Off the Page

A blog on Canadian writing, reading, and everything in between

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Book Cover The Shadow Life

My Drifter Reading List

By Jen Sookfong Lee

A poetry list by the author of new book The Shadow List.

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Book Cover Fuse

Persian-Canadian Writers You've Got to Read

By Hollay Ghadery

So, where were all the Persian Canadian writers? It turns out, here all along, but not as represented as one might hope; …

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Tough Like Mum: An Essential Picture Book for Kids *and* Adults

Tough Like Mum: An Essential Picture Book for Kids *and* Adults

By Geoffrey Ruggero

Picture books are often written with young children as their intended audience. In Tough Like Mum, Lana Button provides …

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Book Cover We Jane

Aimee Wall on The Great Canadian Abortion Novel

By Kerry Clare

"I didn’t want the plot to turn on an abortion or the decision to have one. Any conflict or tension is rooted elsewher …

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Book Cover Because the Sun

Poetry That's Going to Grab You

By 49thShelf Staff

Great books to read before for National Poetry Month is out.

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The Chat with Christopher DiRaddo

The Chat with Christopher DiRaddo

By Trevor Corkum

Christopher DiRaddo’s sophomore novel, The Family Way, is a dynamic and rich exploration of queer family, parenthood, …

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Book Cover No More Plastic

Fighting for the Planet: Inspiring Books for Earth Day

By Kerry Clare

An eclectic list of inspiring books about fighting to protect the planet.

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Book Cover Hour of the Crab

Other Beings, Other Minds

By Patricia Robertson

A recommended reading list by author of the new book Hour of the Crab.

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Book Cover WANTED! Criminals of the Animal Kingdom

Notes from a Children's Librarian: Life Sciences

By Julie Booker

Celebrate Earth Day with these fun and inspiring picture books.

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Book Cover Constant Nobody

Courage from the Outliers

By Michelle Butler Hallett

A recommended reading list by the author of new novel Constant Nobody.

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To the Core: The 49th Shelf Contest for National Poetry Month


For National Poetry Month, we want to celebrate how poetry can cut through everything to get to the core of what is beautiful … or rotten … or otherwise remarkable—and we need your help. Consider the following ideas from a lovely article we found by Roger Housden:

Poetry at its best calls forth our deep being. It dares us to break free from the safe strategies of the cautious mind .... It is a magical art, and always has been—a making of language spells designed to open our eyes, open our doors and welcome us into a bigger world, one of possibilities we may never have dared to dream of. This is why poetry can be dangerous as well as necessary. Because we may never be the same again after reading a poem that happens to speak to our own life directly.”

What Canadian poem has spoken to your own life directly, such that you have never forgotten it?

Use the comments field below to tell us the name of the poem and the poet, type in a verse or two of the poem so everybody can check it out, then say why you love it/chose this selection. You’ll be entered three times (yup, 3x) into our To the Core Poetry Contest (#readcdn #poetry). We will draw five winners from the pool of entries at the end of the month, and each winner will win one of five prize packages of …

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To the Core's Exciting Poetry Prizes!

49th Shelf's To the Core contest was a joy to run and to read; it featured selections from notable Canadian authors like Cathy Marie Buchanan and Miranda Hill as well as inspired choices from avid 49th Shelf community readers. To the Core submissions together formed a quiet, powerful testament to the paradox of good poetry: abundance delivered through spareness. Contributors wrote eloquently about the profound effect these snippets of words have had on their lives:

  • Kaarina Mickalson, who chose a verse from "elbow jab" by Rita Wong, wrote: "I had no idea that anyone could put into words that heart wrenching feeling I had for my hometown."
  • Jen Selk, who chose something from Joe Cummings' "Hunting Season," wrote: "I don't know why this affects me, exactly, but somehow, the image of the bear stripped of its fur has stayed with me, and I find myself thinking of it from time to time, years later."
  • Jennifer Dawson, who chose a bit from from Sonnet L'Abbé's "LOVE," wrote, "when i read poems i am always paying attention to how my body feels when i am reading."
  • Sanchuri Sur, who chose a stanza from "thirsty" by Dionne Brand, wrote, "I love all of Brand's poems for being visceral, but this one in particular touches a chord in my previously broken heart."

Many others provided wonderful thoughts about how their poetry choice for the contest touched—or walloped—them in a way they've never forgotten. You can read their contributions in the comments field beneath the To the Core …

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16 Seriously Funny Poets

Poetry just isn't that funny.

This is the kind of outlandish and generalized subjective-disguised-as-objective statement critics make about poetry all the time, donning their authority as one might don a hat. Critics do the same thing with humour—as though funny can be definitive, as though it wasn't kind of weird that one guy gets to be the definer.

So now I'm going to do that too, and pretend the following list is scientific and totally not subjective and not at all compromised by the list being limited to books I happen to have on my bookshelf. I'm going to put on the hat and OWN my authority: Behold, sixteen seriously funny poets.

Thanks to Dina Del Bucchia for the inspiration. And in the spirit of conversation (and expanding the limits of science) please tweet us YOUR favourite funny Canadian poems and poets @49thShelf


Fake Paul, by Kimmy Beach

What's so funny: he asks if anyone is called Michelle

I could fucking be Michelle

a frumpy woman with grease

in her hair calls, I'm Michelle!


she's not even looking at him

she's talking to her friends while he sings

                       to her!

he doesn't even look at me the whole song

I'll tell him I broke the wineglass accidentally 

cut myself a bit but I'm all right

leave my blood on the table


I can see the vei …

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Fun Poetry for Kids

As National Poetry Month begins to wind down, let's take a moment to highlight the poetry collections that tend to be read most voraciously, collections that are read and reread, whose poems are memorized and then recited through the decades. ("Suzy grew a moustache, a moustache, a moustache …"). Here is a list of Canadian poetry from Fitch to Fitch, and everything in-between is just as great. Some of the collections are classic and others brand new, but all are excellent introductions for young readers to the power of the poem. 

If I Had a Million Onions by Sheree Fitch is a word-bending, tongue-twisting, rollicking delight. Yayo's art is a perfect complement to Fitch's whimsy, and while these poems tend toward silly good fun ("Vaness Vanastra's/ A walking disastrah./ She fell in a  bowlful/ Of noodles and pasta."), if you look, you will find their serious edge. Fitch is a poet as attuned to the world's shadows as she is to its light, and many of these poems are pleas for young readers not to forget what they know as they head into the sometimes far more childish world of adulthood. Fitch is a wise woman, dispensing sage advice like, "Sing a song of doodledang,/ Dance an hour away./ My excellent advice is this:/ Read a poem a day."

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League of Canadian Poets: Food and Poetry

April 2015 marks the 17th National Poetry Month in Canada. The League of Canadian Poets is pleased to announce that the theme for National Poetry Month this year is Food and Poetry. Inspired by Rachel Rose’s inaugural speech as Vancouver’s Poet Laureate, the LCP wants to investigate the ways in which "food is personal, political, sensual and powerful." Food nourishes, grounds and connects us, much like poetry. Without food as without poetry, we go hungry.

In honour of this, Hazel Millar, LCP's Publicity and Media Manager for National Poetry Month, has assembled a recommended reading list of poetry books that explore food and our relationship to it.


Leak, by Kate Hargreaves

In Leak, bodies lose pieces and fall apart, while words slip out of place and letters drop away. Food is a major theme in this collection, both in the sense of "you are what you eat" but also with regard to what might be thought of as an obsessive monitoring of food intake. Trust me when I say that you will never think of ants, recipes, or open wounds, in quite the same way again.


Book Cover Kapusta

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The Randomizer

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