Books·Fall Book Preview

37 Canadian poetry collections to watch for in fall 2020

Here are the works of Canadian poetry we can't wait to read this season.

Here are the works of Canadian poetry we can't wait to read this season.

Saturn Peach by Lily Wang

Saturn Peach is a poetry collection by Lily Wang. (Gordon Hill Press)

In Saturn Peach, Lily Wang explores the strangeness of our relationship to technology. These poems evoke the challenges, connection and disconnection that come from living in a world where our dependency on technology grows every day.

When you can read it: Aug. 1, 2020

Wang is a poet from Toronto. She is the founder and editor of the literary magazine Half a Grapefruit. Saturn Peach is her first poetry collection.

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 the ecosystems we inhabit. 

When you can read it: Aug. 11, 2020

Revulva is a queer writer, editor and 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 poetry chapbooks.

Moving to Climate Change Hours by Ross Belot

Moving to Climate Change Hours is a poetry collection by Ross Belot. (Wolsak & Wynn)

Moving to Climate Change Hours looks at the challenges humanity has created for ourselves through climate change. These poems contemplate our reliance on fossil fuels and imagines the end of the oil and gas industry. The book includes the poem that was shortlisted for the 2016 CBC Poetry Prize, The Edge of Everything.

When you can read it: Aug. 11, 2020

Ross Belot is a poet, photographer, documentary filmmaker and columnist who lives in Hamilton, Ont. He was a finalist for the 2016 CBC Poetry Prize. He is also the author of the poetry collection Swimming In The Dark.

The Hammer of Witches by Kelly Rose Pflug-Back

The Hammer of Witches is a poetry collection by Kelly Rose Pflug-Back. (Caitlin Press)

The Hammer of Witches is a poetry collection that reads like a series of modern fables. It blends ancient folklore and magic with pressing contemporary questions to explore the nature of fear, beauty and reality.

When you can read it: Aug. 21, 2020

Kelly Rose Pflug-Back is a fiction writer and poet from Toronto. The Hammer of Witches is her first book.

Niagara & Government by Phil Hall

Niagara & Government is a poetry collection by Phil Hall. (Pedlar Press)

Niagara & Government is Phil Hall's 17th poetry collection. It is a series of long sequential poems that explore what challenges us and makes us, with stories of poetry, folk art, estranged sisters and more.

When you can read it: Aug. 22, 2020

Hall is a poet from Toronto. His collection Killdeer won the 2011 Governor General's Literary Award for poetry and the 2012 Trillium Book Award. It was also shortlisted for the 2012 Griffin Poetry Prize. His other collections include Trouble Sleeping, An Oak Hunch, The Small Nouns Crying Faith and Notes from Gethsemani.

eat salt | gaze at the ocean by Junie Désil

eat salt | gaze at the ocean is a poetry collection by Junie Désil. (Talonbooks)

eat salt | gaze at the ocean is a poetry collection that uses the motif of the Haitian zombie to explore Black sovereignty and Haitian sovereignty, alongside sharing Junie Désil's own story of growing up in Canada as the daughter of Haitian immigrants.

When you can read it: Sept. 1, 2020

Désil is a poet of Haitian descent who was born in Montreal, raised in Winnipeg and now lives in British Columbia. Her work has appeared in Room and Prism. eat salt | gaze at the ocean is her first book.

Shared Universe by Paul Vermeersch

Shared Universe is a poetry collection by Paul Vermeersch. (ECW Press, CBC)

Shared Universe brings together select poems by Paul Vermeersch from the past 25 years with new works. The poems in this collection are arranged by "prophecy and mythos" and contemplate the past, present and future.

When you can read it: Sept. 1, 2020

Vermeersch is a poet, artist and editor from Toronto. He currently teaches at Sheridan College. His other poetry collections include The Reinvention of the Human Hand and Self-Defence for the Brave and Happy.

And Yet by John Steffler

And Yet is a poetry collection by John Steffler. (McClelland & Stewart, Susan Gillis)

And Yet is a collection of poems that encourages readers to think about our connection to the physical, natural world and asks us to more deeply connect with it. They also reflect on our relationship to technology and how the two — technology and nature — are often at odds in contemporary life.

