55 Canadian poetry collections to check out in spring 2021
April is poetry month! To celebrate, here is a look at some great Canadian poetry that is being published in the first half of 2021.
A History of the Theories of Rain is a poetry collection that explores our current state of anxiety and sense of impending doom, using a mixture of lyrics, speculation and philosophy.
Stephen Collis is the author of a dozen books of poetry and prose, including The Commons, On the Material, Once in Blockadia and Almost Islands: Phyllis Webb and the Pursuit of the Unwritten. In 2019, he was awarded the Latner Writers' Trust Poetry Prize, which honours a poet for their body of work. He lives near Vancouver and teaches poetry and poetics at Simon Fraser University.
When poet Ash Winters went to rehab, they wrote a poem every day — 90 days and 90 poems in total. Run Riot collects these poems. It is a personal and insightful account into what it's like to deal with one's addiction and excessive drinking. The collection reflects on the past and present, sharing the vulnerable and difficult journey Winters went on to get sober.
Winters is a poet from Toronto. Their poetry has appeared in Existere and Open Minds Quarterly. Run Riot is their first book.
Roxanna Bennett is a queer poet living with a disability, and explores both these identities in her work. The Untranslatable I continues this tradition as Bennett reflects on how her lived experiences have shaped who she is.
Bennett is a poet from Whitby, Ont. Their other poetry collections include Unmeaningable and The Uncertainty Principle. Unmeaningable won the 2020 Raymond Souster Award from the League of Canadian Poets and the 2020 Trillium Book Award for poetry.
Lip is the first poetry collection from experimental poet Franco Cortese. Lip uses omission and lipograms – consciously omitting certain letters from words and phrases – to create a work that explores our collective history, culture and environment. It also borrows words and phrases from other languages and includes poems consisting of a single letter. Lip explores the possibility of language and poetry while also seeking "to be, in many senses, a map of the world itself."
bill bissett has written more than 60 books of poetry. Originally from Halifax, he now resides in Toronto. His many awards include the George Woodcock Lifetime Achievement Award and the Dorothy Livesay Poetry Prize. His most recent book is the anthology breth.
Me, You, Then Snow is the debut poetry collection from Khashayar Mohammadi. It brings together creative and diverse poems, all inspired by memories, dreams and desires. The collection is an exploration of our desire to connect with and communicate with the world around us.
Mohammadi is a poet and translator from Iran who now lives in Toronto.
The Garden is a long poem, The Garden in the Midst, and an essay, The Garden, that explores police brutality against Black lives in North America by Toronto poet laureate A.F. Moritz. It starts with the 1992 beating of Rodney King in Los Angeles, and the protests that follow. It moves forward to 2020, with the murder of George Floyd, and back to 1968, with the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. The Garden was originally written in 1992, and Moritz returned to the work and reworked it in 2020.
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 Toronto.
Iron Goddess of Mercy is a long poem comprised of 64 fragments, inspired by the history, politics and culture of Hong Kong, and explores the complicated personal and collective identity of what it means to be "Asian." The 64 fragments honour the hexagrams of the ancient Chinese text I Ching. The poem is also inspired by the Japanese tradition of haibun, where travel diary entries end with a haiku.
Larissa Lai is a writer from Calgary. She is also the author of the novels The Tiger Flu, Salt Fish Girl and When Fox is a Thousand and the poetry books Sybil Unrest, co-written with Rita Wong, and Automaton Biographies. The Tiger Flu won a Lambda Literary Award. She is a Canada Research Chair in creative writing at the University of Calgary.
Nedi nezu is a poetry collection that explores the sexuality, sensuality and romance of contemporary Indigenous women. It is an intimate and revealing collection that showcases the diversity and complexity of desire.
Tenille K. Campbell is a Dene Métis writer and artist from English River First Nation who now lives in Saskatoon. Her writing has appeared in several publications, including the CBC. She is also the author of the poetry collection #IndianLovePoems.
Red Obsidian is a poetry collection inspired by the wilderness of the North American west, and what it takes to build a life and make a living there. The collection brings together poems, old and new, to explore environmental loss, gender dynamics, politics, and the pain and pleasure of the west.
Stephan Torre is a poet from British Columbia. He is also the author of the collections Man Living on Side Creek and Iron Fever and Other Poems.
