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Desperately Seeking Susans
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Desperately Seeking Susans

By 49thShelf
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tagged: susans, poetry
It's poetry month, and we want to highlight one of the most niche and interesting poetry anthologies of recent years—a collection of poems by people called Susan (or Sue, or Suzanne, etc.). Because Canada has a wealth of talented Susans, Sarah Yi-Mei Tsiang brought them together in one stunning collection.
Desperately Seeking Susans

Desperately Seeking Susans

tagged : canadian

Though many anthologies purport to establish a new canon, Desperately Seeking Susans simply luxuriates in the ridiculous surfeit of talent we can find in not only Canadian poets, not only female Canadian poets, but female Canadian poets named Susan. Included in the anthology are works by: Sue Goyette, Susan Gillis, Susan Elmslie, Susan Telfer, Susan McMaster, Susan Andrews Grace, Susan Holbrook, Sue Stewart, Susan Glickman, Sue Chenette, Susan Musgrave, Susan Briscoe, Sue Macleod, Sioux Browning …

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Museum of Kindness

Museum of Kindness

also available: eBook

A meditative and piercing collection that explores traumas both ordinary and out of the ordinary.


Museum of Kindness, Montreal poet Susan Elmslie's searching second collection of poetry, is a book that bravely examines "genres" familiar and hard to fathom: the school shooting, PTSD, raising a child who has a disability. It is a collection about thresholds big and small. In poems grounded in the domestic and in workaday life, poems burnished by silence and the weight of the unspoken, poems by …

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That Singing You Hear at the Edges

That Singing You Hear at the Edges

tagged : canadian

This is a collection in which the unexpected is commonplace: "the" and "an" attend a 12-step group for co-dependents; the human tongue is exposed as "old amphibian"; and The Angel of You Made this Mess, Lie Down rises from tangled bedsheets. MacLeod works intimately, intricately, with the power of nuance, of detail. The dividing walls of time and place remain intact but approach transparency because of what turns visible — and audible — when we become still enough to hear the singing at the …

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The God of Pockets

The God of Pockets smiles on children. On their thumb-polished chestnuts. And what She, in her benevolence, sees as their innocent lint. She sees the lucky penny drop, knows the hunger of keys. Knows what the landlord has tallied on his calculator. Knows the man who sleeps outside the library. In particular, the flattened pack of smokes against his chest. She's held the knife that carved the crooked heart into the tree trunk. The referee's whistle. The mickey of gin. The wallet, and the picture in the wallet, and the smile in the picture. The finally unbearable weight of a gun in its holster. Weight of a secret, held in. She's the god of tide pools. Of harmonicas. Marsupials. A mother bounding forty miles an hour through the flatlands, joey leaning out over the edge. She knows the way to a ten-dollar bill tucked in last winter's coat on a flat-broke day in spring—like one more thing that time's forgotten. And on bright days when the swing sets and the iron rails of the monkey bars throw shadows, tall as office towers spreading to the outback, the God of Pockets speaks to children. Run, She says. Take what you can.


To a friend with her daughter, washing dishes

We speak of old age, and put it away again: thought on a string. I sip your good, strong coffee while we joke about our forties as a dress rehearsal. Curtain time ahead! We scare ourselves like kids at movies. How we do exaggerate, the way I do now, convinced that Lynne’s movements are smoother, more supple than yours as you work together at the kitchen sink. And when did her hair become thicker? more auburn? I watch her shoulder blades—a pair of wings could sprout there. And she’s the one best able now to reach the highest shelf. There’s a shift taking place, this is just the beginning, as if something’s draining out of us and into them. Remember how big we were once? We were giants of women. With young daughters riding the curves of our hips, we’d glide through our rooms collecting Mommy’s keys, and Mommy’s wallet. We were Olive Oyl. We were Popeye, too.


A shaft of light is falling through your window now and spreads to every surface. There are no clear dilineations, not like in the swimming lessons when the girls were small. The comfort of badges, of lanes. And no bigger miracles, maybe, than this: that we’re talking in the kitchen, still, and our girls nearly grown. And there’ll be no well-marked corridor to old from not old yet—only gradations of light, of heat touching and leaving the skin. But what do I know? sitting here with my coffee where I can still play with an image like this one: that we’re all enrolled in the same dusty classroom, an old-fashioned classroom, early afternoon, lingering odor of paperbag lunches from home, and they’re writing on the blackboard with their backs to us, our large and shining children, and the chalk they’re using used to be our bones.