When you can read it: Sept. 1, 2020

John Steffler is a poet and novelist from Toronto. He was the Canadian parliamentary laureate from 2006 to 2008. His other poetry collections include That Night We Were Ravenous, The Wreckage of Play and The Grey Islands. His novel, The Afterlife of George Cartwright, was shortlisted for the 1992 Governor General's Literary Award for fiction.

Text Messages by Yassin Alsalman

Text Messages is a book by Yassin Alsalman. (Fernwood Publishing)

Yassin "Narcy" Alsalman is a musician and multimedia artist. Text Messages, his first poetry collection, brings together poetry, rap, fiction and illustrations. It is a "survival guide" to our hyper-technological and fast-paced world.

When you can read it: Oct. 10, 2020

Alsalman is an Iraqi Canadian musician, director, writer and actor from Montreal. He performs music under the name "Narcy," and has released several albums. He is also the author of the book Diatribes of a Dying Tribe.

ZOM-FAM by Kama La Mackerel

ZOM-FAM is a book by Kama La Mackerel. (Metonymy Press, lamackerel.net)

In ZOM-FAMKama La Mackerel tells a coming-of-age story of a child growing up in the 1980s and 1990s on the island of Mauritius. This child doesn't conform to a specific gender and searches for a vocabulary and a narrative that includes and understands them. This poetry collection tells a new story of Mauritius's history, one that includes and celebrates the queer and trans stories that helped shape the island's history.

When you can read it: Sept. 10, 2020

La Mackerel is a Mauritian artist, educator, poet and translator from Montreal. CBC Arts named them one of nine artists who were making a difference in Canada in 2016. They have translated several Canadian works from English into French, including I'm Afraid of Men by Vivek Shraya. ZOM-FAM is their first book.

Everything You Hold Dear by Jamie Sharpe

Everything You Hold Dear is a book by Jamie Sharpe. (ECW Press)

Jamie Sharpe's poetry collection Everything You Hold Dear reflects on the years he spent travelling throughout British Columbia and Yukon. The collection blends fact and fiction to create an ode to a once nomadic life and to poetry itself.

When you can read it: Sept. 15, 2020

Sharpe is a poet from British Columbia. His other collections include Animal Husbandry TodayCut-up Apologetic and Dazzle Ships.

Nothing You Can Carry by Susan Alexander

Nothing You Can Carry is a poetry collection by Susan Alexander. (Emily Angus, Thistledown Press)

Nothing You Can Carry is a poetry collection by B.C. poet Susan Alexander that looks at the natural world, our relationship to it and how we have slowly destroyed it through industrialization. It contemplates how we can all move forward during this time of climate crisis. Nothing You Can Carry includes the poem that was longlisted for the 2018 CBC Poetry Prize, Late, Again.

When you can read it: Sept. 15, 2020

Alexander is a poet from British Columbia. Her work has been featured on the bus in Vancouver's Poetry in Transit. She won the 2016 Grain Magazine's poetry prize and the 2015 Vancouver Writers' Festival contest. She was longlisted for the 2018 CBC Poetry Prize.

No Grave for This Place by Judy Quinn, translated by Donald Winkler

No Grave for This Place is a poetry collection by Judy Quinn, translated by Donald Winkler. (Radio-Canada, Signal Editions)

No Grave for This Place is a darkly comic tribute to Auberivière, the Quebec City neighbourhood where poet Judy Quinn grew up. The French edition of No Grave for This Place was a finalist for the Governor General's Literary Award for poetry.

When you can read it: Sept. 15, 2020

Judy Quinn is a poet, writer and editor from Quebec. She has won the Prix littéraires Radio-Canada and the Prix Félix-Antoine-Savard. She has authored four poetry collections.

