CBC Poetry Prize 2017

Humble The Poet: 5 books that changed my life

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Humble The Poet won Canada Reads 2017 with his defense of Fifteen Dogs by André Alexis.


Canada Reads champion Humble The Poet will serve as juror for the 2017 CBC Poetry Prize alongside poets Gary Barwin and Rosanna Deerchild

Submissions are open until May 31, so send your your original, unpublished poetry for a chance to win $6,000, have your work published in in Air Canada enRoute magazine and attend 10-day writing residency at Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity.

Below, Humble The Poet shares some of the books that have shaped his life.


Thumbnail image for whitespace-620.jpg Sideways Stories from Wayside School by Louis Sachar

The timeless books he read to his students

As a kid, I remember a teacher reading Sideways Stories from Wayside School by Louis Sachar. I loved the whole premise of the story, which was that instead of building a 30-classroom school horizontally, they ended up building it vertically, so it became 30 floors. The books were these funny stories about the class on the 30th floor. When I became a school teacher, I took the same books and read them to my students. I think they were published in the early 1970s, but they hadn't lost their relevance. They're just so funny and wonderful.

Thumbnail image for whitespace-620.jpg God's Debris by Scott Adams

The thought-provoking book that made him love reading

Scott Adams is the creator of the Dilbert comics. I think God's Debris was his first non-comedic book. He published it probably in the early 2000s and it's extremely relevant now. The book predicts that instead of the God versus science debate, people are going to find a happy medium where people are able to consolidate their beliefs of God or spirituality alongside science. It's a very short read. It's super well-written and definitely ahead of its time. It taught me to be little bit more cerebral and to think a little more with my head rather than my heart.

Thumbnail image for whitespace-620.jpg The Autobiography of Malcolm X as told by Alex Haley

The book that left a mark on his soul

Somebody I really looked up to told me that The Autobiography of Malcolm X was the most important book they'd ever read. And when I read it, the book tattooed itself onto my soul. Learning where he came from, what he went through and learning about what the environment was really like back then. Seeing his transformation from being completely illiterate to teaching himself how to read so he could write letters. Seeing the purity and simplicity of his methods. It was definitely an important read of being non-passive with your convictions. Fight for what you believe in. You can't always be passive all the time. It was super inspiring.

Thumbnail image for whitespace-620.jpg A Long Way Gone by Ishmael Beah

The book he stayed up all night reading

A Long Way Gone is the autobiography of Ishmael Beah, who was a child soldier. I remember that book had me turning pages, staying up late at night to find out what was going to happen next. It was such a heart-wrenching journey about what he experienced as a child and how he was able to survive. Now he lives in the U.S. and in the book he talks about how his experiences have impacted his ability to live now.

Thumbnail image for whitespace-620.jpg The 50th Law by 50 Cent and Robert Greene

The book that got him through a hard time

The 50th Law by 50 Cent and Robert Greene. Robert Greene is kind of a modern-day alchemist in the sense that he writes about turning shit into sugar. Every opportunity can be made into something wonderful. There are a lot of extreme anecdotes from 50 Cent's experience, whether it was getting shot or robbed. The book shows how he was able to take these situations, turn them on their heads and come out benefiting from them. Sometimes, if we just take a step back and take a deep breath, we can find or create a silver lining in any situation.

I had a bad experience with a business partner. They turned out to be much more malicious and shady than I had realized. Dealing with that betrayal really broke my heart and put me in a very difficult position financially. I wasn't able to focus on anything else. Reading that book showed me that a) your story isn't unique. This happens to people all the time and b) you are in a position right now where you can turn this around for your benefit. You always have that power.

Humble The Poet's comments have been edited and condensed.

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