Most Anticipated: Our Fall 2017 Poetry Preview

Our Fall Preview continues with poetry, and an exploration of the incredible array of books readers will fall in love with this year.

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Winner of the 2016 Short Grain poetry prize and the 2015 Vancouver Writers’ Festival Contest, Susan Alexander’s first collection is The Dance Floor Tilts (October), poems that offer the possibility of finding the beauty within the everyday resonance of our own existence. All Manner of Tackle (October) brings together a selection of Brian Bartlett's literary prose from the past three decades. Award-winner Chris Banks’ The Cloud Versus Grand Unification Theory (September) attempts to find poetry, or what Gwendolyn MacEwen once called “a single symmetry,” amid the chaos of 21st-century life. And the poems in Lesley Belleau’s debut, Indianland (October), are written from a female and Indigenous point of view and incorporate Anishinaabemowin throughout.

While in the world of politics there are still climate change deniers, the poets stand as close to the shore as possible and watch the slow turning tide in Refugium: Poems for the Pacific (October), edited by Yvonne Blomer. Shannon Bramer’s new collection is Precious Energy (September), a collection of poems about domestic life, motherhood, and the baffled child that remains within us all even as we grow up and into whatever person we keep trying to become. Evelyn Lau writes of Cullene Bryant’s debut poetry collection, “By turns reverent and irreverent, God is a Laughing Bedouin (September) puts a human face on the Biblical story and confronts the stages of a woman’s life with wit and fearlessness.” And in Landfall (October), Governor General's Award–nominated poet Joe Denham revisits the plaguing environmental issues in the poetic journey he began ten years ago with his second collection, Windstorm

Jeramy Dodds' Drakkar Noir (September) is "haunting, yet hilarious"; Dodds' first collection, Crabwise to the Hounds, won the Trillium Award for Poetry and was shortlisted for the Griffin. Susan Elmslie's Museum of Kindness (November) examines “genres” familiar and hard to fathom: the school shooting, PTSD, raising a child who has a disability. Combining text from government questionnaires and reports, lyric poetry, and photography, Prison Industrial Complex Explodes (October), by Mercedes Eng, examines the possibility of a privatized prison system in Canada leading up to then Prime Minister Harper’s Conservative government passing the Anti-Terrorism Act, also known as Bill C-51. Catherine Graham’s The Celery Forest (October) is a survivor’s tale of breast cancer and also a map written through unknowable terrain. Gut-wrenching and awe-inspiring, breathing at dusk (September) is the new collection of poetry from the award-winning Beth Goobie as she explores her past and revels in her future. 

Of Spencer Gordon’s Cruise Missile Liberals (October), Lynn Crosbie writes, “Jammed with on-point pop and breathtaking turns of phrase, this collection of poems is genuinely compelling: it is hard to stop reading, so sweetly twisted is Gordon’s world.” The Gamekeeper (October) is Michael Harris’s first poetry collection since his Governor General’s Award-nominated Circus, assembling poems that “[straddle] a position between the carnivalesque and the sensual.” In Slow War (August), Benjamin Hertwig looks at the war in Afghanistan with the unflinching gaze of a soldier and the sustained attention of a poet.

Angela Hibbs’ Control Suppress Delete (September) is a collection of poems interested in rules and randomness and in finding the randomness in rules. Award-winner Cornelia Hoogland’s Trailer Park Elegy (September) reaches back 2000 years to the First Peoples of on the Salish Sea and also to her late brother whose delight was summers there. Praised for his darkly psychological accounts of extreme experiences, Jim Johnstone's fifth book of poems, The Chemical Life (September) explores his most difficult terrain to date: mental illness and addiction. And Mark Lavorato’s new collection is Blowing Grass Empire (September), with poems that hide things in clear sight.

Readers are eagerly anticipating Canisia Lubrin’s debut, Voodoo Hypothesis (October), which subverts the imperial construct of “Blackness” and rejects contemporary and historical systems that paint Black people as inferior. If Pressed (October)—the second collection of poetry from Andrew McEwan—explores forms of pressurized and pressurizing language as a means to shed light on the depressions we live among in our modern-day lives. Christian McPherson’s new collection, One Poem (October) is a self-examination of the artistic process and what it means to be an artist. And in All We Saw (September), Anne Michaels returns to poetry with strikingly original lyrics to explore one of her essential concerns: “what love makes us capable of, and incapable of.”