Donald Winkler is a filmmaker and translator from Montreal. He won the Governor General's Literary Award for French-to-English translation for The Lyric Generation: The Life and Times of the Baby-Boomers by François Ricard, Partita for Glenn Gould by Georges Leroux and The Major Verbs by Pierre Nepveu. Two books translated by him have been finalists for the Scotiabank Giller Prize: A Secret Between Us by Daniel Poliquin in 2007 and Arvida by Samuel Archibald in 2015.

Orrery by Donna Kane

Orrery is a poetry collection by Donna Kane. (Harbour Publishing, Wayne Sawchuk)

Orrery is a poetry collection inspired by Pioneer 10, the American space probed launched in 1972 to study the moons of Jupiter. In 2003, the probe was retired. NASA stopped sending signals to it, and it was left to wander into deep space. Donna Kane uses the probe and its new infinite course to examine materiality, empathy and transformation.

When you can read it: Sept. 19, 2020

Kane is a poet from British Columbia. She has published three poetry collections, the others are called Somewhere, a Fire and Erratic.

Black Matters by Afua Cooper & Wilfried Raussert

Black Matters is a book by Afua Cooper & Wilfried Raussert. (Roseway Publishing)

Poet Afua Cooper and photographer Wilfried Raussert collaborated on Black Matters, which explores the everyday experience of what it's like to be Black in Canada. Each of Raussert's photographs has a companion poem written by Cooper.

When you can read it: Oct. 15, 2020

Cooper is the poet laureate of Halifax. She's also a historian and teacher. She is the author of five books of poetry and two novels, including The Hanging of Angelique.

Raussert is a Canadian photographer, artist and academic who currently teaches in Germany. He has authored or edited more than 20 scholarly books.

TreeTalk by Ariel Gordon

TreeTalk is a book by Ariel Gordon. (Mike Deal, At Bay Press)

In the summer of 2017, Ariel Gordon spent two days on a patio in downtown Winnipeg, writing poetry she hung on a tree. She invited people who passed by to participate in her project. When the two days were over, 234 poems hung from the tree. TreeTalk brings these poems together into a single long poem that questions our relationship to nature and explores what it means to live in a city and in nature at the same time.

When you can read it: Sept. 21, 2020

Gordon is a poet from Winnipeg. She is also the author of the nonfiction book Treed and was a co-editor on the anthology Gush.

Bittersweet by Natasha Ramoutar

Bittersweet is a book by Natasha Ramoutar. (Mawenzi House Publishers, CBC)

Bittersweet is a poetry collection that uses photographs, maps and language to reconstruct the history of Scarborough, Ont., the city where Indo-Guyanese poet Natasha Ramoutar grew up. It explores the themes of identity, story and what gets hidden in the narrative that becomes the historical record.

When you can read it: Sept. 22, 2020

Ramoutar is an Indo-Guyanese writer who lives in Scarborough, Ont. She used to be a producer for CBC Music and currently works at the Festival of Literary Diversity (FOLD). Bittersweet is her first book.

Burning Sugar by Cicely Belle Blain

Burning Sugar is a poetry collection by Cicely Belle Blain. (Arsenal Pulp Press)

Burning Sugar is a poetry collection that explores Black identity, history and the impact of colonization on Black bodies. Burning Sugar illuminates how systems, society and culture are all structured to reinforce racism. But it also explores and celebrates the nuance and joy in life.

When you can read it: Sept. 29, 2020

Cicely Belle Blain is a poet and activist from British Columbia. They founded Black Lives Matter Vancouver. CBC Radio named them one of 150 Black women and non-binary people making change across Canada in 2018. Burning Sugar is their first book.

Render by Sachiko Murakami

Render is a poetry collection by Sachiko Murakami. (Arsenal Pulp Press)

Render is a collection of poems by Toronto poet Sachiko Murakami that explore addiction, recovery and trauma through a series of dreamscapes.

When you can read it: Sept. 29, 2020

Murakami is a poet and editor from Toronto. Her other collections include The Invisibility Exhibit, Rebuild and Get Me Out of Here.

