Most Anticipated: 2019 Fall Poetry Preview

Our fall preview continues with poetry!

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Poet and intermedia artist Oana Avasilichioaei’s follow-up to Limbinal is Eight-Track (November), a transliterary exploration composed of eight “tracks” plus two bonus tracks, each of which explores one of the various meanings of the word “track”: musical track, a physical path, marks left by a person or animal, speech tracking, animal and human tracking, and systems of surveillance. The National Gallery (September), Jonathan Ball’s fourth poetry book and his first in seven years, swirls chaos and confession together, and at the book’s heart is a question: Why create art? Whether calling a tree “an anthology of leaves” or describing time as “a Fisher-Price View Master of ‘first kisses’ and ‘no return’ policies,” Chris Banks approaches writing as if anything might make for alarming, strange, and dizzying verse in Midlife Action Figure (September). 

Book Cover NDN coping Mechanisms

Building on the dreamy emotional landscapes she plumbed in If I Were in a Cage I’d Reach Out for You, Adèle Barclay navigates even sharper peaks and valleys in her second collection, Renaissance Normcore (October). In For It Is a Pleasure and a Surprise to Breathe (October), Gary Barwin and editor Alessandro Porco have drawn from Barwin's extensive writings in previously published books, chapbooks, small press works, magazine and journal publications, including unpublished and uncollected works, to create a category-defying book. In NDN Coping Mechanisms (September), the follow-up to his Griffin Poetry Prize–winning collection, This Wound is a World, Billy-Ray Belcourt aims more of an anthropological eye at the contours of NDN and queer social worlds to spot much that is left unsaid when we look only to the mainstream media.

In acclaimed short-fiction writer Heather Birrell's rollicking debut full-length poetry collection, Float and Scurry (October), Mr. T, Joni Mitchell, Fidel Castro, and the poet's mother (among others) barge in to distract and derail the poet's dreams. By Mohineet Kaur Boparai, Polychromasia (October), as the word implies, metaphorically looks at the many hues of life as it is lived, especially in India. The first ever collection of the major serial poems by Canada’s inaugural Parliamentary Poet Laureate, George Bowering, Taking Measures (November) includes work from each of the last six decades, beginning with Bowering's engagement with process-based long poems in the 1960s and 1970s and moving through his continued exploration of the form in recent decades. And Marilyn Bowering’s What Is Long Past Occurs in Full Light (August) weaves beautifully crafted and intuitive meditations on absences and loss, with personal, local and cultural presence and memories.

One of Canada’s most profound lyricists tells the story of his great-aunt, the celebrated opera contralto, in the illustrated epic poem Portia White: A Portrait in Words (November), by George Elliott Clarke with art by Lara Martina. Lyrical yet shot through with experimental and political veins, the poems in Soft Power (September), by Stewart Cole, are engaged with both the here-and-now of a world on the brink and the hope of something better. Marlene Cookshaw, in Mowing (November), her first collection of poetry in more than a decade, invites readers to partake in a long-anticipated harvest that comes in many forms. If there is a narrative arc to Lucas Crawford’s Belated Bris of the Brainsick (October), it is not the usual one of falling ill and then regaining health, rather, it is the pursuit of a “queered” version of health.

Emerging from the expanse of bewildered mourning, Su Croll’s third collection, Cold Metal Stairs (October), is a timely lament for those who wander deep into the mists of failing memory, and for those who are left behind waiting. With On/Me (October), debut poet Francine Cunningham explores what it means to grow up as an Indigenous “white passing” young woman in urban Vancouver. An antidote to the invasive and often biased media depictions of sex workers, Hustling Verse: An Anthology of Sex Workers’ Poetry (September), edited by Amber Dawn and Justine Ducharme, is a fiercely groundbreaking exploration of intimacy, transactional sex, identity, healing, and resilience. And in A Very Special Episode (October), Nathan Dueck pays serious attention to the pieces of our past that have been lost in the internet era, whether it is magnetic tapes or the Smurfs, rabbit-ear antennas or She-Ra. 

Capturing her own struggles as she emerges from shock in the wake of her son’s unexpected death at age 37, author and storyteller Sheree Fitch writes lyrically and unabashedly, with deep sorrow, unexpected rage, and boundless love in You Won’t Always Be This Sad: A Book of Moments (October). In her debut poetry collection, Deboning a Dragon (October), Julie Hartley has captured the lived experience of a life in motion—a travelogue that moves in rhythmic language from a childhood in England through restless travels around the globe. Richard Harrison’s 25: Hockey Poems (October) catalogues of the way the game has woven itself into the life of the Governor General’s Award-winning poet, from childhood to fatherhood to even involving death. And in Sotto Voce (November), her fifth book of poetry, Maureen Hynes speaks tenderly yet vehemently about the threatened parts of the natural world that concern her.

Melanie Janisse-Barlow's second book of poetry, Thicket (September), is a treatise on risk and the uncertainties of language in the modern world. Thomas King’s 77 Fragments of A Familiar Ruin (September) is a collection of  poems intended as a eulogy for what we have squandered, a reprimand for all we have allowed, and a suggestion for what might still be salvaged. Post-glacial (October) is a collection of poems by Robert Kroestch selected by his former student David Eso, featuring Kroetsch’s iconic collection, Completed Field Notes, alongside rare work gathered from different stages of Kroetsch’s career. In Just Like I Like It (November), Danielle LaFrance combines poetry and autotheory as a means of targeting ideological infatuation, spilling into an obsession with ideological abolishment. And Odes and Laments (September), a new collection by award-winning poet Fiona Tinwei Lam, explores what it means to live in an environment constantly under threat and that challenges our perceptions of the everyday, transforming the mundane into the sublime.

