26 Books to Celebrate for Poetry Month

Halfway through Poetry Month, we're taking stock—have you made space in your life for poetry yet? If you have, are you still looking for more? Peruse our list of 26 new poetry titles out this spring to find a title or two that piques your interest. 

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Fresh Pack of Smokes, by Cassandra Blanchard

About the book: Dissecting herself and the life she once knew living a transient life that included time spent in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside as a bonafide drug addict, Blanchard writes plainly about violence, drug use and sex work in Fresh Pack of Smokes, offering insight into an often overlooked or misunderstood world.

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Hymnswitch, by Ali Blythe

About the book: Four years ago, Ali Blythe arrived with Twoism, a remarkable debut collection, every line shimmering with life and shivering with erotically charged glimpses of completeness. Now in Hymnswitch, Blythe takes up the themes of identity and the body once again, this time casting an eye backwards and forwards, visiting places of recovery and wrestling with the transition into one's own skin. Readers will find themselves holding their breath at the risk and beauty and difficulty of the balance Blythe strikes in the midst of ineffable complexity.

Combining a stark, tensile precision with musicality that lulls and surprises, Blythe, a surreal engineer of language, has once again created an unusually memorable collection. Imbued with emotional awareness, these stunning poems will imprint readers with startling images and silences as potent as words.

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Following Sea, by Lauren Carter

About the book: Spanning almost 200 years, Following Sea finds anchor in the submerged regions of the heart. With great care, Lauren Carter wades into family histories and geography, all the while charting her own territories. Carried by the ebb and flow of language, Carter's second collection explores issues of infertility, identity, and settler migration, offering a tender examination of home. Urgent and intimate, Following Sea leads us along the shoreline of Carter's Manitoulin memories to show us what she has carried up from the depths.

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Dunk Tank, by Kayla Czaga

About the book: In the title poem of Kayla Czaga’s sophomore collection, a teenage speaker is suspended between knowledge and experience, confidently hovering there before the world plunges her into adult life. Dunk Tank reimagines the body as a strange and unknowable landscape: full of cancers that “burst like blackberries,” a butt that could run for prime minister of Canada, and the underworld lurking in Winona Ryder’s pores. Clouds become testicles and uteri turn into goldfish, flickering and fragile, but still ultimately glowing. These poems explore the varied and strange relationships that underpin a young woman’s coming of age, from inconsequential boyfriends to the friendships that rescue us from “grey daily moments.” Unsure of how the world works and her part in it, Czaga forges a landscape of metaphor and gleaming, dense imagery. Dunk Tank is playful and dark, comic and disturbing.

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There Are Not Enough Sad Songs, by Marita Dachsel

About the book: "There is beauty in the teacup like dresses requiring crinoline or beaded purses too small to carry anything but anger." — from “Inheritance”

A window into the complex and disordered lives of middle age, Marita Dachsel’s third poetry collection draws from her own history and explores parenthood, love, and the grief of losing those both close and distant. In the tradition of Karen Solie and Suzanne Buffam—and a touch of the Canadian Gothic—Dachsel unfolds her poetic skills in a variety of brief and expansive forms. With a voice that is both authentic and controlled, her poems offer a type of release despite their painful twists and topics. Readers working through their own personal losses and daily stresses will be grateful for and find a kinship in Dachsel’s grief-fuelled and vulnerable poetics.

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It’s a Big Deal!, by Dina Del Bucchia

About the book: So many things seem like a BIG DEAL: fashionable clothes, food trends for healthfulness and coolness, personal turmoils, what someone else just said, the ever-charged political landscape, Instagram posts, extinct megafauna, avocado toast … the list could—and does—go on and on. Quirky, wry, sensitive, bitchy, and honest, It’s a Big Deal! interrogates the ways we interpret and process the big deals of our twenty-first-century lives. Del Bucchia’s poetic voice is unique, delivering sharp humour and candid sincerity.

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Outside, America, by Sarah de Leeuw

About the book: Outside, America criss-crosses the Canadian–American border to understand dilemmas that occur across a variety of scales, from global spheres to the most intimate domestic spaces. Sarah de Leeuw digs through grief, loss, aging, technological frustration, environmental degradation, nationalism and confusion to grasp the state of the world. These poems are tethered to everything from climate change and scientific discovery to the death of parents, resource extraction, divorce and career changes, touching down on whale extinctions, lounges in international airports and debris slides, on suiciding pilots and sinkholes, astronauts, grocery store magazines, earthquakes and even sinking ferries and pop stars.

