Books

29 works of Canadian poetry to watch for in spring 2020

Here is the Canadian poetry we can't wait to read this year.

The CBC Books spring preview is here! Here are 29 works of Canadian poetry coming out in the first half of 2020.

Not One of These Poems Is About You by Teva Harrison

Not One of These Poems Is About You is an illustrated poetry collection by Teva Harrison. (House of Anansi Press, David Leonard)

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.

When you can read it: Not One of These Poems Is About You is available now

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.

Amber Dawn talks to Shelagh Rogers about her latest book Sodom Road Exit. 11:52

Cult Life by Kyeren Regehr

Cult Life is a book by Kyeren Regehr. (Pedlar Press, John Threlfall)

Cult Life follows the three years Kyeren Regehr spent examining her spirituality and quest for love. During this time, Regehr was a young single mother living inside an ashram seeking "awakening." 

When you can read it: Cult Life is available now

Regehr's writing can be found in journals and anthologies in Canada, the United States and Australia. She was longlisted for the 2019 CBC Poetry Prize for her piece Acceptance is a kind of dying.

My Art Is Killing Me by Amber Dawn

My Art is Killing Me is a book of poetry by Amber Dawn. (Arsenal Pulp Press)

In her second poetry collection, My Art Is Killing MeAmber 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. 

When you can read it: My Art Is Killing Me is available now

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.

Canisia Lubrin on her acclaimed debut collection of poetry, Voodoo Hypothesis, and how growing up on the island of St. Lucia fired her imagination. 14:06

The Gospel of Breaking by Jillian Christmas

The Gospel of Breaking is a book of poetry by Jillian Christmas. (@Haiklue/Twitter.com, Arsenal Pulp Press)

The Gospel of Breaking draws on Jillian Christmas's politics, family history and queer lineage, telling stories of love lost, friendship and community. 

When you can read it: March 1, 2020

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.

Everyone at This Party by Tanja Bartel

Everyone at This Party is Tanja Bartel’s first poetry collection. (Stasia Garraway, Goose Lane)

Tanja Bartel's poetry debut, Everyone at This Partyis set in the Vancouver suburbs and highlights the lives of individuals whose day-to-day is anything but peaceful. The poems explore themes of regret, guilt and human empathy.

When you can read it: March 10, 2020

Bartel holds an MFA from the University of British Columbia. Her poetry and nonfiction have appeared in numerous publications including Geist, The Antigonish Review and the American Journal of Medical Genetics. She lives in Pitt Meadows, B.C.

The Dyzgraphxst by Canisia Lubrin

The Dyzgraphxst is a poetry book by Canisia Lubrin. (Anna Keenan, McClelland & Stewart)

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.

When you can read it: March 24, 2020

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.

Poet Randy Lundy talks to Shelagh Rogers about his book of poetry, Blackbird Song. 13:41

Burning Province by Michael Prior

Burning Province is Michael Prior's second poetry collection. (Rocio Anica, McClelland & Stewart)

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.

When you can read it: March 24, 2020

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. 

Washes, Prays by Noor Naga

Washes, Prays is a book by Noor Naga. (McClelland & Stewart)

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. 

When you can read it: March 24, 2020

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.

What Hurts Going Down by Nancy Lee

What Hurts Going Down is a poetry collection by Nancy Lee. (McClelland & Stewart, Nancy Lee)

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.

When you can read it: March 24, 2020

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.

Field Notes for the Self by Randy Lundy

Field Notes for the Self is a book of poetry by Randy Lundy. (University of Regina Press)

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. 

When you can read it: March 28, 2020

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.

We find out how Gwen Benaway wrote her poetry collection "Passage." 2:58

The Outer Wards by Sadiqa de Meijer

The Outer Wards is a poetry book by Sadiqa de Meijer. (Signal Editions)

Sadiqa de Meijer's second poetry collection, The Outer Wards, is meditation on motherhood, the love and duties that come with it, as well as the powerlessness that results from forces that disrupt this role. 

