Celebrating Nature with Poetry

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 kicking off today.  

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The League of Canadian Poets invites you to celebrate the 21st annual National Poetry Month in April with nature—whether it’s mountain ranges, deserts, forests, ocean, or plains; whether it’s a cityscape or a landscape. Read, write, and share poetry that translates the emotional, practical, and reciprocal relationships we build—as individuals and communities—to the natural world onto the page. 

To celebrate nature with poetry, we’d like to spotlight some outstanding Canadian poetry collections that tackle the broad theme of nature out of love, curiosity, and necessity. These collections explore the ways that nature informs our everyday lives and creates our material conditions. They focus on science, environmentalism, anti-colonial activism, field studies, body politics, and appreciation for the natural world—however we have access to it in our everyday lives. From a fire tower in Alberta, to a carpenter’s site, to the great Canadian North, these collections and poets help paint a complex picture of Canada’s, and the wider world’s, varied natural surroundings. 

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Elemental, by Kate Braid 

Usually, we take for granted or plain ignore the natural forces that make up the landscapes surrounding us, the materials housing us. In Elemental, Braid—who has been a carpenter for over 15 years—turns her eye to the materials she works with and depends on and crafts an intimate picture of what it’s like to be wholly engaged with the everyday elemental materials of earth, sky, water, fire, and wood.  

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Faunics, by Jack Davis 

Shortlisted for the League’s 2018 Gerald Lampert Memorial Award,Faunicsis a fully articulated (compactly composed and beautifully structured) book of poems grounded in deep appreciation and knowledge of nature and sophisticated language play. 

“The experience of living with a natural, wild place and trying to be a part of it, not as a setting for my own stories and plans, but as another organism inside its ecosystem, is rewarding in a way it’s hard for me to imagine tiring of” —Jack Davis, from an interview with Beth Follett for Open Book

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Quarry, by Tanis Franco 

A quarry is an unnatural place within a natural territory. Quarry relays a year in the life of a body in transition as it changes with other bodies; human, animal, and mineral. It examines queer social spaces and contested natural spaces, asking how they affect each other. 

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Blackbird Song, by Randy Lundy

Lundy draws deeply from his Cree heritage and equally from European and Asian traditions to create a kind of prayer—a seeing and re-seeing of the immense cyclic beauty of the earth. 

"The natural, nonhuman world was just something that I was constantly immersed in as a I was growing up and was a great source of comfort at times. I carried that around with me for the rest of my life and it shows up all the time in my writing” – Randy Lundy, from an interview with CBC Books

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Ledi, by Kim Trainer 

Kim Trainer’s Ledi explores the excavation of “Ledi,” an Iron Age Pazyryk woman preserved in her grave in the steppes of Siberia. As the burial site is both restored and dismantled, Ledi’s narrator simultaneously attempts to reconstruct her own past relationship and the body of her lover. 

“Grappling observer, equisite witness, and tender participant in excavation, dissection, and summoning, Trainor latches us to the glorious body’s artifact.” —Sandra Ridley

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The Gravel Lot That Was Montana, by D. A. Lockhart 

In poems that stretch from the wide boulevards of Detroit to the big sky vistas of Montana, Lockhart explores the way that places make us who we are. The collection details experiences of an urban Indigenous person who picks up and moves through familiar portions of Turtle Island to discuss the manner in which we move upon the earth and relate to those who share it with us. How can one gain a foothold, emotionally, in a landscape that is not one’s ancestral home?

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Auguries, by Clea Roberts

Written during a period in which Roberts both became and lost a parent, this collection explores both physical and emotional landscapes. Whether speaking of erotic love, domestic life, spiritual wilderness, or family entanglements, the poems ofAuguriesare saturated with their northern landscape. 

“I think a northern sense of self puts one distinctly outside the centre, and perhaps this perspective, of being an outsider, of seeing oneself in the context of a vast, unpeopled wilderness is often what is captured in northern writing.” – Clea Roberts, from an interview with Open Book

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Light Light, by Julie Joosten 

Shortlisted for the League’s 2014 Gerald Lampert Memorial Award, this collection moves from the Enlightenment science of natural history to the contemporary science of global warming. What would (and wouldn’t) we be without light? What would the natural world look like? The poems in Light Light explore the way that the embodiment of language and thought forms a politics engaged with the environment and its increasing alterations. 

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Welcome to the Anthropocene, by Alice Major 

This collection’s most persistent question—“Where do we fit in the universe?”—is made more urgent by the ecological calamity of human-driven climate change. Welcome to the Anthropocene explores how humans navigate a world in which it can be hard to figure out how to do much about the big stuff in our small way—when we have to make a living, when people get consigned to the margins, when other animals have to live with us. 

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river woman, by Katherena Vermette 

Written in Vermette’s distinctively lean and elegantly spare style, river woman explores Vermette’s relationship to nature—its destructive power and beauty, its timelessness, and its place in human history. Here is a poet who is a keen observer of an environment that is both familiar and otherworldly, where her home is alive with the sounds and smells of the land it grows out of. 

April 1, 2019
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