22 Canadian poetry books to read to celebrate National Poetry Month
April is National Poetry Month! Celebrate by reading some great Canadian poetry.
For It Is a Pleasure and a Surprise to Breathe brings together new and old work from acclaimed poet Gary Barwin. An inventive writer, Barwin showcases his range, playfulness and originality from the course of his 35-year career in this new book.
In NDN Coping Mechanisms, Billy-Ray Belcourt uses poetry, prose and textual art to explore how Indigenous and queer communities and identities are left out of mainstream media. The work has two parts — the first explores everyday life and the second explores influential texts such as Treaty 8.
Belcourt is a writer and academic from the Driftpile Cree Nation. He won the Griffin Poetry Prize for his first poetry collection, This Wound is a World. CBC Books named Belcourt a writer to watch in 2018.
The Gospel of Breaking draws on Jillian Christmas's politics, family history and queer lineage, telling stories of love lost, friendship and community.
Christmas is an educator, activist and community organizer who focuses on increasing anti-oppression initiatives in spoken word. She is the former Artistic Director of Vancouver's Verses Festival of Words.
The House the Spirit Builds is a collection of poetry inspired by nature from acclaimed poet Lorna Crozier. Crozier was inspired by the Frontenac Arch biosphere reserve in Southeastern Ontario, one of 18 biosphere reserves in Canada. Crozier's poems in this gift-book style collection are accompanied by photos by Peter Coffman and Diane Laundy.
Crozier is a Governor General's Literary Award-winning poet who has written more than 15 books.
In her second poetry collection, My Art Is Killing Me, Amber Dawn contemplates the ways in which artists can suffer at the hands of their work. The poems offer insight into her own success as a sex-worker-turned-writer and explore what it means when one's trauma is directly related to their art.
Amber Dawn is a Vancouver-based writer and editor. She won the Writers' Trust of Canada's Dayne Ogilvie Prize for LGBTQ Emerging Writers in 2012. Her debut novel, Sub Rosa, won a Lambda Literary Award and 2013 memoir How Poetry Saved My Life won the Vancouver Book Award. She is also the author of the novel Sodom Road Exit and the poetry collection Where the Words End and My Body Begins.
All I Have Learned Is Where I Have Been draws on Joe Fiorito's nearly two decades of experience as a newspaper columnist covering daily life in Toronto. Examining addiction, incarceration, homelessness and more, this collection is filled with harsh realities and exacting details.
Fiorito is the author of eight books. He has won the Brassani Prize for Short Fiction in 2000 and the City of Toronto Book Award in 2003. City Poems, his first book of poetry, was published in 2018.
Chantal Gibson's How She Read is a collection of genre-blurring poems about the representation of black women in Canada. The Vancouver-based Gibson has East Coast roots and she brings a holistic, decolonized approach to challenging imperialist ideas by way of a close look at Canadian literature, history, art, media and pop culture.
In Not One of These Poems Is About You, Teva Harrison ponders what it means to live with metastatic breast cancer. From preparing to lose her husband to how the disease has influenced her identity, Harrison's poems explore life, love and death with striking honesty.
Harrison was an award-winning cartoonist known for her poignant comics about living with an incurable illness. Her 2016 graphic novel In-Between Days won the Kobo Emerging Writer Prize for Non-Fiction and was a finalist for the Governor General's Literary Award for nonfiction. She died on April 27, 2019 at the age of 42.
Heft is a conceptual look at rupture and resilience in today's world. The poems look at the nature of illness, pain and sexuality. Heft casts its lens on normal female sexual experience and the notion of home in light of chronic pain and suspected autoimmune illness on a personal level.
Kaie Kellough plays with geography and self-determination in Magnetic Equator, his third poetry collection. Drifting between South and North America, Kellough digs into ancestral belonging, exploring the Canadian Prairies, Georgetown, Guyana, the Amazon rainforest and the Atlantic Ocean. It looks at the nature of language and dialect in the works of Caribbean and Canadian writers, seeking origin, identity and understanding.
Kellough is a Montreal-based artist and poet. He is also the author of the novel Accordéon, which was a finalist for the Amazon Canada First Novel Award.
In 2020, celebrated Indigenous writer Thomas King will turn 77 years old. His first poetry collection, 77 Fragments of a Familiar Ruin, collects 77 poems that lament what we have lost, lecture us for what we have allowed and looks at what we might still be able to save.