When you can read it: April 1, 2020

De Meijer debuted with her 2013 poetry collection Leaving Howe Island. She has also written a book of essays entitled alfabet/alphabet set for release in 2020. Born in Amsterdam, In 2012, she won the CBC Poetry Prize for Great Aunt Unmarried.

Glass Float by Jane Munro

Glass Float is a book by Jane Munro. (Brick Books)

In Glass Float, Jane Munro looks to how a dedication to yoga can help deepen awareness. The poems explore the connections between self and others, mind and body, physical and metaphysical and more.

When you can read it: April 1, 2020

Munro is the author of six poetry collections, including Point No Point, Active Pass and Blue Sonoma, which won the 2015 Griffin Poetry Prize. 

Bones by Tyler Pennock

Bones is a book by Tyler Pennock. (Brick Books)

Tyler Pennock's debut poetry collection, Bones, is about the ways we process the traumas of our past, and about how often these experiences eliminate moments of softness and gentleness. The poems in this collection centre on a young two-spirit Indigenous man's journey through darkness and trauma towards strength and awareness.

When you can read it: April 1, 2020

Pennock is a Toronto-based writer, who has worked as a community worker and educator for over a decade. He was adopted from a Cree and Métis family in the Slave Lake region of Alberta. He has a creative writing MFA from the University of Guelph.

Accretion by Irfan Ali

Accretion is a book by Irfan Ali. (Brick Books)

Irfan Ali's debut poetry collection, Accretion, is set in Toronto against the backdrop of a 12th century Persian love story by Nizami Ganjavi. The story of Layla and Majnun has been retold thousands of times, in thousands of different ways, throughout literature. This rendition, set to a soundtrack of modern hip-hop, looks at the struggle of an immigrant family to instill an old faith under new conditions.

When you can read it: April 1, 2020

Ali is a Toronto-based writer whose work has appeared in anthologies such as Underground Inspirations and West of What We Know, as well as the online zine Youth Writers from the Edge. He was finalist for the 2015 RBC Bronwen Wallace Award for Emerging Writers.

Lullabies in the Real World by Meredith Quartermain

Lullabies in the Real World is a book by Meredith Quartermain. (NeWest Press)

In Lullabies in the Real World, the poems chronicle a train journey from the West Coast to the East Coast of Canada using a mosaic of voices and histories from various regions. While imagining a time before or without colonization, the collection also challenges colonizing literatures such as the Odyssey, along with various British and U.S. voices that make up the literary canon.

When you can read it: April 1, 2020

Meredith Quartermain's books include Vancouver Walking, winner of the 2006 Dorothy Livesay Poetry Prize, Nightmaker, a finalist for the City of Vancouver Book Award, and Recipes from the Red Planet, which was a finalist for the Ethel Wilson Fiction Prize.

OO: Typewriter Poems by Dani Spinosa

Typewriter poems is a book by Dani Spinosa. (Invisible Publishing)

OO: Typewriter Poems is a collection of vispo (visual poetry) glosas — a Spanish poetic form that pays tribute to another poet by incorporating their lines intended to begin to challenge the male-dominated legacy of avant-garde visual poetics. The poems combine analog technology with digital alteration meant to look back, not forward. The poems in OO quote uncited lines from visual poems by some notable figures of visual poetics like bpNichol, John Riddell and Bob Cobbing, as well as many female visual poets such as Cia Rinne, Mirella Bentivoglio, Paula Claire, who remain understudied and under-read.

When you can read it: April 1, 2020

Spinosa is a Toronto-based writer and co-founding editor of Gap Riot Press, a feminist experimental micro-press. She has previously authored four poetry chapbooks entitled Glosas for Tired Eyes, Glosas for Tired Eyes Vol. 2, Chant Uhm and Incessantly.

day/break by Gwen Benaway

day/break is a book of poetry by Gwen Benaway. (Gwen Benaway, Book*hug Press)

Gwen Benaway's fourth collection of work, day/break, explores the everyday poetics of the trans feminine body. The collection offers an intimate portrayal of experiences and understandings of trans life and questions what it means to be a trans woman, both within the text and in the material world. 

