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GGBooks Special: The Chat with Sadiqa de Meijer

Language as the mother of bond and breach is beautifully storied in Sadiqa de Meijer’s poignant and provocative memoir, alfabet/alphabet. This is a book that dreams of transforming migration, citizenship, families, nationhood and the very utterances upon which each is built. A deeply hopeful narrative about language itself, a singular exploration of the way that words build a home. – 2021 Peer Assessment Committee

Author Headshot Sadiqa De Maijer

Sadiqa de Meijer is the author of the poetry collections Leaving Howe Island and The Outer Wards. Her work has won the CBC Poetry Prize and Arc’s Poem of the Year Contest, and was a finalist for the Governor General’s Literary Award and the Pat Lowther Memorial Award. She lives with her family in Kingston, Ontario.

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Congrats on your Governor General’s Award, Sadiqa. The book explores your transition from speaking Dutch to English. Why was it important for you to explore this terrain?

Thank you! After my first book of poems, I started asking myself what it meant for me to write in English, and the answers turned out to go far deeper than I’d imagined. Until then, my languages existed within me in a togetherness that I took for granted; writing alfabet/alphabet was the process of bringing their overlap and borders into consciousness. 

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GGBooks Special: The Chat with Tolu Oloruntoba

"Tolu Oloruntoba’s voice in The Junta of Happenstance is at once thoughtful and authoritative, metaphorically rich and lyrically surprising. Oloruntoba’s language travels through history and myth to speak to today and engage with a future transformed by new understanding. The combination of craft and spirit cuts a fine place for this debut work, expanding our literary view."—2021 Peer Assessment Committee

Tolu Oloruntoba spent his early career as a primary care physician. He currently manages virtual health projects, and has lived in Nigeria, the United States, and Canada. His poetry has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize, while his debut chapbook, Manubrium, was a bpNichol Chapbook Award finalist. The Junta of Happenstance is his first full-length collection of poetry. He lives in the metro area of Coast Salish lands known as Vancouver.

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The Junta of Happenstance is your first full-length collection of poetry. How does it feel to be recognized with a Governor General’s Award at this early point in your career?

Thanks, Trevor. I suppose it is early in my career, since I hope to have a long one, but I have been writing poetry since 2001 (although I am glad all my earlier attempts to put out a full-length book failed, because I wasn’t ready). But to answer your question, and if I can be honest, it has been surreal and a little terrifying. Dionne Brand, Anne Carson, and so many other lights have won this award. I am not even slightly close to being credibly considered …

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The Chat with Hasan Namir

Hasan Namir_Author Photo_Credit Tarn Khare

Praising the work, Griffin Poetry Prize winner Kaie Kellough says, “Umbilical Cord’s poems have a lucent quality and a supple rhythm that carries their tenderness to a reader. In an instant, the poems can become as raw, as immediate as touch. This work begins in heat and heartbeat, as a relationship and a family come into being, and it reflects the intimacies, anxieties, and devotions of love.  At once personally revealing and focused outward on the challenges that queer families face, in Umbilical Cord love triumphs over intolerance, and the future, named “Malek,” is nurtured by two devoted fathers.” 

Hasan Namir is an Iraqi-Canadian author. He graduated from Simon Fraser University with a BA in English and received the Ying Chen Creative Writing Student Award. He is the author of God in Pink (2015), which won the Lambda Literary Award for Best Gay Fiction and was chosen as one of the Top 100 Books of 2015 by The Globe and Mail. His work has also been in media across Canada. He is also the author of the poetry book War/Torn (2019, Book*hug Press) which received the 2020 Barbara Gittings Honor Book Award from the Stonewall Book Awards, and children’s book The Name I Call Myself (2020). Hasan lives in Vancouver with his husband and child.

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Trevor Corkum …

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Book Beyond the Poem—Poem Beyond the Book

Book Cover Hell Light Flesh

The QWF Literary Awards celebrate the best books and plays by English-language writers, playwrights, and translators in Quebec, as well as those translating English works from Quebec into French. Each award comes with a purse of $3,000.

For more information about the Awards and to see Giller Prize-winning author Sean Michaels announce all the finalists, check out the Gala page on our website.

