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Excerpts from The Best Canadian Poetry in English, 2011, guest editor Priscila Uppal, series editor Molly Peacock

"This anthology, so astutely and lovingly selected by Priscila Uppal, provides poetry—or, simply put, 'patterned language'—with fifty electric definitions."

The Best Canadian Poetry in English, 2011 is published this month by Tightrope Books.

From Priscila Uppal’s opening essay:

Cover Best Canadian Poetry 2011

“If I have a critical bias, which I suppose everyone does as much as we try to remain as objective as possible, I admire poetry that surprises and challenges, that offers a new perspective or piece of wisdom I haven’t previously considered, that interrogates and innovates poetic conventions and genres and reverses the expected, either in terms of subject matter or language or form, or provokes unconventional emotions, that welcomes other fields of knowledge and art forms and methodologies, that reminds me of something important I seem to have forgotten or puts an entirely new thought in my head, that stuns me with exquisite beauty or sadness or profundity or ecstasy, poetry with a vision—whether pessimistic or idealistic—with something at stake, something to prove, something to lose, something to gain.”

From Molly Peacock’s Introduction:

All poets are asked to define poetry—by students, by mystified readers, and by poetry initiates as well—and all poets muster their own ways to describe their own art. Yet many of us feel that the way we describe the art we practice is inadequate to the enterprise itself. The poem is a hint, a charge, a shock, a rattle, a victory, a tendril, a touch. This anthology, so astutely and lovingly selected by Priscila Uppal, provides poetry—or, simply put, “patterned language”—with fifty electric definitions. There is always, even in the most abstract and prickly poem, the sense of a hand extending. The voice may be gruff, or seductive, or brittle, or far, far away, but in a tactile sense, that poem reaches toward you. And you come toward it, drawn to the ineffable.

Here's one of Uppal's excellent choices for The Best Canadian Poetry in English 2011:


Michelle Barker

Black Sheep


In the end I can tell you

being the black sheep

of the family

is not what it promises


you imagine

motorcycle bad boys

an enticing tattoo

whiskey straight up

an electric guitar


and of course

sideways looks from the family

that secretly you think

you would savour


but it isn’t like that


it is a door

closing on family gatherings


babies born

without you –

you get the details second hand


it is seeing the wedding photos

on e-mail

(they couldn’t invite you –

it would have caused a scene)


it is a bell ringing far away

summoning others

and more specifically

not you


it is your name


or forgotten


and so yet again you stiffen

your upper lip

take your stand

(for a worthy cause)

tell yourself that renegade

has a certain ring to it


and quietly draw the curtains

on the small window

facing home.


The Best Canadian Poetry in English, 2011 will be launched on October 26, 7:00 pm, at Revival, 783 College St, Toronto.

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