Most Anticipated: Our 2021 Spring Poetry Preview

Our Spring Preview continues with an amazing selection of new and forthcoming poetry.

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The Montreal Prize Anthology 2020 (April), by Jordan Abel, Kaveh Akbar and Wendy Cope, explodes with talent, combining radiant vision with striking invention in form. Andrea Actis's Grey All Over (April) not only celebrates a rare, close, complicated father-daughter bond, it also boldly expands the empathetic and critical capacities of poetry itself. Make the World New (April) brings together in a single volume some of the highlights of work by Lillian Allen, one of the leading creative Black feminist voices in Canada, and is the first book of her poems to be published in over 20 years. Selina Boan’s debut poetry collection, Undoing Hours (March), considers the various ways we undo, inherit, reclaim and (re)learn. And Shane Book, the author of the acclaimed 2014 collection Congotronic, returns with All Black Everything (June), a collection of urgent, forceful, and energetic new poems.

Set in a small-town, sub-Arctic dive bar, Tara Borin’s debut collection The Pit (March), explores the complexities of addiction and the person beneath, and the possibility of finding home and community in unexpected places. Unspoken Truth (March), by Angela Bowden, is a bold collection of poetry highlighting the generational pain of Africans living in the diaspora. Camus’s Meursault and Thelma and Louise meet up under the blazing sun in Sarah Burgoyne’s second collection Because the Sun (April). And memory—how we retrieve and replenish it—is at the heart of Nectarine (April), Chad Campbell's visionary second collection.

nedi nezu (Good Medicine) (March), by Tennille C. Campbell, is a celebratory, slyly funny, and bluntly honest take on sex and romance in NDN Country. Searching for Signal (April), by Lori Cayer, is a long poem that bears witness to the quotidian, disorienting shifts of grief as a father makes his way toward his death over three seasons. Unflinchingly honest in its interrogation of religious dogma, white privilege, and violence, Gospel Drunk (April), by Aidan Chafe, is for all who seek salvation and humanity in a world where the personal and the political are equally complicated. Three years after her mother’s death and on the brink of a break up, a bisexual writer sits in the company of an urban birch tree, auditing the odds of new loves entering her future—and so begins Dear Birch (April), by Margaret Christakos, an intimate poem cycle that improvises within the permutability of grief, wind, reading, refusal and desire, listening for an ethos of ongoingness. 

In Mere Extinction (April), Evie Christie’s third book, mothers nurse babies as the world comes to an end, fathers hustle or drift, the pastoral and the present collide, violence, love, and death gently fill the space and time they have been given. A History of the Theories of Rain (January), by Stephen Collis, explores the strange effect our current sense of impending doom has on our relation to time, approaching the unfolding climate catastrophe conceptually through its dissolution of the categories of “man-made” and “natural” disasters. And Exhibitionist (April), by Molly Cross-Blanchard, is a collection of smart, raunchy poems that are sorry-not-sorry. Deriving (April), Jennifer Bowering Delisle, explores infertility, motherhood, and family, while troubling the colonial legacies of the English language and Canadian identity.

“Metaphor’s a raft," declares Andrew DuBois in All the People Are Pregnant (March) as he leads readers through a fractured past and present—from "slummy memories of streets" to a "a charnelhouse (?) of possible clowns"—defamiliarizing, critiquing, and satirizing a wide range of conversational forms in the style of Wallace Stevens and Michael Palmer. Leanne Dunic’s One and Half of You (Februrary) explores sibling and romantic love, and the complexities of being a biracial person looking for completion in another. In Postmodern Weather Report (April), Kristian Enright expertly weaves critical theory with playful poetics to suffuse this space with reflections on science, semantics, pop culture, philosophy, and a blossoming emergence into new cultural awareness for a contemporary age.

In her second poetry collection, Cattail Skylines (April), Joanne Epp ventures from open prairie roads into little creek beds, down onto the warm earth of strawberry patches and far afield to the busy markets of Cambodia to examine the intimate ways we come to know and experience place. Phantompains (April), by Therese Estacion, is a visceral, imaginative collection exploring disability, grief and life by interweaving stark memories with magic surrealism. In Poisonous If Eaten Raw (March), an experimental long poem sequence, Alyda Faber transforms the portrait poem into runic shapes, ice shelved, sculpted, louvered on a winter shoreline. In her debut collection, Congratulations, Rhododendrons (April), award-winning poet Mary Germaine offers love poems to an insistently unlovely world. In Aether (April) Catherine Graham has created a luminous homage to family, to cancer and to the strange windings of truth.