In poems that could double as paintings, M. Travis Lane harnesses the brush strokes of language to form a bridge between the artist and natural world in A Tent, A Lantern, An Empty Bowl (September). In Vancouver for Beginners (October), by Alex Leslie (winner of the Writers' Trust Dayne Ogilvie Award for LGBTQ Writers), mapping becomes a form of nostalgia, and readers are led through a territory portrayed by real estate listings, childhood landmarks long gone and developers who pace at a city's limits shored with aquariums. Joshua Levy’s The Loudest Thing (October) is a love letter to family and the complex history of blood; to failed relationships and the magic left behind; to the dance of a happy marriage across the decades; to friendship; to travel; to coming home.

D.A. Lockhart's fourth collection, Devil in the Woods (September), gives us the words, thoughts, and experiences of an Anishinaabe guy from Central Ontario and the manner in which he interacts with central aspects and icons of settler Canadian culture. Encyclopedia of a Broken Heart (October) is a collection of new poems on the themes of hurt, melancholy and healing by Jon Lupin, the Poetry Bandit. Mobile (September), by Tanis MacDonald, is an uncivil feminist reboot of Dennis Lee's Civil Elegies and Other Poems; an urban lament about female citizenship and settler culpability; an homage to working and walking women in a love/hate relationship with Toronto, its rivers and creeks, its sidewalks and parks, its history, misogyny and violence. And the work included in Resisting Canada (September)—edited by Nyla Matuk, with work by celebrated poets such as Lee Maracle, Jordan Abel, Billy-Ray Belcourt, Louise Bernice Halfe, Michael Prior, and Leanne Betasamosake Simpson—addresses, among other things, Indigenous agency, cultural belonging, environmental anxieties, and racial privilege. 

Ilona Martonfi uses her poetry to build on her activism in Salt Bride (October). Moving from eroticism to the macabre and from transformative quotation to the individual idiom, Shape Your Eyes by Shutting Them (September), by Mark A. McCutcheon, explores intertextuality in poetry by challenging the cultural tradition of seeing quotation as derivative. Peter Midgley's let us not think of them as barbarians (September) is a bold narrative of love, migration, and war hewn from the stones of Namibia. Weaving personal narratives with a poetic study of the insect kingdom, Re-Origin of Species (September), by Alexandra Naccarato, winner of RBC Bronwen Wallace Award for Emerging Writers, looks at the interdependence of all species, drawing parallels between human illness, climate change and the state of peril of the natural world.

Intimate, nostalgic, and surprising, the poems in I Can Hear You, Can You Hear Me? (October), by Nolan Natasha, spark connections that alter trajectory and carry lasting resonance. Moving through a human landscape that exists both in the past and present, This Is the Emergency Present (September), by Vincent Pagé, attempts to unearth an understanding about love, romanticism, and connection using chemistry and physics, the early works of Pablo Neruda, and the abstract broken language around us. And beginning where he left off in Crawlspace with “The little start I’m given, giving, that May be,” John Pass’s new poems in This Was the River (October) articulate further entanglements with stasis, purpose and hope. 

Miranda Pearson’s Rail (September) is a collection of lyrical, meditative poems that span time and continents with insight and musicality. Tunchai Redvers’ Fireweed (August) is a collection of poetry that explores the rawness, trauma, and realities of adolescence compounded with the experience of being a young, Indigenous, and two-spirit intergenerational residential school survivor. In Try Not To Get Too Attached (November), using line drawings, colour and text, Robin Richardson transposes the sensibility of poetry into illustrated works, creating bite-sized, artistic meditations on the terribly wonderful, malleable and absurd experience of being alive. And Pots and Other Living Beings (November) is a literarily and visually compelling first poetry collection by up and coming Indigenous artist annie ross. 

Writers of all stripes pick up their pens in defence of Canada’s environment—an act of resistance in the wake of Kinder Morgan, Site C and other ecological threats—in Rising Tides: Reflections for Climate Changing Times, edited by Catriona Sandilands (September). The poems in Greg Santos’ Dear Ghosts (November) deal with parenthood, adoption, identity, migration, poetry as memoir, family mythologies, and mourning. Griffin Poetry Prize winner Anne Simpson’s Strange Attractor (September) reveals our multiple, shifting selves with power and tenderness. Light and shadows clash in The Essential Kay Smith (September), a collection that demonstrates an early modernist poet's attempts to reconcile faith, imagination, reality and being. And Moez Surani’s Are the Rivers in Your Poems Real (October) is an act of resistance against dangerous and domineering narratives, and the power they inscribe.

Vulgar Mechanics (September), by K.B. Thors, grapples with queerness and trauma from Alberta to Brooklyn, powering through body, sex, and gender to hit free open roads. Jacqueline Turner’s Flourish (September) moves between philosophy, literary criticism, biography, and poetry. From Montreal's metro stations and streets to pastoral mise-en-scènes, William Vallieres' first book, Versus (September), is a lyric bildungsroman filled with portraits of seduction and infatuation, loneliness and buried shame. The Truth About Facts (November), by Bart Vautour, makes intimate the seeming noise of information and facts by using the tradition of the alphabet book to get back to basics. And in his debut poetry collection, Crow Gulch (September), Douglas Walbourne-Gough reflects on the legacy of an Indigenous community that sat on the shore of the Bay of Islands, less than two kilometres west of downtown Corner Brook, NL.

August 7, 2019
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