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How She Read, by Chantal Gibson

About the book: How She Read is a collection of genre-blurring poems about the representation of Black women, their hearts, minds and bodies, across the Canadian cultural imagination. Drawing from grade-school vocabulary spellers, literature, history, art, media and pop culture, Chantal Gibson's sassy semiotics highlight the depth and duration of the imperialist ideas embedded in everyday things, from storybooks to coloured pencils, from paintings to postage stamps. A mediation on motherhood and daughterhood, belonging, loss and recovery, the collection weaves the voices of Black women, past and present. Thoughtful, sassy, reflective and irreverent, How She Read leaves a Black mark on the landscape as it illustrates a writer's journey from passive receiver of racist ideology to active cultural critic in the process of decolonizing her mind.

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Little Red, by Kerry Gilbert

About the book: Little Red Riding Hood is one of the original didactic stories about missing and murdered girls/women in a long history of this kind of violence against women—especially in earlier versions where “Wolf leapt upon Little Red Riding Hood and gobbled her up.” It’s also a deeply entrenched lesson in gender roles. In Little Red, Gilbert tells a contemporary verse version of this tale with all of the angst/anxieties of a different time and the dangers that now surround our children. But, she also extends that and suggests some bigger questions: what happens to children when parents are absent? What happens to an aging Red, Grandmother, Woodcutter and Wolf? What happens when “wolf decides to start a family/hopes his past will stay there/and that he can be a good father”? Gilbert suggests: “we have failed our sons/we have failed our daughters” and about wolf, that “we’ve grown so, so tired of his story.”

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What We Carry, by Susan Glickman

About the book: What We Carry is a profound exploration of the weight of human history at three levels: the individual, the cultural, and environmental. From her brilliant "Extinction Sonnets"--odes to various disappearing species—to a spirited examination of everyday salutations, Susan Glickman's range astonishes: ice storms, sugar maples, early love on the Orient Express, an archaeological dig at Mycenae. Serious but not solemn, full of linguistic and imagistic playfulness, the collection is anchored by poetic translations of Chopin's 24 Preludes, opus 28—his most experimental and characteristic compositions. The intimacy of Chopin's project has inspired sound-rich poems that, once again, prove Glickman's gift for capturing the frailty of human connections in a damaged world. "First light and the last, / first love and the last."

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Q&A, by Adrienne Gruber

About the book: Adrienne Gruber's third full poetry collection, Q & A, is a poetic memoir detailing a first pregnancy, birth and early postpartum period. The poet is both traumatized and transformed by the birth of her daughter. She is compelled by the dark places birth takes her and as she examines and revisits those places, a grotesque history of the treatment of pregnant and birthing women reveals itself.

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One Thing—Then Another, by Claire Kelly

About the book: One Thing — Then Another is a collection of poetry divided into three unique sections: “East” explores the constraints of living under the poverty line in a have-not province. “And” is a long poem about moving in a U-Haul across the prairies during an ice storm. “West” considers what it means to live in the have-est of have provinces and trying to acclimate to that alongside an ever-present drought.

The poems are largely about contrast: east to west, flood to aridity, poverty to comfort, small town to city. Throughout this accessible, smart, and funny collection, there are many descriptions of apocalyptic upheaval to reflect the feelings of disruption that often accompany relocation.

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Mad Long Emotion, by Ben Ladouceau

About the book: Desire and dieffenbachias: new poems from the award-winning author of Otter. Mad Long Emotion wants to talk flora to fauna like you. Loosestrife shoos away humans and green carnations flirt with handsome men. Numerous species, both spiny and spineless, prove as invasive as desire: from Great Lake lampreys to hydraulic triceratopses, we're all just looking for love.

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All Day I Dream About Sirens, by Domenica Martinello

About the book: From Homer to Starbucks, a look at sirens and mermaids and feminism and consumerism. What started as a small sequence of poems about the Starbucks logo grew to monstrous proportions after the poet fell under a siren spell herself. All Day I Dream About Sirens is both an ancient reverie and a screen-induced stupor as these poems reckon with the enduring cultural fascination with siren and mermaid narratives as they span geographies, economies, and generations, chronicling and reconfiguring the male-centered epic and women's bodies and subjectivities.

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Drolleries, by Cassidy McFadzean

About the book: Invoking human-animal hybrids in various stages of metamorphosis, Drolleries veers between the beasts of the forest and the opulence of the art gallery. Personal and historical struggles are held against the backdrop of the grotesque and fantastic: A marriage unravels in Goya's Black Room. The diagnosis of a blood-clotting mutation is read through the tarot. The violence of the patriarchy is filtered through the subconscious. In sonically rich lyric poems that traverse the vulnerability of confession and the dramatic possibilities of persona, Drolleries invokes its monsters as a means of working through internal turmoil, existential doubt, and heartbreak. This collection investigates how the lure of romantic relationships, the enchantments of art, and the seductions of power can be both destructive and transformative—and ultimately become a pathway to self-realization.

