For those MARM participants who have already turned the last page in a novel you chose for MARM, I’m so impressed. I’ve only read a few more chapters in Cat’s Eye after starting last weekend. They’re remarkably short chapters, so they fit in between page refreshes (I’ve never spent so much time thinking about Georgia and Arizona!)—but what fits even more tidily are poems. Hopefully this week I won’t be so distracted by political developments.

Regardless of the reading plans I might have had, the only Top Row square I’ve checked off is Poetry Collection: True Stories (1981).

In the title poem, readers learn the “true story is vicious / and multiple and untrue / after all.” Still, we read on, learning that “we are born from stones” and “sex grows from trees” (in “Landcrab” and “One More Garden”). I feel like maybe I’ve read “True Romances”, as though I remember that finger at the bottom of the cup. I knMAow I’ve read “Spelling” many times, but I regularly forget that’s where this comes from: “A word after a word / after a word is power.” There’s Rain and a Sunset I and we have Dinner and we have Christmas Carols. But these nights are not silent: “Nineteenth-century / ditches are littered with small wax corpses / dropped there in terror.” FalalalaLA.

In the second row, I’m working towards the final square: Graeme Gibson Book. (This will take time!)

A volume like Graeme Gibson’s The Bedside Book of Beasts: A Wildlife Miscellany (2009) poses a challenge for me. I approach with caution, fearful of flipping to a piece like “An Elephant’s Death” by Sylvia Sikes. The mourning rituals of elephants are so profoundly moving, a testament to all that humans do not understand about other creatures. But, then, there is intense company, when one stumbles on a piece like François Leydet’s in which he writes: “When I speak of my cousing the toad or my brother the coyote, I mean just that. And I am ever saddened and dismayed to hear so many of my fellow humans denying this commonality. Their hubris, I fear, may be our undoing in the end.

My third row remains untouched, unless I daub the centre square, but I’ve filled the final square in the fourth row, Post 1991, which means I have two in that column when I finish the Bedside Book.

The second volume of Angel Catbird, To Castle Catula (2017), follows the same format of the first volume, which Naomi discusses here. A summary fits into two pages of this volume, and it begins with the accident, which caused the protagonist Strig to have the DNA of his pet cat “Ding” (for Schrödinger and an owl) mixed into his own; all that is in the characters’s past now, but the ongoing battle with Professor Muroid is ongoing.

In the tradition of Golden Age Comics, good and evil are clear and uncomplicated: “Guys like you are always on a mission. Theseus. Hercules. Odysseus. Always with the missions!” But what does complicate the situation is the conflicting identities that exist in these characters. The foreword by G. Willow Wilson talks about how important speculative fiction was to her, too, for embodying not only an “escape” but also an arrival: “a side of Margaret Atwood we don’t get to see very often: an unabashedly geeky side, one conversant in the tangled continuities of superhero comics and at home in fandom”. What I love is the ridiculously abundant wordplay: this epic being like The Caturbury Tales and characters feeling so high it’s like they’re on magic mouserooms (remember they’re part-owl!), the mock-up magazine “Meow” in the back with the artist’s sketches with articles on “Clawsome Manicures” and tips for when you’re “Feline Frisky”.

Finally, in the bottom row, the second square, also for a poetry collection, published Pre 1991: Two-Headed Poems (1978).

Having read True Stories just a couple days earlier, I was struck by how many themes resurface: “Torture” in True Stories and “Footnote to the Amnesty Report on Torture” in Two-Headed Poems. I’m also struck by the realization that I rarely read through the list of poems at the front of a collection; I think it’s because the list usually sprawls across a few pages; here, in Two-Headed Poems, all of the titles cluster together on the first page, with narrow lines and margins, so that the titles read like a poem too. And this is why I smile at “The Woman Who Could Not Live with Her Faulty Heart” on page 14 and “The Woman Makes Peace with Her Faulty Heart” on page 86. I wonder if she’s the one who also rides “The Bus to Alliston, Ontario” and writes in her “Daybooks II” that there’s “Nothing New Here”. One of my favourite cycles herein is “Five Poems for Grandmothers”: “Some branch out, but / one woman leads to another.”

So far, I’m enjoying my #MARM selections, but I’m definitely not making an row/column/shape progress on the Bingo grid. Maybe it’s just too soon? Maybe I just need to think about it differently? Maybe I should be spending less time playing around with a photo editing program and more time reading for #MARM! (Awww, but that was fun. I’ve never been able to draw stars neatly IRL.) Maybe I need a plan? Maybe that farthest column is my best bet?

Margaret Atwood Reading Month is hosted here and by Naomi at Consumed by Ink and inspired by decades of reading Margaret Atwood’s words. From Sunday November 1st to Monday November 30th, we’ll be reading Margaret Atwood, and we invite you to join in! (And, don’t forget, the 18th is Margaret Atwood’s 81st birthday. We’ll be celebrating with books, quotes, and cake!) Check out Naomi’s Update for Week Two here!