I Will Be Corrupted by Joseph A. Dandurand

I Will Be Corrupted is a book by Joseph A. Dandurand. (Guernica Editions, Vancouver Public Library)

I Will Be Corrupted is a poetry collection that tells the story of a Kwantlen man who has the gift of healing, but is currently a drug addict living in Vancouver's downtown Eastside. It is through poetry that he reclaims his powers, finds hope and changes his life.

When you can read it: Oct. 1, 2020

Joseph A. Dandurand is a poet from the Kwantlen First Nation. His other collections include The Rumour and SH:LAM (The Doctor). He was the Vancouver Public Library's 2019 Indigenous storyteller in residence

I Will Be Corrupted is one of two books by Duandurand on this list. The other is The East Side of It All.

Knot Body by Eli Tareq El Bechelany-Lynch

Knot Body is a book by Eli Tareq El Bechelany-Lynch. (Metatron Press)

Knot Body is a poetry collection by queer mixed race Arab poet Eli Tareq El Bechelany-Lynch that confronts racism, capitalism, ableism, transphobia and fatphobia. It's about the limits we have in and on our bodies and how those limits define how we connect with the world — and how we can break these limits down to remake a more inclusive world.

When you can read it: Oct. 1, 2020

Bechelany-Lynch is a poet from Montreal. Their work has appeared in The Best Canadian Poetry, The Puritan and The New Quarterly. They were longlisted for the 2019 CBC Poetry Prize for Nancy Ajram Made Me Gay.

The Cyborg Anthology by Lindsay B-e

The Cyborg Anthology is a book by Lindsay B-e. (Brick Books)

The Cyborg Anthology is an original poetry collection that contemplates the relationship between humans and technology and art. It imagines a future where humans once lived in harmony with robots and cyborgs, but a disaster destroyed most artificial life. The collection is organized like an anthology, reflecting on cyborg politics, culture and poetry and imagines what the next generation of cyborg poets will create.

When you can read it: Oct. 1, 2020

Lindsay B-e is a writer and filmmaker from Saskatchewan who now lives in Toronto. The Cyborg Anthology is their first book.

Word Problems by Ian Williams

Word Problems is a book by Ian Williams. (Coach House Books, Justin Morris)

Word Problems is the latest poetry collection by Scotiabank Giller Prize-winning writer Ian Williams. The collection uses unusual tools, such as math and grammar to tackle issues facing contemporary society, such as racial inequality, alongside more universal problems, like how people connect to and relate to each other.

When you can read it: Oct. 6, 2020

Williams is a poet, novelist and professor from Brampton, Ont., who is currently teaching at the University of British Columbia. His debut novel Reproduction won the 2019 Scotiabank Giller Prize. He is also the author of the poetry collection Personals, which was a finalist for the 2013 Griffin Poetry Prize.

Swivelmount by Ken Babstock

Swivelmount is a book by Ken Babstock. (Coach House Books, Helen Castor)

Swivelmount is the latest poetry collection by acclaimed poet Ken Babstock. The poems in Swivelmount explore mourning, faith and uncertainty with compassion and dark humour.

When you can read it: Oct. 6, 2020

Babstock is a poet from Newfoundland who now lives in Toronto. His collection Methodist Hatchet won the 2011 Griffin Poetry Prize. His other collections include Mean, Days Into Flatspin and Airstream Land Yacht. He received the 2014 Latner Writer's Trust Poetry Prize, which recognizes a Canadian poet in mid-career.

it was never going to be okay by jaye simpson

it was never going to be okay is a book by jaye simpson. (Nightwood Editions, Divya Nanray)

it was never going to be okay is a collection of poems that explores intergenerational trauma, Indigeneity and queerness by Oji-Cree non binary trans woman writer jaye simpson.

When you can read it: Oct. 6, 2020

simpson is an Oji-Cree non binary trans woman writer who lives in Vancouver. Their work has been featured in This Magazine, Prism International and Room. it was never going to be okay is their first book.

