Thanks to Hazel Millar, Nicole Brewer, and Madison Stoner from the League of Canadian Poets for creating a recommended reading list just for us for National Poetry Month, which is happening right now.
This April, National Poetry Month is all about looking back and moving forward: it’s the twentieth anniversary of National Poetry Month in Canada! We decided to go back in time 20 years to 1998 and remember some of the outstanding poetry releases of that year. We’ve highlighted the winners of some of Canada’s most notable poetry prizes from 1998 and we are so excited to fall in love with these works—again—with you.
It's a hard truth that, looking back, all the winners we’ve rounded up from 1998 are not a diverse group of writers. But looking forward, many writers and publishers in CanLit are working hard to make long overdue space for historically underrepresented writers, who have been writing in and against an exclusionary industry for decades. We are excited to see awards lists filling up with more and more books of poetry from poets of colour, Indigenous poets, LGBTQ2S poets, and disabled poets—as well as the introduction of many, many more poetry prizes that expressly support poets from systemically oppressed groups.
In the spirit of anniversaries and moving forward, this list also includes some stellar anthologies from Ricepaper Magazine, Room Magazine, and The Fiddlehead, longstanding Canadian journals that are all committed to creating a CanLit that truly reflects the diversity of Canada’s writers. Here’s to another twenty years of poetry and those who publish it!
For more reading recommendations and other ways to get involved with National Poetry Month, visit poets.ca/npm. Keep an eye on our blog as we celebrate some of the amazing voices creating in today’s CanLit throughout April!
The Landing, by Mark Sinnett
Winner of the 1998 Gerald Lampert Award
The Landing, Mark Sinnett’s first collection of poetry, ruminates on the experience moving from England to Canada—to a new, though in some ways familiar, country. Situated in its time, the end of the twentieth century, The Landing places the author’s personal adjustments to Canada next to the rapid societal changes occurring.
To The New World, by Carmelita McGrath
Winner of the 1998 Atlantic Poetry Prize
Here, too, the close of the century—with all its possibilities and anxieties—features heavily in McGrath’s To The New World. What will the next century look like? For men? For women? For the future of the world and the way people interact within it?
Autobiography of Red, by Anne Carson
Winner of the 1998 Quebec Writers’ Foundation Poetry Prize
Autobiography of Red bends genres and their associated expectations. It is a novel written in verse, a re-creation of an ancient Greek myth, and a coming-of-age story. Carson tells the tale of a young boy named Geryon who, through an autobiography he begins writing at the age of five, reveals that he is also a winged red monster.
White Stone: The Alice Poems, by Stephanie Bolster
Winner 1998 Governor General’s Literary Award for Poetry (English Category)
Stephanie Bolster’s debut book explored Alice in Wonderland and Alice out of Wonderland, from the real life of Alice Liddell to the imagined life of Alice: underground with Persephone, in Memphis with Elvis. White Stone’s 1998 publication coincided with the centenary of Lewis Carroll’s death.
Dying Scarlet, by Tim Bowling
Winner 1998 Stephan G. Stephansson Award for Poetry
Inspired by an 1818 letter from John Keats to his brothers, the poems in Bowling’s Dying Scarletare poems of love, of memory. “They call drinking deep dying scarlet,” wrote Keats, and Bowling’s poems drink deep from life, searching for beauty and passion amid melancholy and mortality.
The Fiddlehead was first established in 1945. Its mandate is to publish accomplished poetry, short fiction, and Canadian literature reviews, to discover promote new writing talent, to represent the Atlantic region’s cultural and literary diversity, and to place the best of new and established Canadian writing in an international context.
Room is Canada’s oldest feminist literary journal. It publishes writing and art by women (cis and transgender), transgender men, Two-Spirit and nonbinary people. They publish emerging and established writers alike.
Ricepaper is Canada’s Asian-Canadian arts magazine. They challenge mainstream media perspectives and tell critical stories that aren’t being told elsewhere.
We couldn’t leave this one off the list! All 90 poems in this collection have passed the test of “the best” twice! This anthology gathers poems from past editions of The Best Canadian Poetry and is packed full of iconic Canadian poets. What better way to celebrate twenty years of National Poetry Month?
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