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What We Carry

What We Carry

also available: Paperback
tagged : canadian

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 …

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Origami Dove

Origami Dove

tagged : canadian

The first collection of new poems in more than a decade from one of Canada's most vibrant and original writers.

With her first major collection in ten years, Susan Musgrave displays a range of form and expression that may surprise even her most faithful readers. The quiet, lapidary elegies of “Obituary of Light” are set against the furious mischief of “Random Acts of Poetry,” where the lines move with the inventive energy of a natural storyteller, while “Heroines” wrests a harsh and …

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Another Valentine’s Day behind bars
and I bring you light from the stars
that you might find your way back to us
out of darkness. I bring you memories
of me – naked, happy, nine months’ pregnant
tasting applesauce in the kitchen.

I bring you the wind, the way
our house creaked as you rocked
our newborn daughter who couldn’t sleep.

I bring a handful of rain
that you may remember the sound of it,
and the smell of the earth
when you turn it in your hands.
I don’t know why our life took
the turn it did, but now the smell
of earth reminds you – the magnolia
tree you planted the day
our daughter was born: did it live?

I bring you tears, the ones you wept
mixed with the milky scent of those I kept
locked up in me as we sang our daughter
to sleep those first merciful years –
if I could I would give you wings
to carry you up to the sky.
When I kiss your eyes, your sudden cry
startles the magnolia to a deeper white.

smelled of Madagascar vanilla.
After touching you for the last time
I scrubbed the scent from my skin – I would try
to remember later what the water felt like
on my hands but it was like trying to remember
thirst when you are drowning. They say love
doesn’t take much, you just have to be there
when it comes around. I’d been there
from the beginning, I’ve been here all along.

I believed in everything: the hope
in you, your brokenness, the way
you arranged cut flowers on a tray
beside my blue- and- white teacup, the cracked
cup I’d told you brought me luck, the note
you wrote, These flowers are a little ragged
– like your husband. The day you died

of an overdose in Vancouver
I found a moonshell in the forest, far
from the sea; when I picked it up
and pressed it to my ear I could hear you
taking the last breath you had the sad luck

to breathe. Our daughter cupped her hands
over her ears, as if she could stop death
from entering the life she had believed in
up until now. Childhood as she had known it
was over: the slap
of the breakers, the wind bruising the sea
tells her she is no longer safe in this world –
it’s you she needs. I see you pulling away
after shooting up in the car while we
stood crying on the road, begging
you to come home. The vast sky
does not stop wild clouds
from flying. This boundless grieving,
for whom is it carried on?

Nothing out of the ordinary, only
a doe and her fawn nudging
the hard yellow apple
you left on the grass, a fist- sized
Golden Delicious, the kind
that makes your mouth bleed
when you bite into it. The doe
raises her head when you step out
onto the deck to smoke your last
cigarette of the evening. Nothing
out of the ordinary, only the same
forgivable habit. I say, nothing
when you ask what’s the matter
later, and then I start weeping
I can’t help it I can’t

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tagged : canadian

Penelope waits for Odysseus’s return, so the story goes, but literary tradition tells us little about this act of waiting, an act every bit as epic as her husband’s exploits. In this suite of poems, Sue Goyette steps into the disorienting world of Penelope’s domestic upheaval, a world populated by a swarm of opportunistic suitors, a tempestuous teenage son, a goddess and sundry sentient objects and talking creatures. Written with a wit and a penchant for magic realism reminiscent of both O …

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Throaty Wipes

Throaty Wipes

also available: Paperback

In 1934, Gertrude Stein asked 'What is poetry and if you know what poetry is what is prose.' Throaty Wipes answers this question and many more! How does broadband work? Does 'chuffed' mean pleased or displeased? What if the generations of Adam had mothers? Through her signature fusion of formal innovation and lyricism, Holbrook delivers what we've been waiting for.

'Here is language that has a joyous physicality, reminding usthat language and, therefore, poetry is first and foremost a physical ac …

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Paramita, Little Black

Paramita, Little Black

also available: eBook
tagged :

In her first collection of poems, Suzanne Robertson meditates on the nature of intimacy; the connective tissue that binds stranger to stranger, human to animal, soul to landscape, heart to mind. Inspired by the Buddhist paramitas — actions that spark a spiritual sojourn, the poems attempt to both transcend and stay grounded in a conventional universe. Follow the humourous, pedestrian plight of a secretary/writer grappling with her noonday demon, her love affair with Little Black, and the metam …

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