Phillis by Alison Clarke

Phillis is a book by Alison Clarke. (University of Calgary Press/ZG Stories)

Phillis Wheatley was the first African American to publish a book of poetry when Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral was released in 1773. Wheatley was a slave when the book came out. It would become a success internationally. In Phillis, Alison Clarke tells Wheatley's story, through a combination of poetry and prose.

When you can read it: Oct. 15, 2020

Clarke is a poet and children's author from Edmonton. Phillis is her first book.

The East Side of It All by Joseph A. Dandurand

The East Side of It All is a book by Joseph A. Dandurand. (Harbour Publishing, Vancouver Public Library)

Joseph A. Dandurand used to be a drug user who lived in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside. He got out and began to heal by reconnecting with his family, the natural world and with his Kwantlen culture and storytelling. The East Side of It All is a collection of poems that shares this journey.

When you can read it: Oct. 17, 2020

Dandurand is a poet from the Kwantlen First Nation. His other collections include The Rumour and SH:LAM (The Doctor). He was the Vancouver Public Library's 2019 Indigenous storyteller in residence

The East Side of It All is one of two books by Duandurand on this list. The other is I Will Be Corrupted.

Finish this Sentence by Leslie Roach

Finish this Sentence is a book by Leslie Roach. (Mawenzi House Publishers)

Finish this Sentence, the first poetry collection by Leslie Roach, is about her personal experiences with racism and the anger and anxiety it ignites within.

When you can read it: Oct. 20, 2020

Roach is a poet and lawyer from Montreal who currently lives in Ottawa, where she works for the parliament of Canada. Finish this Sentence is her first book.

Check by Sarah Tolmie

Check is a book by Sarah Tolmie. (sarahtolmie.ca, McGill-Queen's University Press)

Check is the latest poetry collection from Griffin Poetry Prize finalist Sarah Tolmie. Check is a sharp and satirical look at confirmation bias, and how we fight for the things we believe to be true and use hate and intolerance to shut down ideas and people who may disagree.

When you can read it: Oct. 22, 2020

Tolmie is a professor, novelist and poet based in Waterloo, Ont. Her poetry collection The Art of Dying was shortlisted for the 2019 Griffin Poetry Prize. She is also the author of the collection Trio.

Music at the Heart of Thinking by Fred Wah

Music at the Heart of Thinking is a poetry collection by Fred Wah. (Talonbooks, Canadian Press/Sean Kilpatrick)

Music at the Heart of Thinking is a poetry collection that examines language as the true practice of thought and improvisation as a tool that notates thinking. The collection is a response to readings of contemporary texts, art and ideas produced over the past 40 years. The poems are modelled after the long poem genre of the 1980s and a resistance to closure and containment of meaning.

When you can read it: Oct. 27, 2020

Fred Wah is a Canadian poet, novelist, scholar and former Canadian parliamentary poet laureate. He received the Governor General's Literary Award for poetry for his 1985 book Waiting for Saskatchewan.

mahikan ka onot by Duncan Mercredi

mahikan ka-onot is a collection of poetry by Duncan Mercredi. (Karen Pauls, Wilfrid Laurier University Press)

mahikan ka onot is a comprehensive collection of poems from influential Cree-Métis poet Duncan Mercredi. It spans his career from 1991 to present day and includes previously unpublished works. Collectively, the poems reflect on generations of trauma inflicted by colonialism and contemporary Indigenous life.

When you can read it: Oct. 27, 2020

Mercredi is a Cree-Métis poet and storyteller. He is currently Winnipeg's poet laureate. 

Because We Love, We Cry by Sheree Fitch

Because We Love, We Cry is a book by Sheree Fitch. (Nimbus Publishing, @sherfitch/Twitter.com)

Because We Love, We Cry is a poem Nova Scotia poet and children's book writer Sheree Fitch wrote in the aftermath of the mass shooting in N.S. on April 20, 2020. Fitch shared the poem on social media, where it went viral. It was read on the news, in Canadian parliament and during a televised vigil for the victims. The poem is now available as a gift book.