A Number of Stunning Attacks is Jessi MacEachern's debut poet collection. It is inspired by the collective history of experimental poetry by Canadian women, such as Lisa Robertson, Gail Scott and Erín Moure. An excerpt from A Number of Stunning Attacks was longlisted for the 2018 CBC Poetry Prize.
MacEachern is a poet from P.E.I., who now lives in Montreal. She was longlisted for the 2018 CBC Poetry Prize.
It Doesn't Matter What We Meant is a poetry collection that explores the tension between private thinking and public action. Does what we do matter, or what we meant to do? It examines our internal biases, our mistakes and the role of chance to delve into the limitations of language and thought, and how they impact how we perceive the world and how the world perceives us.
Rob Winger is a poet from Ontario. He is the author of the poetry collections Selections from Muybridge's Horse, The Chimney Stone and Old Hat. Selections from Muybridge's Horse was a finalist for the 2007 Governor General's Literary Award for poetry. He won the 2003 CBC Poetry Prize and was longlisted for the 207 CBC Poetry Prize.
Sulphurtongue is the debut poetry collection by Rebecca Salazar. The wide array of poems explores how we create our identities and how they collide with and complicate each other. They take on the relationships to family, desire, religion, the land, politics, trauma and the natural world — and how these things shape who we are.
Salazar is a writer, editor and community organizer from New Brunswick. They edit the publications The Fiddlehead and Plenitude.
In her debut poetry collection, Phantompains, Therese Estacion shows what it means to bear witness to one's own pain and sexuality, to find catharsis and self-love, after a rare infection stole her limbs but not her life. Estacion takes her audience through the monotony of recovery and explores themes of disability, grief and life in a surrealist fashion, travelling across geographies and writing in a combination of English and Visayan, the language of Cebu, where her mother is from, and of her father's small home town of Guihulngan.
Estacion is a writer and teacher from the Philippines who now lives in Toronto.
Wild Green Light is a collaborative poetry collection by New Brunswick poets David Adams Richards and Margo Wheaton, which is inspired by their shared passion for the natural world. Wild Green Light is a tribute to rural life and its deep connection to the wilderness. The book has two sections, one for each poet, showcasing their different but harmonious literary styles.
Richards is a novelist, nonfiction writer and Canadian senator from New Brunswick. His books include Nights Below Station Street, Mercy Among the Children, Mary Cyr and Crimes Against My Brother. Mercy Among the Children won the 2000 Giller Prize. He was named a member of the Order of Canada in 2009.
Wheaton is a writer, editor and poet from Halifax. She is also the author of the poetry collection The Unlit Path Behind the House.
The Pit is the debut poetry collection by Yukon poet Tara Borin. It is inspired by a local dive bar, and the people who make the place memorable. The poems in The Pit are portraits of employees and regular customers, while exploring how routine, predictability and community can make a basic dive bar a special and memorable place.
Borin is a poet from Yukon. Their poems have been published in several places, including Prism International, Prairie Fire and The LaHave Review.
Creeland is the first poetry collection by Cree poet Dallas Hunt about what makes Indigenous identity, community and home. It explores how our language is limited in how it can convey these ideas and feelings, and how Indigenous communities connect, thrive and find joy on a land ravaged by development and in the face of discrimination, isolation and the legacy of colonialism.
Dallas Hunt is a Cree poet and a member of Wapsewsipi (Swan River First Nation) in Treaty Eight territory. He is also the author of the children's book Awâsis and the World-famous Bannock, which was illustrated by Amanda Strong. He is a professor at the University of British Columbia.
The Trailer is the first poetry collection by Winnipeg poet James Scoles. It is a poetry collection about what it means to live on the edge: of a city, of society, of stability. It's an exploration of a life made in a trailer, the joy and beauty, but also the uncertainty and precariousness. Scoles won the 2013 CBC Poetry Prize for the poem called The Trailer, which is featured in this book.
Scoles is a poet and professor from Winnipeg. He teaches English at the University of Winnipeg.
Super Important Filipina Thoughts is the first poetry collection from comedian writer and performer Alia Ceniza Rasul. Rasul shares her funny and irreverent reflections on identity, family, relationships and her upbringing.