When you can read it: April 2, 2020

Benaway is a trans woman of Anishinaabe and Metis descent. Her third poetry collection, Holy Wild, won the 2019 Governor General's Literary Award for poetry, was longlisted for the Pat Lowther Award and shortlisted for the Lambda Literary Award for Trans Poetry and the Trillium Award. She is also the author of collections Ceremonies for the Dead and Passage. Her writing has also appeared in the Globe and Mail, Maclean's and CBC Arts.

A. F. Moritz has won The Griffin Poetry Prize, and he's a three-time nominee for the Governor-General's Award for Poetry. His title these days is Poet Laureate of Toronto. And he does indeed absorb the life and rhythms of the city with a poet's eye for detail, precision and the unexamined weight of the quotidian. A. F. Moritz talks to Michael about writing, loneliness and how our cities and technology are changing us and our society. 39:55

Junebat by John Elizabeth Stintzi

Junebat is a book of poetry by John Elizabeth Stintzi. (House of Anansi Press)

Junebat is set during the year John Elizabeth Stintzi lived in Jersey City coming to terms with their gender identity. The poems deal with depression, love and metamorphosis, allowing the reader to explore the possibilities that exist beyond society's often rigid boundaries.

When you can read it: April 7, 2020

Stintzi is a non-binary writer from northwestern Ontario. They won the 2019 RBC Bronwen Wallace Award for Emerging Writers and the Malhat Review's 2019 Long Poem Prize. Stintzi is also the author of two poetry chapbooks and the novel Vanishing Monuments.

As Far As You Know by A. F. Moritz

As Far As You Know is a poetry collection by A. F. Moritz. (A. F. Moritz, House of Anansi Press)

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.

When you can read it: April 7, 2020

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. 

Joe Fiorito on his poetry collection "City Poems," which offers "short, sharp" portraits of life on the margins. 2:50

Roguelike by Mathew Henderson

Roguelike is a poetry book by Mathew Henderson. (Kellie Chin, House of Anansi Press)

Roguelike uses video game culture and notions of repetition, escapism and mythology to dissects themes of addiction and family history. The poems explore the human desire to find meaning and connection in life's events. 

When you can read it: April 7, 2020

Mathew Henderson is a poet from Tracadie, Prince Edward Island. His first poetry collection, The Lease, was a finalist for the 2013 Trillium Book Award and the Gerald Lampert Memorial Award.

Spawn by Marie-Andrée Gill, translated by Kristen Renee Miller

Spawn is a book by Marie-Andrée Gill & Kristen Renee Miller. (Sophie Gagnon-Bergeron, Book*Hug, Amber Estes Thieneman)

The poems in Spawn come together to form a braided collection of brief, untitled pieces telling a coming-of-age story set in the Mashteuiatsh Reserve on the shores of Lake Piekuakami (Saint-Jean) in Quebec. The collection questions a narrative can be reclaimed once it has been confiscated and distorted by colonizers.

When you can read it: April 9, 2020

Marie-Andrée Gill combines her Quebec and Ilnu identities through her writing. Her work deals with decolonization and territory while blending kitsch and existentialism. In 2018, Gill won an Indigenous Voices Award. She is also the author of the poetry collections Béante and Chauffer le dehors.

Kristen Renee Miller is a writer and translator currently living in Kentucky. Spawn is the first book she has translated.

Riven by Catherine Owen

Riven is a book by Catherine Owen. (ECW Press)

In Riven, Catherine Owen explores the grief of losing her 29-year-old husband to a drug addiction in 2010. After relocating to an apartment by the Fraser River the year following his death, the river became her focus. The poems depict her morning ritual of walking by or observing the body of water as part of her mourning process. 

When you can read it: April 14, 2020

Owen is the author of numerous collections of poetry including Dear Ghost, Seeing Lessons, Shall: ghazals and The Wrecks of Eden and the short story collection The Day of the Dead.