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A gender-fluid trickster character leaps from Cree stories to inhabit awâsis - kinky and dishevelled (April), a racous and rebellious new work by award-winning poet Louise Bernice Halfe. Selected Poems 1985–2020 (April) is Steven Heighton’s seventh volume of poetry and the first since his Governor General’s Literary Award–winning collection, The Waking Comes Late. Award-winner Leah Horlick's Moldovan Hotel (April) explores the intergenerational trauma of the Holocaust in Romania through a queer Jewish voice in the Diaspora. In Letters in a Bruised Cosmos (June), Griffin Poetry Prize winner Liz Howard gives us a new book of intimate, challenging, robust, and ingenious poems. And Dallas Hunt’s Creeland (March) shows that even in an area such as Treaty Eight (northern Alberta), a geography decimated by resource extraction and development, people are creating, living, laughing, surviving and flourishing—or at least attempting to.

In All the Broken Things (May), Geoff Inverarity writes of broken things, things that have come apart at the seams, things that ought not to but sometimes do dissolve with time: friendships, relationships, promises, aging parents, hearts, bodies, love, and even time itself. One out of every 20 students in the adult education classes Evan J teaches in Sioux Lookout, Ontario, dies every year; the surviving students are often afflicted by severe racism, poverty, addictions, and violence. Ripping down half the trees (June) engages with these struggles, offering a catalogue of experiences specific to the remote regions of Canada.

In Atlas of Roots (January), with poems that both witness and question, Beth Kope shares her own quest to uncover family history and answers—finding her adoption records, questioning her parent’s choices, and the truth of her own conception. Iron Goddess of Mercy (March), by Lambda Literary Award winner Larissa Lai, captures the vengeful yet hopeful movement of the Furies mid-whirl and dance with them through the horror of the long now, inspired by the tumultuous history of Hong Kong. And Jen Sookfong Lee’s The Shadow List (April) is a book filled with desire, where we question the politics of who gets to choose and who doesn't and where the narrator creates hidden lists of what she really wants.

Rayya Liebich’s Min Hayati (May) travels through a daughter's childhood memories in Montreal, her mother's homeland of Lebanon, and the dark realities of grief across borders. In A Number of Stunning Attacks (March), by Jessi MacEachern, a troubling female speaker is simultaneously building and dissolving her persona—through insistent disruptions of lyric subjectivity and frenetic experimentation with the grammar of the everyday. Reading her father's letters prompted the surfacing of Daphne Marlatt's memories overlaid by later ones from several adult returns to Penang where she spent the first five years of her life, so she began writing poems in response to all this, Then Now (March), writing from a sense of place and home on Canada’s West Coast now on the brink of global climate change.

In I will be more myself in the next world (June), by Matsuki Masutani, clear minimalist poems embrace with gentle and perceptive wit ideas about aging, family, dreams, his Japanese roots, self-acceptance and island life. Micheline Maylor’s The Bad Wife (March) is an intimate, first-hand account of how to ruin a marriage, a story of divorce, love, and what should have been, told in a brave and unflinching voice. In Sharon McCartney’s latest collection, Villa Negativa (March), the title refers where you are when you don’t know who or what you are—a place we all inhabit. Unbound (June), by Gabrielle McIntire, stirs us to re-evaluate our place amidst the astonishing beauty and wisdom of an Earth facing the early stages of climate change. And Scofflaw (March), by Garry Thomas Morse, is a long poem, a playful exploration of Indigenous-Settler relations amid globalized pressures.

Lillian Necakov’s il Virus (April) brings together 113 poems written over 78 days during the spring 2020 pandemic lockdown in Toronto. Taking the name of a nervous system disorder that causes involuntary shaking, Barbara Nickel's Essential Tremor (April) undertakes an exploration of the body that holds disruption at its heart. From the bush pilot duct-taping parts to keep his plane aloft to the pizza delivery driver who runs over his pizzas to the never-ending raffle at a leather bar, in Duct-Taped Roses (April),  Billeh Nickerson uses his signature irreverence, honesty and wit to question what can be repaired, and what—inevitably—is lost to time. Personal, primordial, and pulsing with syncopated language, Tolu Oloruntoba’s poetic debut, The Junta of Happenstance (May), is a compendium of dis-ease. Governor General's Award-winning poet Arleen Paré combines the story of two first best friends with questions of the mystery of cosmic first cause in First (April). And in her debut collection, Coconut (April), Canadian National Slam Champion Nisha Patel commands her formidable insight and youthful, engaged voice to relay experiences of racism, sexuality, empowerment, grief, and love.