Rasul is an artist, producer, comedian, performer and writer from Toronto. She is a member of the comedy troupe the Tita Collective.
Ontario poet Vanessa Shields chronicles the life of her grandmother Maria in Thimbles. Nonna Maria grew up in Italy, where she became a seamstress, raised a family and then eventually died from dementia. Thimbles explores Shields' feelings of loss, grief, love and memory while she reflects on Maria's life and legacy.
Shields is a writer from Windsor, Ont. Her other books include the memoir Laughing Through A Second Pregnancy and the poetry collections I Am That Woman and Look At Her.
Chad Campbell explores memory and our relationship to our past in the poetry collection Nectarine. Our past is a collection of stories, triggered by people, places and objects. Nectarine is about how these shape our own story — and what we lose, and find, in the process.
Campbell is a poet from Toronto who now lives in the U.K. He made the 2016 CBC Poetry Prize longlist. He is also the author of the poetry collection Laws & Locks.
Coconut is the first poetry collection from Edmonton poet laureate Nisha Patel. Coconut is a vulnerable, political, feminist collection that explores racism, identity, grief, sexuality, empowerment and love. Through these poems, Patel posits what it means to be a good person, a good daughter, and a good partner.
Patel was the 2019 Canadian Individual Slam Champion and is the current Poet Laureate of Edmonton.
In 2021, Louise Bernice Halfe, whose Cree name is Sky Dancer, became Canada's ninth parliamentary poet laureate. Halfe is the first Indigenous person to be appointed with the title. Her latest poetry collection, awâsis – kinky and dishevelled, explores stories of resistance, rebellion and laughter by way of awâsis, a gender-fluid trickster character who takes readers on a humorous journey of mystery and spirituality.
Halfe served as the first Indigenous poet laureate of Saskatchewan. Her other poetry collections include Bear Bones & Feathers, Blue Marrow, The Crooked Good and Burning in this Midnight Dream.
In Dear Birch, Margaret Christakos explores what life means in the aftermath of her mother's death and the breakup of a long-term relationship. The poem cycle in Dear Birch grapples with the nature of love, death, relationships, grief and healing.
Christakos is a poet, editor and teacher from Toronto. Her other poetry collections include Charisma, Excessive Love Prostheses, Sooner, What Stirs, Her Paraphernalia and charger. An anthology of her work, Space Between Her Lips, was published in 2017.
Moldovan Hotel is a collection of poems inspired by Leah Horlick's trip to Romania. In 2017, she visited the country of her Jewish ancestors to see where they lived before they fled. Moldovan Hotel connects that past with Horlick's present, weaving through the history and politics that have shaped the world since.
Horlick is a writer from Saskatoon who now lives in Calgary. She won the Dayne Ogilvie Prize for emerging LGBTQ writers in 2016. She is also the author of the poetry collections Riot Lung and For Your Own Good.
The Infinite Park is a poetry collection about everyday life, and how we create a world that is rich and full when going about our daily routines. Memories, stories, history, love and connection infuse our days and give things meaning, purpose and beauty.
Peter Unwin is a writer from Toronto. His other books include the short story collections Life Without Death and The Rock Farmers, the novel Written in Stone, the nonfiction works Hard Surface: In Search of the Canadian Road and The Wolf's Head: Writing Lake Superior and the poetry collection When We Were Old.
The Debt is a poetry collection that explores the tension between innovation and tradition against the backdrop of Newfoundland after the cod moratorium. Economic survival, ecological activism, a loss of a way of life, an uncertain future and the influence of greed and capitalism in culture are all explored in this collection.
Andreae Callanan is a writer from St. John's. Her work has appeared in several publications, including The Walrus, Canadian Notes and Queries, Canadian Verse 2 and the CBC.
Award-winning poet Steven Heighton collects his work for the first time in Selected Poems 1983-2020. A combination of unpublished work and highlights from Heighton's previous six poetry collections, Selected Poems 1983-2020 demonstrates Heighton's accomplished technical skill and unique literary voice.
Heighton is a novelist, short story writer and poet from Kingston, Ont. His books include the poetry collection The Waking Comes Late, which won the 2016 Governor General's Literary Award for poetry, the novel The Nightingale Won't Let You Sleep, the memoir Reaching Mithymna, which was a finalist for the 2020 Hilary Weston Writers' Trust Prize for Nonfiction.
