Books·Books of the Year

The best Canadian poetry of 2017

What were the best books published this year? Here are the top Canadian poetry collections that came out this year.

What were the best books published this year? Here are CBC Books' picks for the top 10 Canadian poetry collections of 2017.

This Wound is a World by Billy-Ray Belcourt

Billy-Ray Belcourt is the author of the poetry collection This Wound Is A World. (Frontenac House)

Rhodes Scholar and PhD student Billy-Ray Belcourt hails from Driftpile Cree Nation in Alberta. His debut collection of poetry, This Wound is a World, merges the personal with the academic, envisioning, in his own words, a "decolonial kind of heaven that is searchable, findable." It is memoiristic in approach, perspicuous in style and exacting in its determination to upend genre and form.

How to Dance in this Rarefied Air by Rienzi Crusz

Rienzi Crusz is a Canadian poet born in Galle, Ceylon. ( House Publishers Ltd.)

Rienzi Crusz, who died in 2017, was an underrated master of the poetic form. Crusz was originally from Sri Lanka and immigrated to Canada in the 1960s; with a style best described as romantic and keenly self-aware, How to Dance in this Rarefied Air examines the immigrant experience in Canada, and, by extension, the human experience, with an unabashed and postmodern flair and clarity. 

The Corpses of the Future by Lynn Crosbie

Lynn Crosbie is the author of The Corpses of the Future, a poetry collection. (Lynn Crosbie/House of Anansi Press)

With Lynn Crosbie's latest poetry collection, The Corpses of the Future, the poet, novelist and journalist examines her close relationship with her father and her emotional observation of his battle with post-stroke blindness and dementia. At 140 pages, the collection reads as confessional, dealing with grief, love, hope and hopelessness.   

The Celery Forest by Catherine Graham

Catherine Graham is an author and poet. (Wolsak and Wynn/Prosopon Photography)

The Celery Forest is a fantastical world with strange creatures and disorienting sights. Within the poetry collection's magical imagery is the examination of Catherine Graham's recent bout with breast cancer; the novelist and poet uses sensual language and style that peers into the duality of beauty and horror.

Heart Residence by Dennis Lee

Dennis Lee is a author, poet and a regarded veteran of the CanLit scene. (House of Anansi Press)

Considered a valued veteran in the Canadian literary scene, Dennis Lee showcases over 50 years of published poetry with latest collection Heart Residence. The career-spanning volume reveals the depth and breadth of his work — from vibrant children's poems to more ruminative verse targeted to a mature audience. 

Voodoo Hypothesis by Canisia Lubrin

Born in St. Lucia, poet Canisia Lubrin now makes her home in Whitby, Ont. (Anna Keenan/Wolsak and Wynn)

Voodoo Hypothesis draws in elements of pop culture, science, pseudo-science and news about race and identity to recentre the definition of being a Black individual in today's world. Leaning in on magical imagery, Canisia Lubrin's poetry collection is the result of her Caribbean upbringing, listening to fantastic tales and learning the power of language on her grandmother's lap.

My Ariel by Sina Queyras

Sina Queyras is a poet and the author of My Ariel. (Coach House Books)

With My Ariel, Montreal poet Sina Queryas takes an analytical and poetic look at Sylvia Plath's Ariel. As a poem-by-poem engagement with Ariel — and the mythology surrounding it — the book examines the iconic text, and, by extension, cultural norms and attitudes. 

a place called No Homeland by Kai Cheng Thom

Kai Cheng Thom is the author of the poetry collection a place called No Homeland. (Courtesy of Kai Cheng Thom/Arsenal Pulp Press)

Kai Cheng Thom is a writer and performer, and has a master's degree in social work. Her collection of poems, a place called No Homeland, is an intimate journey through topics like gender, race and sexuality. Many of the poems emerge from her story of navigating identity as a Chinese Canadian transgender woman.

Admission Requirements by Phoebe Wang

Phoebe Wang is the author of Admission Requirements, a poetry collection. (McClelland & Stewart/Guillaume Morissette)

The poems that make up Admission Requirements are ambitious in scope in an attempt to discover what is required of us when we cut across our material and psychic geographies. Wang, who made the CBC Poetry Prize longlist in 2016, explores stories of the land and searches for a secure sense of belonging. In her own words, she describes the process behind creating her first collection.

full-metal indigiqueer by Joshua Whitehead

Joshua Whitehead is the author of the poetry collection full-metal indigiqueer. (Courtesy of Joshua Whitehead/Talonbooks)

Joshua Whitehead is an Oji-Cree, two-spirit poet from Peguis First Nation. His book, full-metal indigiqueer, is complex yet clear in scope as it focuses on a hybridized Indigiqueer Trickster character named Zoa who brings together the organic (the protozoan) and the technologic (the binaric) in order to re-beautify and re-member queer Indigeneity. It is a collection of experimental poems that aim to provoke discussion and debate.


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