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Tonguebreaker, by Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha

About the book: In their fourth collection of poetry, Lambda Literary Award-winning poet and writer Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha continues her excavation of working-class queer brown femme survivorhood and desire.

Tonguebreaker is about surviving the unsurvivable: living through hate crimes, the suicides of queer kin, and the rise of fascism while falling in love and walking through your beloved's neighbourhood in Queens. Building on her groundbreaking work in Bodymap, Tonguebreaker is an unmitigated force of disabled queer-of-colour nature, narrating disabled femme-of-colour moments on the pulloff of the 80 in West Oakland, the street, and the bed. Tonguebreaker dreams unafraid femme futures where we live—a ritual for our collective continued survival.

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Twitch Force, by Michael Redhill

About the book: A muscle’s “twitch force” is a measurement of its energy potential. It’s history dependent: you can forget it, but it’s engraved on you where you can’t see it, and all it wants to do is repeat. Scotiabank Giller Prize winner Michael Redhill’s first collection of poetry in eighteen years, Twitch Force has a gnomic, satirical, and lucid intelligence. In “Ingredients,” heredity’s recipe is told via short-form family narrative; in “My Arrangements,” a stolen laptop battery leads to an encounter with the Israeli Olympic women’s beach volleyball team; while in “The Women,” human beauty is parsed down to the level of chromosomes: “I’m beautiful; I have my mother’s feet. The women who change into men are beautiful men who were once beautiful women.”

This is poetry concerned with love and its loss, despair and hard-won hope, knowledge and essential mystery, aging and timelessness. Readers are cautioned: ideas that present as self-explanatory may be closer than they appear. Twitch Force is a stunningly realized return to the form from one of Canada’s bravest and most original poets.

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By Hand, by John Reibetanz

About the book: John Reibetanz's twelfth collection, By Hand, begins with an epigraph from Lewis Mumford: "Until modern times, apart from the esoteric knowledge of the priests, philosophers, and astronomers, the greater part of human thought and imagination flowed through the hands." Reibetanz's new poems investigate human creativity as a visceral interaction with the world: our imagining hands finding the music implicit in the stuff of earth, a "duet// of earthbound songsters," of mind and material, each shaping the other. Centered on this duet, the book encompasses the wide-ranging aspects of our humanity—hands used for good and ill—portrayed in the examined paintings and sculptures, gardens, tapestries, photographs, and carvings. And they explore in particular the relationship in these artifacts between the "givens" of nature and the modifications and contributions of human culture. As Roo Borson says of the collection, "the poems are shot through with moments in which language's particular dexterity comes into its own and real objects are remade, as when these lines from "The Installation" celebrate the "commonality of clay" in a relief by della Robbia:"

the light-quickened humus

of the eyes that, for hundreds of years, have read the notes
inscribed on the banner an angel is unscrolling...

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My Heart is a Rose Manhattan, by Nikki Reimer

About the book: My Heart Is a Rose Manhattan is a darkly humorous book about grief and isolation. Cutting yet tender, sorrowful yet angry, these poems touch on death and loss, architecture, alcohol, horse statues, and catalogues of life. Addicted to social media and simultaneously well-versed in feminist theory, My Heart Is a Rose Manhattan “subvert[s] the literary industrial complex,” but it also crashes in like the Kool-Aid meme with all-caps non sequiturs and “overdrawn affluenza.” Pull up a chair, get a drink—a rose manhattan, a quartz gimlet, or a gourmet ginger ale, if you prefer. A rose is a rose is a Rose Manhattan.

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After Birth, by Elizabeth Ross

About the book: A poetic primer on mothering and motherhood, After Birth is unflinching in its celebration of new life. Proffering poems that are both alchemical and personal, Elizabeth Ross taps into the contradictions of creation—joy, distress, lassitude—all while her speaker tenderly hovers, like Nosferatu, over newborns. After Birth "blood[ies] the word," and marks Elizabeth Ross as a writer to watch.

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TREATY#, by Armand Garnet Ruffo

About the book: A treaty is a contract. A treaty is enduring. A treaty is an act of faith. A treaty at its best is justice. It is a document and an undertaking. It is connected to place, people and self. It is built on the past, but it also indicates how the future may unfold. Armand Garnet Ruffo's TREATY# is all of these. In this far-ranging work, Ruffo documents his observations on life, and in the process, his own life, as he sets out to restructure relationships and address obligations nation-to-nation, human-to-human, human-to-nature. Now, he undertakes a new phase in its restoration. He has written his TREATY# like a palimpsest over past representations of Indigenous bodies and beliefs, built powerful connections to his predecessors, and discovered new ways to bear witness and build a place for them, and all of us, in his poems. This is a major new work from an important, original voice.