In Sonnet's Shakespeare, Sonnet L'Abbé takes the work of William Shakespeare and inserts herself — a mixed race South Asian and black Canadian poet. The end result is 154 sonnets that L'Abbé has dismantled letter by letter and rearranged to analyze Shakespeare's influential voice — and how we can make space for others.
L'Abbé is based in British Columbia. She won the bpNichol Chapbook Award in 2017 for Anima Canadensis.
The poems in Mad Long Emotion look at the nature of love and loving for humans, flora and fauna alike. Mad Long Emotion creatively gazes at the interplay between species and the host of universal connections within the natural world.
Ladouceur's previous poetry collection, Otter, won the Gerald Lampert Memorial Award for best debut collection. In 2018, he won the Dayne Ogilvie Prize for LGBTQ emerging writers. CBC Books named Ladouceur a writer to watch in 2019.
In this collection, Nancy Lee confronts how power dynamics and socially ingrained violence continues to inform what it means to be female. What Hurts Going Down is an exploration of girlhood in the pre and post #MeToo eras.
Lee's first book, Dead Girls, won the 2003 VanCity Book Prize for best book pertaining to women's issues. She is also the author of the novel The Age.
The Dyzgraphxst is set against the backdrop of contemporary capitalist fascism, nationalism and the climate disaster, where Jejune, the central figure, grapples with understanding their existence and identity.
Canisia Lubrin is a writer, editor and teacher. Her debut poetry collection Voodoo Hypothesis was longlisted for the Gerald Lambert Award, the Pat Lowther Award and was a finalist for the Raymond Souster Award.
Field Notes for the Self is a series that takes inspiration from the poetic structuring of Patrick Lane, John Thompson and Charles Wright, but their closest cousins may be Arvo Pärt's. This collection deals with the idea of liberation from personal and inherited trauma and memories of violence inflicted on Lundy's Indigenous ancestors which continue to haunt him. Similar to Randy Lundy's past works, this collection is rooted in observations of the natural world.
Lundy is a Saskatchewan-based short story writer and award-winning poet. He has published three previous books, Under the Night Sun, Gift of the Hawk and Blackbird Song, which won the Saskatchewan Arts Board Poetry Award in 2019.
Hope Matters, a collection of poetry from award-winning author Lee Maracle and her daughters Columpa Bobb and Tania Carter, looks at the journey of Indigenous people from colonial beginnings to reconciliation. The collaborative effort documents the personal mother-daughter connection and also the shared song of hope and reconciliation from all Indigenous communities and perspectives.
Maracle is one of Canada's most acclaimed writers. Her books include Bobbi Lee: Indian Rebel, I Am Woman, My Conversations with Canadians and Ravensong. Bobb is a photographer, actor, playwright and poet. Carter is an actor, playwright and poet.
As Far As You Know is divided into six sections, each dealing with a different concept, from terrorism to friendship. This collection dives deep into the poet's mind revealing his ongoing obsessions with beauty, impermanence, social conscience, responsibility and love.
A. F. Moritz is the author of 20 poetry collections. He has won the Griffin Poetry Prize, the Bess Hokin Prize and an award in literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He is currently the sixth poet laureate of the City of Toronto.
In Re-Origin of Species, Alessandra Naccarato explores her own family history: one that moves from southern Italy to Northern Ontario and includes poverty and addiction. Through it, she weaves an exploration of the natural world and our relationship to it.
Washes, Prays follows Coocoo, a young immigrant woman living in Toronto who begins to question her faith after falling in love with Muhammad, a married father of two. Coocoo wonders how she can reconcile her faith with her actions and whether her relationship with Muhammad can really last.
Noor Naga is a Canadian-Egyptian writer. She won the 2017 Bronwen Wallace Award for her poem The Mistress and the Ping. She also won the Disquiet Fiction Prize in 2019. Her debut novel American Girl and Boy from Shobrakheit is forthcoming fall 2021.
Burning Province, Michael Prior's second collection, is set amid the wildfires that moved through British Columbia from 2015 to 2017. The poems deal with generational trauma, grief, love and inheritance, while moving between physical and psychological landscapes.
Prior is writer, poet and teacher. His poems have appeared in many publications across North America and the U.K., including The Next Wave: An Anthology of 21st Century Canadian Poetry. Prior's poetry explores his Japanese-Canadian identity and the impacts of the Japanese internment upon his family legacy.
These are not the potatoes of my youth is a look at growing up on the East Coast and heading west on a nomadic journey. Speckled with Maritime vernacular, Walsh's poems delve into the nature of queer identity, family structure and self-determination using elements of humour, surprise and frankness.