When you can read it: Oct. 30, 2020

Fitch is a Nova Scotia-based poet and novelist. She is the author of several children's books, including Mabel Murple, and young adult novels, like The Gravesavers. She has also authored poetry books, including the 1993 collection In This House Are Many Women, and novels for adults, including Kiss the Joy as it Flies. Fitch received the Vicky Metcalf Award for Literature for Young People in 2000.

Festival of All Souls by Jean Eng

Festival of All Souls is a book by Jean Eng. (Inanna Publications)

Festival of All Souls, the first poetry collection from writer and artist Jean Eng, explores what it means to be Asian in Canada, and how she must straddle two cultures. The title refers to an Asian ceremony where families pay respects to their ancestors.

When you can read it: Oct. 30, 2020

Eng is a writer and visual artist from Toronto. Her poetry has appeared in The Dalhousie Review, Grain, The New Quarterly and Room. 

I place you into the fire by Rebecca Thomas

I place you into the fire is a book by Rebecca Thomas. (Nimbus Publishing, Robert Short/CBC)

I place you into the fire is the first collection from former Nova Scotia poet laureate Rebecca Thomas. I place you into the fire  explores what it means to be a second-generation residential school survivor and is a call for Indigenous justice and empathy.

When you can read it: Oct. 31, 2020

Thomas is a Mi'kmaw writer living in Nova Scotia. She was the Halifax poet laureate from 2016 to 2018. She is also the author of the children's book I'm Finding My Talk, which is a poem responding to the iconic Rita Joe poem I Lost My Talk.

Dearly by Margaret Atwood

Dearly is a book of poems by Margaret Atwood. (Luis Mora/penguinrandomhouse.ca, McClelland & Stewart)

Dearly is Margaret Atwood's first poetry collection in over a decade. The collection gathers poems about "absences and endings, aging and retrospection... gifts and renewals" and draws from the natural and supernatural world. 

When you can read it: Nov. 10, 2020

Atwood is the celebrated Canadian writer who has published fiction, nonfiction, poetry and comics. Her acclaimed books include the novels The Handmaid's TaleAlias GraceOryx and Crake and The Edible Woman. She has won several awards for her work including the Governor General's Literary Award, the Scotiabank Giller Prize and the Booker Prize. Her other poetry collections include The Circle Game, The Journals of Susanna MoodiePower Politics in 1971 and The Door.

home body by Rupi Kaur

home body is a book by Rupi Kaur. (Simon & Schuster, Amrita Singh)

home body is the third collection from bestselling poet Rupi Kaur. home body, which will also feature illustrations by Kaur, will explore the concept of self and reflect on home, mental health, love and acceptance. 

When you can read it: Nov. 17, 2020

Kaur is a poet and artist from Brampton, Ont. She currently has more than 4 million Instagram followers. At the beginning of 2020, she was named the writer of the decade by U.S. publication The New Republic. Her other poetry collections are milk and honey and the sun and her flowersboth made the New York Times bestseller list.

This Radiant Life by Chantal Neveu, translated by Erin Mouré

This Radiant Life is a book by Chantal Neveu, translated by Erin Moure. (Book*Hug Press, Pascal Dufaux)

This Radiant Life is a single long poem that looks at the elements that make up our world and the spaces in between. It considers this idea of our individual selves, and how this self is situated in a collective togetherness.

When you can read it: Nov. 19, 2020 

Chantal Neveu is a poet and multidisciplinary artist from Montreal. Her other poetry collections available in English include Coït and mentale.

Erin Mouré is a translator and poet from Calgary, who now lives in Montreal. Her own poetry collections include The Unmemntioable, Kapusta, The Elements and Furious, which won the 1988 Governor General's Literary Award for poetry.

Corrections

  • An earlier version of this list had the publication date for Black Matters as Sept. 21, 2020. It is being published on Oct. 15, 2020.
    Sep 28, 2020 12:53 PM ET
  • An earlier version of this list said that Haymarket Books was publishing Text Matters. Haymarket Books is releasing the title in the U.S. Fernwood Publishing holds the Canadian rights and it will be published on Oct. 10, 2020.
    Sep 28, 2020 12:53 PM ET

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