Hell Light Flesh, by Klara du Plessis, is a finalist for the A.M. Klein Prize for Poetry.

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This list foregrounds the unravelling of the poem as a discreet entity and models expansion. Through modes of formal lengthening, seriality, interdisciplinarity or disciplinary coexistence, these poets exceed the tradition of book as self-contained object, and break print materiality to cross over into other genres and practices. While the work of these authors feels central to my personal reading practice, I am keenly aware of the limitations of inclusion—the other ones, the unread ones, the ones from across borders.

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An Autobiography of the Autobiography of Reading, …

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Books That Helped Me Heal

It takes me a long time to write a book. Whether it’s poems or a novel, I feel like I’m at it over a lifetime. Death Becomes Us contains poems written mostly after my late husband died, and during that time I read a lot of books that helped me to heal. Survival wells inside us all, and whether a book is exploring how to survive life or death, it is comforting to read other writers’ experiences with that survival.

Here are a few books that I read that helped provide me with context, with compassion, as I grappled with my own loss.

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St. Boniface Elegies, by Catherine Hunter

I find something strangely intimate in reading poems that are set in my hometown. This lovely volume of poetry, separated into four sections, explores death and loss with a gentle humour, all the while describing places I know well but feel I have never seen properly. Hunter has a clear vision, and is a master at depicting the scene. Her writing puts me in mind of the director of a movie, walking around with a whirring camera, capturing images with precision, each given its o …

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Thinking Books, Not Tidy Books

The QWF Literary Awards celebrate the best books and plays by English-language writers, playwrights, and translators in Quebec, as well as those translating English works from Quebec into French. Each award comes with a purse of $3,000.

For more information about the Awards and to see Giller Prize-winning author Sean Michaels announce all the finalists, check out the Gala page on our website.

Jessie Jones' The Fool is a finalist for the A.M. Klein Prize for Poetry.

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I read many of these books while I was writing and editing The Fool. They investigate not only an object, character, or idea, but the ambient area around it, drawing the eye to details it might normally pass over, or causing you to sit with a thought that you might normally ignore or suppress. These are not tidy books, they are thinking books, and they’ve greatly expanded my understanding of what writing can do.

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Index Cards, by Moyra Davey

Whether in her visual art or her writing (or some vibrant combination of the two), Moyra Davey works toward ideas in the most fascinating way possi …

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Books Like Old Friends

Every September since 1997, the Winnipeg International Writers Festival presents THIN AIR, a celebration of books and ideas. Their curated line-up is a perfect fit for curious readers who are ready to discover strong voices and great storytelling in practically every genre. This year, they're presenting a hybrid festival featuring 60 writers, live events, and a dynamic website.

To watch video content Molly Cross-Blanchard has prepared for them, visit the festival website.

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Book Cover Exhibitionist

I find it difficult to read other writers when developing my own voice, as I did slowly throughout the process of building my first collection, Exhibitionist. But there were a small bundle of books that I held hands with during that time, and which were instrumental in finding the rhythm of wry, conversational, and confessional language in my own work. Books that spoke to me like old friends, as I also hoped to speak to my readers. I hope you’ll make friends with them, too.

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8 Books that Explore Memory and Place

Fawn Parker—whose latest novel Dumb-Show has been described by Adnan Khan as “vivid and vicious”—recommends eight books of fiction, memoir, and poetry exploring themes of memory and physical place.

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Householders, by Kate Cayley

The stories in Householders are haunting and enigmatic, with a clarity of emotion that cuts through the dreamlike atmosphere Cayley has crafted. With the first sentence of the opening story, “A Crooked Man,” we are introduced to the feeling of isolation that runs throughout the book: “Martha regarded herself skeptically and assumed skepticism from the other mothers at the table.” In “A Beautiful Bare Room” a strange infectious rash spreads among Palo Alto. A woman in a bunker considers whether she is “there to be amusing to languid virtual people, if the distinction between virtual and actual was meaningful anymore.” With incredible attention to the nuance of interpersonal relationships—whether familial, romantic, situational, dysfunctional—each story in Householders is a window into an eerie but …

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What's Possible: Chinese Canadian Poets

Book Cover the Language We Were Never taught to Speak

When I began writing poetry in earnest, I marvelled at how many Chinese Canadians writers were out there.