Nought by Julie Joosten

Nought is a book by Julie Joosten. (Book*Hug, Claire Hansen)

Nought, the second book of poetry by Julie Joosten, explores the intersections of body, identity and love.

When you can read it: April 14, 2020

Joosten is the author of the poetry collection entitled Light Light, which was a finalist for the Governor General's Literary Award for Poetry, the Gerald Lampert Memorial Award and the Goldie Award. In 2011, she won the Malahat Review Long Poem Contest.

All I Have Learned Is Where I Have Been by Joe Fiorito

All I Have Learned Is Where I Have been is a book by Joe Fiorito. (Vehicule Press, Richard Lautens)

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. 

When you can read it: April 15, 2020

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. 

Beloved Revolutionary Sweetheart by Beatriz Hausner

Beloved Revolutionary Sweetheart is a poetry collection by Beatriz Hausner. (Book*hug Press/Clive S. Sewell)

The poems in Beloved Revolutionary Sweetheart explore the many forms of love, from romance to sex, and are inspired by the poets of Provence and Italy. Beatriz Hausner reaches back into history to contemplate one of humanity's oldest pleasures.   

When you can read it: April 16, 2020

Hausner is a poet and translator. Her books have been translated into several languages, including Spanish, French, Dutch and Portuguese. Hausner was President of the Literary Translators' Association of Canada and one of the founders of the Banff Literary Translation Centre. 

Body Count by Kyla Jamieson

Body Count is Kyla Jamieson's first poetry collection. (Denis Gutiérrez-Ogrinc)

Body Count focuses on Kyla Jamieson's experience with a concussion and the resulting aftermath. Through her poems, Jamieson explores physical pain, memory impairment, anxiety and depression in search of new understandings of worth and identity.

When you can read it: April 18, 2020

Jamieson's poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Poetry Is Dead, Room, The Vault, Guts, Peach Mag, The Maynard, Plenitude, The Account and others. In 2019, she was longlisted for the CBC Poetry Prize for If You Are Silent.

Pineapple Express by Evelyn Lau

Pineapple Express is a book by Evelyn Lau. (Anvil Press)

This collection grapples with our understanding of depression, anxiety and mental health — topics not often explored in poetry. Pineapple Express captures the vapidity of depression and the onset of mid-life, from physical and psychological changes to eventually feeling invisible.

When you can read it: April 30, 2020

Evelyn Lau is the author of eight poetry collections. Her memoir Runaway: Diary of a Street Kid, which recounts her time living on the streets of Vancouver, was published when she was 18 years old. She has won the Milton Acorn Award, the Pat Lowther Award and a National Magazine Award.

Cephalopography 2.0 by Rasiqra Revulva

Cephalopography 2.0 is Rasiqra Revulva's debut poetry collection. (Jesse Pajuäär, Wolsak and Wynn)

Cephalopography 2.0 uses traditional and modern poetic forms to explore human identity and experience from the lens of cephalopods. Rasiqra Revulva's poems show how cephalopods and humans are linked in ways beyond our the ecosystems we inhabit. 

When you can read it: May 12, 2020

Revulva is a queer writer, editor and one half of the experimental electronic duo The Databats. She is an editor of the climate crisis anthology Watch Your Head: A Call to Action and has written two chapbooks of poetry.

Radiant Shards by Ruth Panofsky

Radiant Shards: Hoda’s North End Poems by Ruth Panofsky received a Hadassah-Brandeis Institute Research Award. (Inanna Publications)

Radiant Shards traces the journey of Russians immigrants struggling to survive in Winnipeg during the Depression. The poem follows Hoda, a Jewish sex worker in Winnipeg's North End during the first half of the 20th century, as she reflects on her complicated life and her suffering.

When you can read it: May 26, 2020

Ruth Panofsky is a poet and editor. She teaches Canadian Literature and Culture at Ryerson University and is the author of two books about Canada's literary history. She received the Helen and Stan Vine Canadian Jewish Book Award for Laike and Nahum: A Poem in Two Voices.

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