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The Caiplie Caves, by Karen Solie

About the book: In the seventh century, on the coast of Fife, Scotland, an Irish missionary named Ethernan withdrew to a cave in order to decide whether to establish a priory on May Island, directly opposite, in the Firth of Forth, or pursue a hermit’s solitude. His decision would have been informed by the realities of war, religious colonization, and ideas of progress, power, and corruption, and complicated by personal interest, grief, confusion, and a faith (religious and secular) under extreme duress. His choice between life as an “active” or a “contemplative” was one between public and private action. Along with the question of what constitutes action, it remains a choice central to political and private life.

Karen Solie’s fifth book of poetry, The Caiplie Caves, attends to transition in times of crisis. Around passages informed by Ethernan’s story are poems that orbit the geographical location of the caves but that range through the ages, addressing violence, power, work, economies, self-delusion, and belief. Indecision and necessity are inseparable companions. As are the prospect of error and regret.

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Cluster, by Souvankham Thammavongsa

About the book: Acclaimed poet Souvankham Thammavongsa returns with her fourth collection, a book about meaning. Meaning can sometimes blow up, crack something we had not seen, or darken what had been seen so clear to us. Meaning can happen with so little and go on to take so much from us. Meaning can sometimes take a long time to arrive, years even, if ever. And it's possible meaning does not mean, and that in itself could be meaningful. Whatever happens to meaning, it is always there. It means even when you don't want it. Every poem in this book looks at meaning and the ways in which it arrives, if at all.

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Disintegrate/Dissociate, by Arielle Twist

About the book: In her powerful debut collection of poetry, Arielle Twist unravels the complexities of human relationships after death and metamorphosis. In these spare yet powerful poems, she explores, with both rage and tenderness, the parameters of grief, trauma, displacement, and identity. Weaving together a past made murky by uncertainty and a present which exists in multitudes, Arielle Twist poetically navigates through what it means to be an Indigenous trans woman, discovering the possibilities of a hopeful future and a transcendent, beautiful path to regaining softness.

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An Unorthodox Guide to Wildlife, by Katie Vautour

About the book: Katie Vatour’s extraordinary debut collection is an eclectic examination of the space where humans and animals meet, where migratory patterns encounter commercial flights, and birds appear as fishermen, security guards, and street performers. There are riffs on the chameleon and lyrebird, odes to buffalo and shark. With poems that are at once intuitive yet idiosyncratic, visceral yet cerebral, and that flourish an unconventional sense of effortless motion, An Unorthodox Guide to Wildlife considers how animals exist in our lives and imaginations: as autonomous beings, as mimics and metaphors of our own lives, and as bellwethers of environmental damage. At times humourous, tragic, or both, these poems tell the story of natural existence in a sometimes unnatural world.

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These are not the potatoes of my youth, by Matthew Walsh

About the book: In this confessional debut collection, Matthew Walsh meanders through their childhood in rural Nova Scotia, later roaming across the prairies and through the railway cafés of Alberta to the love letters and graffiti of Vancouver. In this nomadic journey, Walsh explores queer identity set against an ever-changing landscape of what we want, and who we are, were, and came to be.

Walsh is a storyteller in verse, his poems laced with catholic "sensibilities" and punctuated with Maritime vernacular. In These are not the potatoes of my youth, Walsh illuminates the complex choreography of family, the anxiety of individuality, and the ambiguous histories of stories erased, forgotten, or suppressed. Readers will find moments of humour, surprise, and a queer realization that all is not what it seems.

April 15, 2019
Books mentioned in this post
Fresh Pack of Smokes

Fresh Pack of Smokes

edition:Paperback
More Info
Dunk Tank

Dunk Tank

edition:Paperback
also available: eBook
tagged : canadian
More Info
It’s a Big Deal!

It’s a Big Deal!

edition:Paperback
More Info
Outside, America

Outside, America

edition:Paperback
More Info
How She Read

How She Read

edition:Paperback
More Info
What We Carry

What We Carry

edition:eBook
also available: Paperback
tagged : canadian
More Info
Tonguebreaker

Tonguebreaker

edition:Paperback
More Info
Twitch Force

Twitch Force

edition:Paperback
also available: eBook
tagged : canadian, death, love
More Info
By Hand

By Hand

edition:Paperback
also available: eBook
tagged : canadian, nature
More Info
My Heart is a Rose Manhattan

My Heart is a Rose Manhattan

edition:Paperback
More Info
The Caiplie Caves

The Caiplie Caves

edition:Paperback
also available: eBook
tagged : canadian
More Info
Disintegrate/Dissociate

Disintegrate/Dissociate

edition:Paperback
More Info
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