Photograph of Me
— After the Flood, We
— A Messenger
— An Attempted Solution for Chess Problems
— A Descent Through the Carpet
— Eventual Proteus
— Spring in the Igloo
— Migration: CPR
— Against Still Life
— A Place: Fragments
— The Settlers
Aug 01, 2015 rated it liked it
I really love poetry. My favorite poem out of this collection is LETTERS, TOWARDS AND AWAY. To me all the poems in the circle game have an 1960's vibe to them - though I can't put my finger on what it is especially - that depressed me while reading. But I still liked it.
Oct 15, 2015 rated it really liked it
(One day /
I’ll touch the warm /
flesh of your throat, and hear /
a faint crackle of paper /
or you, who think /
that you can read my mind /
from the inside out, will taste the /
black ink on my tongue, and find /
the fine print written /
just beneath my skin.)
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FABClub (Female A...: The Circle Game: Poems discussion 10 15 Jan 14, 2015 08:00AM  
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Margaret Atwood was born in 1939 in Ottawa and grew up in northern Ontario, Quebec, and Toronto. She received her undergraduate degree from Victoria College at the University of Toronto and her master's degree from Radcliffe College.

Throughout her writing career, Margaret Atwood has received numerous awards and honourary degrees. She is the author of more than thirty-five volumes of poetry, childr
“and when we spoke /
we spoke /
the sounds of our voices fell /
into the air single and /
solid and rounded and really /
there /
and then dulled, and then like sounds /
gone, a fistful of gathered /
pebbles there was no point /
in taking home, dropped on a beachful /
of other coloured pebbles”
More quotes…