Cara-Lyn Morgan follows her award-winning debut, What Became My Grieving Ceremony, with Cartograph (October), poems of a woman’s healing journey from both accidental injury to the deeply imbued wounds of colonization. Says Amber Dawn, the poetry in Clementine Morrigan’s in The Size of a Bird (October) “decidedly holds anxious thoughts, yes, but also desire, and trauma and healing, uncertainty and wanting, undoing and becoming... all of these and more.” Dorothy Livesay Prize-winner Cecily Nicholson’s new book is Wayside Sang (October), which concerns entwined migrations of Black-other diaspora coming to terms with fossil-fuel psyches in times of trauma and movement. Dan MacIsaac's debut, Cries From the Ark (September) is a catalogue and cartography of our common mortal—and moral—lot. And Still Point (November), by E. Martin Nolan, is a lyrical recent history of America, with poems addressing Hurricane Katrina, the deconstruction of Detroit, the financial crisis of 2008 and the BP gulf oil spill, contrasting the calm and tumult of these monumental events. 

The true range of one of Canada’s finest poets is finally available between two covers in Collected Poems of Alden Nowlan (September), edited by Brian Bartlett. Preoccupied with the complexities of identity and selfhood, memory, embodiment, loss, and family, in The Panic Room (October) Rebecca Păpucaru carefully examines details that make up one's lived experience. Sina Queyras’s My Ariel (September) is a poem-by-poem engagement with Sylvia Plath’s Ariel and the towering mythology surrounding it. Arleen Paré, in her first book-length poem after her Governor General Literary Award–winning Lake of Two Mountains, turns her cool, benevolent eye to the shared lives of Florence Wyle and Frances Loring, two of Canada’s greatest artists in The Girls With Stone Faces (September). And Editor Michael Barnholden translates work by Louis Riel in Flatwillow Creek: Poems of Louis Riel, 1878-1883 (October).

Jay Ritchie discovers and obstructs truths, like the difficulty of being at the bar and being a lilac bush simultaneously, in Cheer Up, Jay Ritchie (September). All Violet (September) is the posthumous poetry journal of Rani Rivera, Toronto's champion of mental health advocacy and harm reduction. Don McKay writes that the poems in William Robertson’s Decoys (October) “come from that place where experience segues into anecdote and anecdote into kitchen table wisdom.” The speakers of Kevin Shaw’s lyrics in Smaller Hours (September) encounter Nijinsky in a waiting room, Ovid at the laundromat, or re-enact a devastating flood after a night of drinking. And The Receiver (August) is Sharon Thesen’s thirteenth book, and the first from the three-time G–G finalist since Oyama Pink Shale, six years ago.

Fenn Stewart’s debut collection is Better Nature (September), drawn from a diary that Walt Whitman wrote while travelling through Canada at the end of the nineteenth century and which Stewart inlays with other found materials that complicate the narrative. Biking around Vancouver, Catriona Strang returns to several issues of lifelong interest, her own version of Rousseau’s obsessions: the difficulties of living an anti-capitalist life, the continued invisibility of much of women’s labour, the paradoxes of daily life, the nature and implications of calculations of value, and the complexities of sustainability. What is to be done, she wonders, in Reveries of a Solitary Biker (October). In Panicle (September), Gillian Sze makes her readers look and, more importantly, look again.

In his second collection, Irresponsible Mediums (October), poet and academic Aaron Tucker translates chess games into poems using the ChessBard (an app co-created by Tucker and Jody Miller). Carolyne Van der Meer’s Journeywoman (October) is the story in poems of the explicitly female journey made by women through girlhood, motherhood and beyond. full-metal indigiqueer (October), by Joshua Whitehead, focuses on a hybridized Indigiqueer Trickster character named Zoa who brings together the organic (the protozoan) and the technologic (the binaric) to re-beautify and re-member queer Indigeneity. And following on the heels of Relit Award–nominated No Work Finished Here, the poems collected in The Truth is Told Better This Way (October) may be some of Liz Worth’s most personal and confessional works yet. 

August 7, 2017
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