Villa Negativa is a poetry collection that looks for the light in dark times. Poet Sharon McCartney wrote the collection after having an eating disorder, losing a sibling and a string of failed romantic relationships. It's a collection about knowing yourself, finding resilience and the highs and lows that come from struggles big and small.
McCartney is a poet and legal editor from Fredericton. Her other poetry collections include Hard Ass, The Love Song of Laura Ingalls Wilder, Karenin Sings the Blues and Under the Abdominal Wall.
Novelist and broadcaster Jen Sookfong Lee turns to poetry for the first time with the collection The Shadow List. The Shadow List is a collection of lyric poems that explore the tension in the narrator's life between who they are, who they want to be and what they really want.
Lee is a novelist, broadcast personality, a past Canada Reads panellist and The Next Chapter columnist from Vancouver. She is the author of the novel The Conjoined and the nonfiction book Gentleman of the Shade. The Shadow List is her first poetry collection.
In the lyric essay Aether, Catherine Graham explores how a cancer diagnosis can change a family forever. Aether is about Catherine, her mother and her father, as this disease turns their life upside down and they grapple with the grief, pain and loss that comes with cancer, but also with the joy, forgiveness, strength and growth.
Catherine Graham is a writer from Toronto. Her other books include poetry collections The Celery Forest, Her Red Hair Rises with the Wings of Insects and The Red Element and the novel Quarry.
Congratulations, Rhododendrons is the first poetry collection from Fredericton poet Mary Germaine. The poems in Congratulations, Rhododendrons explore the tension between the natural and artificial worlds, truth and artifice, and perception and reality, and posits that we can find hope, joy and love in every situation.
Germaine is a writer from Fredericton. Her work has appeared in The Walrus, Riddle Fence and Augur Magazine. Congratulations, Rhododendrons is her first book.
Intruder is the first poetry collection by Bardia Sinaee. Intruder is a timely collection about an unsettled and struggling world. It includes a 12-part prose poem about Sinaee's cancer diagnosis and subsequent recovery in his early 20s as well as poems written while living in lockdown during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Sinaee is a writer from Iran who now lives in Toronto. His work has appeared in The Walrus, Canadian Notes and Queries and the Best Canadian Poetry anthologies.
Strangers is a poetry collection about lineage, both familial and literary, and how these stories and histories shape who we are. It also explores memory, language and connection, and how we come to new understandings and new meanings.
Rob Taylor is a poet from British Columbia. His other collections include Strangers, Oh Not So Great, The News and The Other Side of Ourselves. He teaches creative writing at Simon Fraser University.
Mere Extinction is a collection of poems about understanding and connecting with the world around us. It looks at the history that shaped the present, and the future that is unsettling and uncertain.
Evie Christie is a writer from Ontario. Her other books include the poetry collection Gutted and the novel The Bourgeois Empire.
Poisonous If Eaten Raw is an experimental long poem by Halifax writer Alyda Faber. Poisonous If Eaten Raw is 20 years after the death of Faber's mother — and in the poem Faber grapples with her mother's memory and their relationship.
Faber is a poet from Halifax. She is also the author of the collections Dust or Fire and Berlinale Erotik. Her writing has appeared in Riddle Fence, the Malahat Review and Fiddlehead. She teaches at the Atlantic School of Theology.
Catalogue d'oiseaux is a poetry collection about a year a couple spent in a long-distance relationship. It documents their time apart, and their reunion, as they travel around the world. It is a collection about finding intimate spaces in the vastness of the world and a celebration of love, culture and art.
Aaron Tucker is a poet from B.C., who now lives in Toronto. He is also the author of the novel Y and the poetry collections irresponsible mediums and punchlines.
Is This Scary? is a poetry collection from Jacob Scheier that explores mental health and disability. It dives deep into anxiety, chronic pain, depression and more, while also sharing odes to medicine and medical procedures that help with these ailments. It also challenges our assumptions about what it means to "get better" and what the journey to true wellness looks like.
Scheier is a writer and journalist from Toronto. He is also the author of the poetry collections Letter from Brooklyn and More to Keep Us Warm. More to Keep Us Warm won the Governor General's Literary Prize for poetry in 2008.
