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Some of the First Canadian Books of Poetry I Ever Bought

A recommended reading list by Madhur Anand (author of Parasitic Oscillations) who is appearing at the Winnipeg International Writers Festival's THIN AIR this year.

Logo Thin Air 2022

Every September since 1997, the Winnipeg International Writers Festival presents THIN AIR, a celebration of books and ideas. Their curated line-up is a perfect fit for curious readers who are ready to discover strong voices and great storytelling in practically every genre. For 2022, they're presenting a hybrid festival featuring more than 50 writers, live events, and a destination website.

To watch video content Madhur Anand has prepared for THIN AIR, visit the festival website.


Book Cover Parasitic Oscillations

I discovered I wanted to write poetry in 1997 and these were some of the first books I came across in bookstores. (Non-Canadian books included Alice Fulton's Sensual Math and Wislawa Szymborka's View With a Grain of Sand.)


Book Cover The True Names of Birds

The True Names of Birds, by Sue Goyette

First published in 1998, this title would have appealed to my well-established scientific but still-budding poetic senses. The True Names of Birds: Is that what poetry is?, I may have thought. The title poem has these final lines : "that wonder is what I regret losing most; that wonder/and the true names of birds." Her poems assured me it was going to be okay to follow wonder for the rest of my life. The book is often not in its place on my bookshelf because I've lent it out. But checking now, there are two copies there. It migrates and reproduces.


Book Cover Pigeon

Pigeon, by Karen Solie

I have committed to heart the title poem from this book and I often quote lines from it in casual conversations with others, including my children. "Synchronicity is a theme science can't explain...My attentions were divided./Nevertheless I saw what I saw." I have an obsession with synchronicity, and it is the basis for a lot of my own writing. This poem alone has carried me through the years with the kind of faith I needed to write poetry: to believe in one's complex and mysterious observations, which may be at odds with rationality, and yet to never obscure the truth. 


Book Cover Inventory

Inventory, Dionne Brand

I would have read this book-length poem around the time I moved to the School of Environmental Sciences at the University of Guelph (2006), where Brand was also a professor but who I would not meet until much later (she became my poetry editor in 2014). We occupied two different worlds within the institution, within society. But I saw all of ecology in her work. And she could sustain a polyphonic voice, a prolonged oscillation, through poetry, which is something I have never forgotten. That and the power of lyric intelligence.


Book Cover Strike Slip

Strike/Slip, Don McKay

I remember picking up this book at The Bookshelf after just having moved to Guelph in 2006. It had won an award and was prominently displayed. I remember the glossy slim volume thinking: how could something so slight hold such weight? It was the slash in the title too that intrigued me (why not a hyphen?), as well as the metaphor it represented (look up the meaning of strike-slip in geology). "Astonished/you are famous and anonymous, the border/washed out by so soft a thing as weather," McKay wrote of the Precambrian Shield, the landscape on which I took a lover for many years until we broke up. Strike or slip?


Book Cover Questions About the Stars

Questions About the Stars, by Robyn Sarah

I'm fairly sure I bought this 1998 book at Paragraphe Books in Montreal when I visited in 2000. I've written elsewhere on the influence of this book on me as a new poet. But read Sarah's "The World is Its Own Museum" and then my poem "Visiting the Rothschild Collection, Tring" written over 20 year later, and you may find some quantum-mechanical, spooky-action-at-a-distance.


Book Cover Parasitic Oscillations

Learn more about Parasitic Oscillations:

A stunning new collection of poems that examine various aspects of living and practicing as both a poet and scientist in the Anthropocene during a time of unravelling.

The poems in Madhur Anand’s second collection interrogate the inevitability of undesired cyclic variation caused by feedback in the amplifying devices of both poetry and science.

There are several interacting currents: the poet’s own work between the arts and the sciences, living between North American and Indian cultures, as well as examining contemporary environments through the lag effects of the past. Weaving in a close reading of A.O. Hume’s The Nests and Eggs of Indian Birds (1889), anticolonial, intertextual, feminist, electronic, and diasporic relationships are examined against the backdrop of unprecedented ecological collapse. Here, birds are often no longer direct subjects of metaphor, but rather remain strange, sometimes silent, a kind of menacing and stray capacitance, but can still act as harbingers of discovery and hope.

Fluctuating through extreme highs and lows, both emotional and environmental, while examining a myriad of philosophical and ethical dilemmas, Parasitic Oscillations is an enlightening, thought-provoking, and profoundly beautiful work that both informs and questions.



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