Books·Books of the year

The best Canadian poetry of 2018

2018 was a great year for books. Here are CBC Books's top 12 Canadian works of poetry that came out this year.

2018 was a great year for books. Here are CBC Books's top 12 Canadian works of poetry that came out this year.

The Blue Clerk by Dionne Brand

The Blue Clerk is a poetry collection by Dionne Brand. (Jason Chow, McClelland & Stewart)

The Blue Clerk is an argument between the poet and the titular "blue clerk," who is the keeper of the page. Throughout the course of their conversation, philosophers, poets and artists are referenced and memory, culture, language and beauty are explored. Brand is one of Canada's most celebrated poets and is a member of the Order of Canada.

The Flame by Leonard Cohen

The Flame is the final poetry collection by Leonard Cohen. (Canadian Press/DAPD/Kai-'Uwe Knoth, McClelland & Stewart)

In the final days of his life, Leonard Cohen completed The Flame, a collection of unpublished poetry, selections from his notebooks and lyrics from his albums. Cohen curated the book's selections, which include his insights as an artist and thinker.

City Poems by Joe Fiorito

Joe Fiorito uses poetry to describe life on the margins in his collection, City Poems. (CBC)

As a longtime columnist for the Toronto Star, Joe Fiorito wrote about the people and parts of the city going through hard times. Fiorito has turned those columns into poems in his collection City Poems. It's a recasting and distillation of the stories he captured during his years as a chronicler of modern society.

Stars by Lucy Haché, illustrated by Michael Joyal

Stars is a poetry collection by Lucy Haché, a writer of Kwakwaka'wakw/Métis and Scottish/Irish descent. (At Bay Press)

Lucy Haché explores her personal and ancestral connections to the stars in this moving poetry collection. Haché's writing is a tribute to Indigenous women of past and present, observing how trauma and healing has passed through generations. She lives in Port Hardy, B.C.

Port of Being by Shazia Hafiz Ramji

Port of Being is a poetry collection by Shazia Hafiz Ramji. (Invisible)

Shazia Hafiz Ramji's debut poetry book casts the public against the private for a look into the many ways we are surveilled — online, on the street, by the government or otherwise. Port of Being is smart, surprising and often sinister, with language that lurks and lurches with great precision.

SKY WRI TEI NGS by Nasser Hussain

SKY WRI TEI NGS is a poetry collection by Nasser Hussain. (Coach House Books)

Every airport in the world has a three-letter code. SKY WRI TEI NGS is an attempt to write a complete collection of poetry using only these codes and, while doing so, explores the relationship between place and language. The title is composed of, SKY — Griffing Sandusky Airport in Ohio, WRI — McGuire Air Force Base in New Jersey, TEI — Tezu Airport in India and NGS — Nagasaki Airport in Japan.

Obits by Tess Liem

Obits is a poetry collection by Tess Liem​. (Coach House Books)

Obits, Tess Liem's debut poetry book, is a collection of attempted obituaries for those who, too often, don't receive one or who are overlooked. Fictional characters, victims of mass violence and murder, Liem's own mysterious aunt and more are all honoured in this collection of prose poems.

Blackbird Song by Randy Lundy

Blackbird Song is Randy Lundy's third collection of poetry. (University of Regina Press)

Randy Lundy's poetry book delves into his kinship with the land. Accompanied by natural imagery from the Boreal forest to the prairies, the meditative poems in this collection explore love, loss and longing.

Sit How You Want by Robin Richardson

Sit How You Want is a poetry collection by Robin Richardson. (, Véhicule Press)

Strong female voices open up revealing narratives of trauma and pain in Robin Richardson's poetry collection. Sit How You Want deploys a sharp poetic wit to address themes of abuse, anxiety and powerlessness. This is Richardson's third poetry collection.

It Begins with the Body by Hana Shafi

It Begins With The Body is a poetry collection by Hana Shafi​. (Dylan van den Berge, Book*Hug)

Artist Hana Shafi has written an original exploration of coming-of-age as a brown girl. It Begins With The Body combines poetry with illustrations to explore growing up, being an outsider and all the weird, scary and wonderful stuff your body goes through — and you put it through — as you get older.

Night Became Years by Jason Stefanik

Jason Stefanik is the author of the poetry collection Night Became Years. (Coach House Books)

Night Became Years by Winnipeg-based poet Jason Stefanik is experimental and modernist in its poetry of the flâneur. The poetry collection sees Stefanik examine and explore — using Elizabethan canting language — themes such as love, Indigeneity, geography, race and identity as a second generation adoptee.

Night Became Years was a finalist for the 2018 Governor General's Literary Award for poetry.

river woman by Katherena Vermette

river woman is a poetry collection by Katherena Vermette. (Lisa Delorme Meiler, House of Anansi)

The author of the novel The Break and the Governor General's Literary Award-winning poetry collection North End Love Songs returns to poetry with river woman. river woman explores colonialism and the multigenerational trauma and loss it inflicted. It also explores the relationship between reclamation, love, nature and healing.