Exhibitionist is a collection of raunchy, confessional poems about being truly, authentically yourself — and the fear, messiness and uncertainty that comes with it.
Molly Cross-Blanchard is a writer and editor currently living in Vancouver. She is the publisher of Room. Exhibitionist is her first book.
Duct-Taped Roses is a poetry collection by Billeh Nickerson about heartbreak, healing, community, life, love and loss. The title refers to how Nickerson's father would duct-tape his airplanes to keep them in working order — Nickerson's relationship with his father is explored in one of the poems found in this book.
Nickerson is a writer from Halifax who now lives in Vancouver. His other poetry collections include The Asthmatic Glassblower, McPoems, Impact: The Titanic Poems and Artificial Cherry. He teaches creative writing at Kwantlen Polytechnic University.
Il virus is a collection of 113 poems by Lillian Necakov written during the first 78 days of the COVID-19 pandemic in Toronto. They are responses to daily media, music, Necakov's dog and more. The collection explores the heightened emotions we felt during such a scary and uncertain time — including anger, grief, fear, neediness, but also love and connection.
Necakov is a writer and editor from Yugoslavia who now lives in Toronto. Her other books include Cowboy in Hamburg, Sickbed of Dogs and Polaroids.
This is How It Is is a collection of poems that span the globe, exploring colonialism, the environmental crisis and how language and history have limited our understanding of the world and the crises we face.
Undoing Hours is the first poetry collection by white settler-nehiyaw writer Selina Boan. Boan grew up disconnected from her father's culture and history; Undoing Hours is about reconnecting with and reclaiming her identity and the Nêhiyawêwan language.
When you can read it: April 24, 2021
Scofflaw is a long poem that explores the contemporary relationship between settlers and Indigenous people. The poem is positioned as a standoff between a figure known as Scofflaw and a narrative "we." It spans the Canadian landscape and engages in a playful exchange of language and ideas while grappling with difficult topics.
When you can read it: April 25, 2021
Garry Thomas Morse is a poet from Winnipeg. His other books include the poetry collections Discovery Passages and Prairie Harbour and the novels Minor Episodes/Major Ruckus, Rogue Cells/Carbon Harbour and Yams Do Not Exist. Discovery Passages and Prairie Harbour were both finalists for the Governor General's Literary Prize for poetry.
One and Half of You is a poetic memoir by artist, musician and writer Leanne Dunic. One and Half of You explores Dunic's biracial upbringing on Vancouver Island, her connection to music, her relationship with her brother and how she finds connection and community that helps her understand who she is and who she wants to be.
When you can read it: April 27, 2021
Dunic is an artist, musician and writer from B.C. She is the fiction editor at Tahoma Literary Review and is in the band The Deep Cove.
In First, Governor General's Literary Award winning poet Arleen Paré brings together the story of her first best friend, now long-lost, with a meditation on friendships, beginnings, loss and longing.
When you can read it: May 1, 2021
Paré is a writer from Montreal who now lives in Victoria. Her other poetry collections include Paper Trail, Lake of Two Mountains, He Leaves His Face in the Funeral Car, The Girls with Stone Faces and Earle Street. Lake of Two Mountains won the 2014 Governor General's Award for poetry.
The Junta of Happenstance is the first poetry collection from Nigerian Canadian writer Tolu Oloruntoba. The Junta of Happenstance is an exploration of disease, both medical and emotional. It explores family dynamics, social injustice, the immigrant experience, economic anxiety and the nature of suffering.
When you can read it: May 1, 2021
Oloruntoba is a writer from Nigeria who now lives in Vancouver. He is the founder of the literary magazine Klorofyl.
The Language We Are Never Taught to Speak is the first poetry collection by Grace Lau. It brings together Bible verses, pop culture and everything in between to explore how identities are shaped and evolve as we move through time, space and place.
When you can read it: May 1, 2021
Lau is a writer who was born in Hong Kong, grew up in Vancouver and now lives in Toronto.
still is a poetry collection that explores interior life: reflection not action. It grapples with what it means to withdraw, to not participate, to be still with oneself and one's body.
When you can read it: May 4, 2021
Anahita Jamali Rad is a writer from Iran who now lives in Montreal. They are also the author of the poetry collection for love and autonomy.
