"A best poem fulfills the promise set out in its first syllable, word, syntax, line break, and soundscape to its reader/listener."
“What is a best poem?” asks Best Canadian Poetry 2020 guest editor Marilyn Dumont, the critically acclaimed and award-winning author of four poetry collections. “A best poem fulfills the promise set out in its first syllable, word, syntax, line break, and soundscape to its reader/listener. The work required to complete a poem takes risk, skill, and practice, and the poems selected for this anthology all exhibit such attributes.” In precise language that exposes the attitudes inherent in English, innovative forms that illuminate their content, and mastery of music akin to a composer’s score, the fifty poems collected here fulfill their promises and, in doing so, demonstrate the country’s rich diversity and talent for invention—and the promises it might fulfill as well.
Featuring introductions by series editor Anita Lahey and advisory editor Amanda Jernigan, and poems by:
Kazim Ali • Amber Dawn • Billy-Ray Belcourt • Brandi Bird • Selina Boan • Margret Bollerup • Rita Bouvier • Tim Bowling • Frances Boyle • Di Brandt • Rob Budde • Mugabi Byenkya • Dell Catherall • Margaret Christakos Ivan Coyote • Barry Dempster • Kyle Flemmer • Susan Haldane • Louise Bernice Halfe–Sky Dancer • Jane Eaton Hamilton • Maureen Scott Harris • Dallas Hunt • Ashley Hynd • Babo Kamel • Conor Kerr • Don Kerr • Fiona Tinwei Lam • Natalie Lim • Tanis MacDonald • Nyla Matuk • Sadie McCarney • Tara McGowan-Ross • Erín Moure • Roger Nash • Samantha Nock • Erin Noteboom • Abby Paige • Geoff Pevlin • Alycia Pirmohamed • Jana Prikryl • Jason Purcell • Armand Garnet Ruffo • Rebecca Salazar • Robyn Sarah • Erin Soros • Kevin Spenst • John Elizabeth Stintzi • Andrea Thompson • Sanna Wani • Adele Wiseman
About the authors
Marilyn Dumont is the author of four collections of poems: A Really Good Brown Girl (winner of the 1997 Gerald Lampert Award), green girl dreams Mountains (winner of the Writer’s Guild of Alberta’s 2001 Stephan G. Stephansson Award), That Tongued Belonging (winner of the 2007 McNally Robinson Aboriginal Poetry Book of the Year and Aboriginal Book of the Year Award) and The Pemmican Eaters (published in 2015 by ECW Press). Marilyn has been Writer-in-Residence at the Edmonton Public Library and in numerous universities across Canada. In addition, she has been faculty at the Banff Centre for the Arts’ Writing with Style and Wired Writing programs, as well as an advisor and mentor in their Indigenous Writers’ Program. She serves as a board member on The Public Lending Rights Commission of Canada, and freelances for a living.
Anita Lahey's poems have appeared in the Malahat Review, the Antigonish Review, Prairie Fire, This Magazine, in Ottawa buses as part of the Transpoetry competition, and in The New Canon: An Anthology of Canadian Poetry. She has won the Great Blue Heron Poetry Contest, Ralph Gustafson Prize for Best Poem, and first prize for poetry in Pagitica's annual literary competition. Lahey is the editor of Arc: Canada's Poetry Magazine and lives in Montreal.
Gabeba Baderoon is a poet and scholar and the author of the poetry collections, The Dream in the Next Body and A Hundred Silences. She received the DaimlerChrysler Award for South African Poetry and teaches Women's Studies and African Studies at Pennsylvania State University.
Kate Clanchy's three collections Slattern, Samarkand, and Newborn, have recently been gathered into a Selected Poems, published by Picador. She has won the Writer's Guild Award, The VS Prichett Prize, and the BBC National Short Story Award for her prose. Her novel, Meeting the English, was shortlisted for the Costa Prize in 2013.
Carolyn Forché is a poet, translator and essayist, and editor of two best-selling poetry anthologies, Against Forgetting and Poetry of Witness: The Tradition in English: 1500-2001 (co-edited with Duncan Wu). Her poetry books include Gathering the Tribes, The Country Between Us, The Angel of History and Blue Hour. Her work has been translated into more than twenty languages. She is a Professor of English at Georgetown University, where she also directs The Lannan Center for Poetics and Social Practice.
Amanda Jernigan is the author of two books of poetry, Groundwork (2011) and All the Daylight Hours (2013). The first was shortlisted for the League of Canadian Poets' Pat Lowther Award and included in the National Public Radio's list of best books of the year; the second was named a best book of the year in the National Post. She is the editor of The Essential Richard Outram (2011) and author of a monograph on the poetry of Peter Sanger.
Praise for Best Canadian Poetry 2020
“A radical and wholly revelatory re-imagining of the country’s poetry canon ... The anthology compiled by Dumont is undeniably political and deeply philosophical, but never at the expense of prosody ... Best Canadian Poetry 2020 is an outstanding record of diverse voices and lived experiences reflected in Canadian poetry, and it is one that I will undoubtedly return to in the years to come.”—Prairie Fire
Praise for the Best Canadian Poetry Series
“[These] books are must-haves for libraries, schools, and intellectually well-intentioned bedside nightstands across the country.”—Quill & Quire
“The wide range of writers, forms and themes represented here make it a great jumping-off point for readers who might be interested in Canadian poetry but are unsure about where to start.”—Globe and Mail
“Buy it, or borrow it, but do read it.”—Arc Poetry Magazine
“A magnet, I think, for the many people who would like to know contemporary poetry.”—A.F. Moritz, Griffin Poetry Prize winner
“An eclectic and diverse collection of Canadian poetry . . . a wonderful addition to anyone’s bookshelf.”—Toronto Quarterly
Other titles by Marilyn Dumont
Other titles by Anita Lahey
While Supplies Last
Best Canadian Poetry 2023
Best Canadian Poetry 2021
Last Goldfish, The
A True Tale of Friendship
Best Canadian Poetry 2019
The Best of the Best Canadian Poetry in English
The Tenth Anniversary Edition
The Best Canadian Poetry in English 2016
The Best Canadian Poetry in English 2015
The Mystery Shopping Cart:
A collection of essays, reviews, and interviews that offer insight into contemporary Canadian poetry and culture