I really love poems. One of my favourite things about poetry is their rhythm, their musicality, their entanglement with big bubbling feelings and ideas, and their sense of playfulness – poetry can certainly be an unclear or a jarring experience sometimes, but it’s also such a big genre! Don’t let the line breaks and lack of punctuation intimidate you!
I am particularly drawn to poets who have been historically marginalized from CanLit (Canadian Literature) – LGBTQ2S+ writers, racialized writers, women and gender non-conforming folks, people with disabilities, and folks whose identities may intersect.
So why not check out some amazing Canadian (and very new) poetry collections available at WPL? I love listening to writers read their poems out loud, so I highly recommend listening to e-audiobooks if available, or checking out the Poetry Foundation, which often has many of their poems available with a video or audio. Here are a few poetry collections I highly recommend:
Canadian Poetry Collections
A wonderful debut poetry collection by Toronto-area based writer Sanna Wani! I had the pleasure of hearing Wani read in Toronto, and as a fellow devoted Princess Mononoke fan, I cannot wait to read this collection. Wani’s work is very much entangled with moments of deep intimacy and the expansive feelings of continuing to live joyfully amidst grief. I love this poem of hers, Tomorrow is A Place.
Naga has written a gripping, gorgeous story in verse about a young Muslim woman named Coocoo in Toronto who is reckoning with her faith and her love for a married man.
This book hasn’t been released yet, but a) everything that Arsenal Pulp Press publishes is gold and b) Natalie Wee is spectacular. I love reading her work, which covers themes including but not limited to pop culture, mythology, queerness, grief, and the complexities of Peranakan diaspora and identity. For further interest, here are two of Wee’s previously published poems.
I loved the experience of reading Sulphurtongue so much. Salazar’s writing is sprawling and covers themes of family, climate change, language, and so much more.
Bones is a gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous(!) epic poem that deserves to live amongst the great epic poems. We follow a young, Cree, 2-Spirited narrator through their dreams and memories. This collection is highly sensory, and also a singular experience of thinking about language and memory from both an individual and societal lens.
Billy-Ray Belcourt is so wonderful. His work is so funny, so generous, and so perfectly cutting (particularly when it comes to the violence of the academic-industrial complex), but also in all the ways white privilege manifests in institutions and individuals lives across Canada. NDN Coping Mechanisms is almost mixed media – it has some photo essays, and I love to read Belcourt’s work when I am depressed about the state of the world (often) and want to imagine a joyful, very different future (a specialty of Belcourt’s).
International Poetry Collections
I couldn’t resist throwing in a couple of extra worldwide favourites as well:
I was delighted to see WPL has e-book versions of Tommy Pico’s poetry collections Nature Poem, Junk, and Feed. These books are so deeply funny, filled with junk food and also a lot of trauma. I love these collections because they feel like a really engaging stream of consciousness snapshots of a life, with their Internet language, sexuality, grief, and big existential crises. Move over, James Joyce, there’s a new stream of consciousness bad boy in town and he’s a very funny and talented queer Indigenous poet. Pico is also one of the hosts of the excellent podcast, Food 4 Thot, and a writer for FX’s dramedy show Reservation Dogs (also an incredible show)!
If you have a conversation with me about writing, at some point I’m going to bring up my devotion to Ocean Vuong. He really has a capacity for language I have never experienced with any other writer – his work is so thoughtful, brave, brutal, and invigorating. Check out him reading one of his newest poems, Not Even This, here. His novel, On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous is also truly one of a kind, and one of the most beautiful books I’ve ever read.
This is a gorgeous collection about what silence can say, and how to live amidst institutional violence. I think about this poem, We Lived Happily During the War, all the time, and particularly with the global violence we’re seeing now around the world in Ukraine, Palestine, Yemen, Afghanistan, and countless other conflicts we’re seeing now.
These are a few Canadian (and International) contemporary poetry collections I recommend for World Poetry Day. Happy reading!