Because the Sun is a poetry collection that explores how the sun is a symbol of violence and destruction. In Albert Camus's Meursault, the sun pushes the titular Meursault to commit murder, while in Thelma and Louise, the sun becomes a symbol of pain, real and imagined, as the main characters travel through the desert. The voices in Because the Sun come together to mimic the sun's beauty and pain, asking readers to look right at it.
When you can read it: May 7, 2021
Sarah Burgoyne is a writer from Montreal. She is also the author of the poetry collection Saint Twin.
In the poetry collection 29 Leads to Love, Calgary poet Salimah Valiani looks at the meaning of love from 29 different perspectives. It's about love on the grand, global scale. It explores romantic love, familial love and self love, and how love can be the catalyst for change.
When you can read it: May 14, 2021
Valiani is a poet, activist and researcher from Calgary. Her other poetry collections include breathing for breadth, Letter Out: Letter In, land of the sky and Cradles.
Then Now is a poetry collection inspired by the letters Daphne Marlatt's father wrote throughout his life. Arthur Buckle was an accountant who left England to work in Malaysia in the 1930s. He wrote many letters home. He married, started a family. They left Malaysia in 1942, but returned after the Second World War. The poems in Then Now are a response to these letters. Marlatt reflects on her family's history, and how the world has changed — and stayed the same — between then and now.
When you can read it: May 18, 2021
Marlatt is a writer, editor and teacher from Vancouver. She has written numerous books, including nonfiction, fiction and poetry. Her essays were collected in Readings from the Labyrinth and several poems were collected in Intertidal. In 2006, she was named a member of the Order of Canada.
Resistance is a collection of poems curated and edited by Sue Goyette that reflect on the #MeToo movement, sexual assault and sexual violence. The overarching theme in the collection is resistance and resilience in the face of people and systems that suppress and silence survivors.
Poets who contributed to the anthology include Joan Crate, Ashley-Elizabeth Best and Beth Goobie.
When you can read it: May 22, 2021
Goyette is a poet from Quebec who now lives in Nova Scotia. Her other books include the poetry collections The True Names of Birds, Outskirts, Ocean and The Brief Reincarnation of a Girl and the novel Lures. She won the 2008 CBC Poetry Prize. She is currently the poet laureate of Halifax.
Letters in a Bruised Cosmos is the second collection from Griffin Poetry Prize winner Liz Howard. Letters in a Bruised Cosmos brings together Western and Indigenous astrophysical science to explore the nature of needing, and connecting with, others. It's a collection that explores family, tragedy, triumph, love and the meaning of life.
When you can read it: June 8, 2021
The Tantramar Re-Vision is a poetry collection by Kevin Irie inspired by the late Canadian poet and translator John Thompson. It's about the relationship between literature and nature, and how they can speak to each other. It's also about the relationships texts can have between each other. An excerpt from The Tantramar Re-Vision made the CBC Poetry Prize longlist in 2017.
When you can read it: July 1, 2021
Irie is a writer from Toronto. His other poetry collections include Burning The Dead, The Colour of Eden, Dinner at Madonna's and Angel Blood: The Tess Poems. He was a CBC Poetry Prize finalist in 2008 and made the CBC Poetry Prize longlist in 2017.
Poet Renée Sarojini Saklikar kicks off a multi-part series about survivors of ecological destruction with Bramah and the Beggar Boy. Inspired by fairy tales, the first instalment is about a woman named Bramah and a beggar boy living in an abandoned village. They find fragments of an ancient text, and slowly piece together the story of what happened to the planet, and why they live the way they do.
When you can read it: July 17, 2021
Saklikar is a lawyer and writer born in India who now lives in Vancouver. She is also the author of the poetry collection children of air india and the nonfiction book Listening to the Bees, which she co-authored with Dr. Mark Winston.
- This list has been updated to reflect the correct gender of the titular character in the poetry book Bramah and the Beggar Boy.Apr 26, 2021 6:59 PM ET
- An earlier version of this list said Anahita Jamali Rad lived in Toronto. She lives in Montreal.Apr 26, 2021 8:43 PM ET
- An earlier photo caption incorrectly cited Coach House Books as the publisher of Poisonous if Eaten Raw. The publisher is icehouse poetry.Apr 27, 2021 5:12 PM ET