7 Canadian books to read if you love the poetry of Alden Nowlan
The late Alden Nowlan is widely recognized as one of Canada's most popular 20th-century poets.
Born in Windsor, N.S., in 1933, Nowlan's knack with words — along with his conversational and anecdotal writing style — earned him much acclaim. He had a prolific career, writing 24 books and winning the Governor General's Literary Award for poetry in 1967 with Bread, Wine and Salt.
A new collection of his work, The Collected Poems of Alden Nowlan, showcases the Canadian poet's dexterous, rhythmic yet formal verse and visually arresting style.
If you have enjoyed Nowlan's work, here are seven other books by contemporary Canadian poets that you might enjoy.
Inventory by Dionne Brand
What it's about: Inventory is a book-length poem that shows Dionne Brand at simultaneously her most incisive and her most generous-hearted. In this book — which fellow poet George Murray dubbed "one of the single most perfect books of poetry written in this century" — Brand catalogues the state of the world at the turn of the millennium, from the invasion of Iraq to Hurricane Katrina.
Read it if you like: Like much of Nowlan's work, Brand uses pointed, incisive language that is both unflinching and critical.
How to Dance in this Rarefied Air by Rienzi Crusz
What it's about: How to Dance in this Rarefied Air by the late Rienzi Crusz features work tracking his journey as a poet writing in Canada since the 1970s. It provides an immigrant perspective on life in Canada, looking at expansive yet insular themes of defiance and survival.
Read it if you like: It's a self-aware and honest look at life in a postmodern world.
And I Alone Escaped To Tell You by Sylvia Hamilton
What it's about: The poems in And I Alone Escaped to Tell You delve into the history of African peoples in Nova Scotia. The collection is a moving meditation on the place of African-descended people in Canada and the threads connecting all of us to the African diaspora.
Read it if you like: A personal and historical look at the environment around us, one that questions identity and privilege.
On Not Losing My Father's Ashes in the Flood by Richard Harrison
What it's about: Richard Harrison's On Not Losing My Father's Ashes in the Flood is a combination of memoir, lyrical essays and personal correspondence dealing with the passing of Harrison's father and the 2013 Alberta floods. The collection won the 2017 Governor General's Literary Award for poetry.
Read it if you like: Vibrant sketches of human relationships, rich with emotional and intellectual context.
My Ariel by Sina Queyras
What it's about: With My Ariel, Montreal poet Sina Queryas takes an analytical and poetic look at Sylvia Plath's Ariel and the mythology surrounding it.
Read it if you like: This review of Plath's final great work pulsates with emotional intensity.
Totem Poles & Railroads by Janet Rogers
What it's about: Janet Rogers' fifth collection of poetry examines the 500-year-old relationship between Indigenous nations and the corporation of Canada. She pays honour to her poetic characters — real and imagined, historical and present day — to affix poetry at the heart of our current post-residential school/present-day reconciliation reality.
Read it if you like: Fierce, playful and sensual approaches to language that is thought-provoking and personal.
Witness, I Am by Gregory Scofield
What it's about: A collection in three parts from one of Canada's most recognized poets, Witness, I Am is equal parts contemporary, epic and exploratory in its look at the Indigenous experience in Canada from an intimate view.
Read it if you like: Rhythmic language and verse that function as meditations on past, present and future possibilities.