Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Circle Game” as Want to Read:
The Circle Game
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Circle Game

3.82  ·  Rating details ·  696 ratings  ·  66 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)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Circle Game, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about The Circle Game

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.82  · 
Rating details
 ·  696 ratings  ·  66 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of The Circle Game
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
Dec 20, 2016 rated it did not like it
Shelves: poetry
booo *two thumbs down* booooooo
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.
Nov 01, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: canada, poetry
I really enjoyed the title poem. There were also several that were about travelling west by train, across the prairies into the mountains. I think then there’s one set perhaps in a Stanley Park in Vancouver, amongst the totem poles. Having done that trip, I really enjoyed those. Generally I found them very symbolic, which is something I often find difficult about poetry.
Mar 18, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Re-read this collection on the bus ride to the Women's March on Washington!
Mar 21, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2017-books, canlit
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 /
While I've enjoyed much of Margaret Atwood's fiction, this volume of poetry left me feeling mainly puzzled and disoriented. Many of the poems interested me, but I didn't feel that I could relate or understand. I'm fairly sure the fault lay with this reader.
Sachin  Prabhu
It's collection of poems, dark yet engaging metaphors.
I liked couple of poems
Apr 30, 2020 rated it it was amazing
"(The photograph was taken
the day after I drowned.
I am in the lake, in the centre
of the picture, just under the surface.
It is difficult to say where
precisely, or to say
how large or small I am:
the effect of water
on light is a distortion
but if you look long enough,
you will be able to see me.)"
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
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.
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.
Nov 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
First of all, it is remarkable that Atwood was only 27 years old when this was published. Second, we got to listen to her at an author reading here in San Antonio last year and she was so intelligent, relatable, and clever. Her poetry has a sense of haunting eeriness to it at times, almost foreboding. Here are some of the poems and part of a poem that impressed me most.

The Explorers
The explorers will come in several minutes and find this island. (It is a stunted island, rocky, with room for onl
Siddarth Gore
Jan 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing
The photograph was taken the day after I drowned.

Honest to God I don't understand poetry. Least of all, English.
What is it really? How do I make sense at all

The weapons
that were once outside
sharpening themselves on war
are now indoors
there, in the fortress,
fragile in glass cases;

If you miss the metre you miss the meaning
I read and reread till I got an inkling

among the shattered
memories of battles
only the cold jewelled symmetries
of the voracious eater
the voracious eaten

Then I had a notion th
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.
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.
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.
i dont know how to feel about this except maybe i feel super incompetent because all the time i was like "am i not paying enough attention? did i miss something?" and honestly, i feel like the answer is obviously yes, so, perhaps i was not ready or in the mood to read this book.
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.
Ross Holmes
Feb 18, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: poetry
Found this one a little back-heavy; the longer poems in the second half were almost all excellent, but I had a hard time latching onto much in the first half.
Marta Oliva Riera
Jul 24, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry, read-in-2019
I'm a big fan of Atwood's, especially her speculative fiction novels, but I wanted to read some of her early work, and of course she never disappoints!
May 29, 2020 rated it it was ok
A poetry collection, but it wasn't really for me.
« previous 1 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
FABClub (Female A...: The Circle Game: Poems discussion 10 19 Jan 14, 2015 08:00AM  

Readers also enjoyed

  • Live or Die
  • Red Bird
  • Say Her Name
  • Antigonick
  • House of Light
  • War of the Foxes
  • If Not, Winter: Fragments of Sappho
  • The Moon Is Always Female: Poems
  • Love Poems
  • Be With
  • Flame and Shadow
  • Magical Negro
  • Easy: Poems
  • NDN Coping Mechanisms: Notes from the Field
  • An Atlas of the Difficult World
  • Sight Lines
  • Endgame (Killing Eve #3)
  • The Rez Sisters: A Play in Two Acts
See similar books…
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

Related Articles

One of the many things we love about authors is that they tend to have some of the best reading recommendations. So, as we head into our f...
158 likes · 96 comments
“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…