Five (more) must-read books of poetry

In honour of National Poetry Month, we had earlier put the spotlight on five Canadian poetry collections that came out in the past year and deserved a second look. We thought it was only fitting to also give a shout-out to some outstanding work that's brand new or forthcoming.

Check out our five fresh picks from the spring lists below.

Is there a new book of poetry on your must-read list, or an upcoming release that you're eagerly awaiting? Let us know in the comments section below.

Red Doc> by Anne Carson


This is a follow-up to Autobiography of Red, Anne Carson's radical retelling of Greek mythology in which the hero Herakles is a charismatic bad boy, and his adversary, the red-winged monster Geryon, is a gay teenager who falls for him. Red Doc> is yet another metamorphosis of their story: G, wings intact, is now the keeper of a herd of musk ox and Herakles is an army veteran named Sad (short for Sad But Great). Their adventures include a road trip across an icy northern plain scourged by extreme weather and a stay at a psychiatric facility run by a doctor who sees himself as a "minotaur who swallows/other people's labyrinths." Told in fragments of prose, poetry and dramatic dialogue, Red Doc>is by turns funny, profound and touching -- and unlike anything else in print. In Carson's words, "Get used/ to this. Other ways to/navigate the world."

Hooking by Mary Dalton

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Here's a nifty concept, carried out with flair. Hooking is a collection of centos -- poems that are constructed entirely with lines from other poets, as a form of tribute. (In a recent interview, Mary Dalton described the cento as "a little anthology.") She plucks lines from a wide inventory of poets, ranging from Leonard Cohen to Emily Dickinson. But the resulting stitched-together creations have a coherence, music and evocative power all their own. "The management/ one by one stumble from their cages,/but without sound./ The soul dwindles sometimes to an ant," she writes in Invitation Cards. Dalton scrupulously catalogues her sources, so aside from enjoying her lively compositions, readers can make a game of trying to recall (or guess) who wrote the original lines.

For as Far as the Eye Can See by Robert Melançon


Here's an opportunity to welcome a leading Quebec poet's work in English translation. This is an adept translation (by Judith Cowan) of Robert Melançon's Le paradis des apparences, which was published in French in 2004. In a series of 144 "light sonnets" (12 lines, rather than the standard 14), the poet's meditative eye roams over his urban surroundings, taking note of the "tiny happenings" as the seasons change or as day shifts into night. The cumulative effect of these yrics is to remind us how fleeting -- and precious -- life's rhythms and sensations are: "I have built up a monument as fragile as the grass, / as unstable as the daylight, as fleeting as the air, and/as fluid as the rain we see running in the streets."

1996 by Sara Peters

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"You should know I'm embellishing," Sara Peters writes in one poem. Let's hope she's levelling with us there, for this is an edgy, unsettling collection focused mostly on the transgressive: obsessive love, violence and the innate cruelty that stirs "like a sleepless shark" within families and even in children. Childhood is no haven of safety and innocence, and growing up seems fraught with danger. In one poem, two young sisters ransack their mother's bedroom and play havoc with its "powder and silk," its perfume and sequins: womanhood, in the poem's vivid rendering, holds both dread and fascination. Peters' language throughout is spare but sparkles with clarity -- not to mention steely nerve.

Brilliant Falls by John Terpstra

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Terpstra's anecdotal poems have the affable ease of a heart-to-heart conversation with a close friend about anything from the infirmities of age to a story about teaching a teenage daughter to drive, and the close call that's a reminder of "the fact of our fragile enormity upon the landscape." Some of the most poignant poems are elegies for his parents. In Emptying the House, he describes getting together with his siblings to "clear out, clean, box and save, divvy/give away or dispose of" his mother's household items. As much as it admits grief, this is far from a lugubrious read. Terpstra also has a whimsical streak that shows up in poems like Wheels, in which he describes being tail-gated by none other than the Queen, "in a classic '53 pickup, souped-up, / with a hood-scoop,/ itching to pass."

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