Medrie Purdham's Little Housewolf (April) delves deeply into the world of domestic miniatures, a realm where thimbles, baby teeth, push pins, keyholes, teacups, and wedding rings become meticulously realized scale models of one's terrors and joys. still (March), by Anahita Jamali Rad, begins with a body, with materiality that slowly morphs, extends, spills, and oozes non-linearity. With At Geronimo's Grave (April), Armand Garnet Ruffo uses the Apache warrior's life as a metaphor for the lives of many of the abandoned Indigenous people on this continent.

Deeply entangled in relations both emotional and ecological, Rebecca Salazar’s sulphurtongue (March) confronts the stories we tell about gender, queerness, race, religion, illness, and trauma, seeking new forms of care for a changing world. Renée Sarojini Saklikar’s latest book is Bramah and the Beggar Boy (April), the first instalment in a multi-part series described as a map-history of the world in which  a band of eco-survivors faces heartbreak and destruction. And pushing back against societal stigma, Is This Scary? (April), by Governor General’s Award winner Jacob Scheier unflinchingly addresses experiences of psychiatric institutionalization and suicidality, without either romanticizing or pathologizing them.

A (re)creation of the surreality and altered time within deep states of grieving, Field Guide to the Lost Flower of Crete (June), by Eleonore Schönmaier, juxtaposes sorrow with fragmentary unapologetic joy. James Scoles’ The Trailer (April) explores the subtle art of balancing life on the edge of a city—indeed, perched precariously, metaphorically on the fringe of society—not exactly following a script for keeping up with the Joneses. In Thimbles (April), Vanessa Shields chronicles the life of her Nonna Maria, from her origins as a seamstress in Italy to her eventual death from dementia. And in Intruder (April), acclaimed poet Bardia Sinaee explores with vivid and precise language themes of encroachment in contemporary life.

In Strangers (April), Rob Taylor makes new the epiphany poem: the short lyric ending with a moment of recognition or arrival, and in his hands, the form becomes not simply a revelation in words but, in Wallace Stevens' phrase, “a revelation in words by means of the words.” Red Obsidian (March) is a new collection from Stephan Torre, grappling with the strength and complexities of life in the northwest wild lands. Catalogue d’oiseaux (April) began as notes sent to poet Aaron Tucker’s long-distance partner, and not initially intended for publication, the writings moved, over time, into a long, lyrical, confessional love poem. Poised between thoughts of mortality and an exquisite taste for the most tender, small details of life, the poems in Diane Tucker’s Nostalgia for Moving Parts (April) are whimsical, quirky, and resonant with memory.

In her newest collection, 29 Leads to Love (May), Salimah Valiani traces the meaning of love in different ways. The poems in Rob Winger’s new collection, It Doesn’t Matter What We Meant (March), question perception, meaning, and context. Written each day in rehab, Ash Winters’ debut collection Run Riot: Ninety Poems in Ninety Days (January) is a vulnerable and powerful portrait of the struggle against addiction. And beginning with halcyon days cast in soft light and cool dew, onward through veiled years of diagnosis and environmental damage, Death Becomes Us (April), by Kristen Wittman, captures, with masterful grace and restraint, the intensity of absence and the importance of grief.

Fueled by our perpetual need to find meaning and purpose in our lives, Caroline Wong’s Primal Sketches (April) is a book that considers how our actions profoundly affect the lives of fellow humans as well as the natural world around us. Current, Climate (March) is an introduction to the environmental and social-justice poetry of Rita Wong, with Nicholas Bradley situating Wong’s poetry in its literary and cultural contexts, focusing on the role of the author in a time of crisis. And Terence Young’s wide-ranging new collection Smithereens (March) invokes the domestic world of family and home, as well as the associated realms of work and place.

 

February 4, 2021
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