Throughout nine years in high school and university in Vancouver, I read, in total, maybe one or two books by Chinese Canadian authors.

And yet for many decades, unbeknownst to me, people who looked like me were devoting their lives to writing. I studied Donne, Dickinson, and Shakespeare (so much Shakespeare), not knowing there were living poets too who were worth my time.

Funny poets. Wonderful poets. Chinese Canadian poets who were writing about food, family, and the places they’ve been in this new place we all now call home…

I did not know what was possible.

Reading these writers’ works today has made me feel more connected to not only where I came from, but also where I am now. I think that is one of diaspora’s superpowers. No matter where you are from, I hope you can feel that connectedness through these poems as we do.

I would have loved to have read these Chinese Canadian poets in school.

They would’ve shown me what was possible.

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beh …

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The Chat with Jordan Abel

This week we’re in conversation with Griffin Poetry Prize winner Jordan Abel, whose powerful poetry project NISHGA was released over the summer with McClelland & Stewart.

Author Billy-Ray Belcourt says “Abel sculpts a narrative of dislocation and self-examination that pressurizes received notions of “Canada” and “history” and “art” and “literature” and “belonging” and “forgiveness”… By its Afterword, NISHGA adds up to a work of personal and national reckoning that is by turns heartbreaking and scathing.”

Jordan Abel is a Nisga'a writer from Vancouver. He is the author of The Place of Scraps (winner of the Dorothy Livesay Poetry Prize), Un/inhabited, and Injun (winner of the Griffin Poetry Prize). Abel's work has recently been anthologized in The New Concrete: Visual Poetry in the 21st Century (Hayward), The Next Wave: An Anthology of 21st Century Canadian Poetry (Anstruther), Best Canadian Poetry (Tightrope), Counter-Desecration: A Glossary for Writing Within the Anthropocene (Wesleyan), and The Land We Are: Artists and Writers Unsettle the Politics of Reconciliation (ARP). Abel's work has been published in numerous journals and magazines—including Canadian Literature, The Capilano Review, and Poetry Is Dead—and his visual poetry has been included in exhibitions at the Polygon Gallery, UNIT/PITT Gallery, and the Oslo Pilot Project Room in Oslo, Norway. Abel recently completed a PhD at Simon Fraser University, and is currently working as an A …

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Green and White Threads: Nigerian-Canadian Writers

From sea to sea, Canadian communities offer immigrants welcoming inclusive spaces. While I started writing as a preteen, I became a published author after our family moved to Canada 17 years ago. As I look forward to the September publication of my seventh book, A Good Name, I remain thankful for the many opportunities this land bestows on newcomers. 

Writers of Nigerian descent are world-renowned for the breadth and vibrancy of their art. I am proud of this heritage. Therefore, I am honoured to shine a spotlight on the following writers whose works add invaluable green and white threads to the grand tapestry of Canadian literature. 

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Butter Honey Pig Bread, by Francesca Ekwuyasi

Ekwuyasi’s debut novel is a story about choices and their consequences, of motherhood, of the malleable line between the spirit and the mind, of finding new homes and mending old ones, of voracious appetites, of queer love, of friendship, faith, and above all, family.

Longlisted for the 2020 Scotiabank Giller Prize, this novel is a reader’s treat. I’ve always been a fa …

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Most Anticipated: Our Fall 2021 Poetry Preview

Part three of our Fall Preview is poetry, a mixture of impressive debuts and releases by favourites.

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The constraint-based poems in the debut collection, A Future Perfect (August), by Razielle Aigen, are written in the future-perfect tense, used as a way of bending time and playing with non-linearity. (Re)Generation (August) contains selected poetry by Anishinaabe writer Kateri Akiwenzie-Damm that deals with a range of issues, from violence against Indigenous women and lands, to Indigenous erotica and the joyous intimate encounters between bodies. And Make the World New (August) brings together some of the highlights of the work of Lillian Allen, one of the leading creative Black feminist voices in Canada, and is the first book of her poems to be published in over 20 years, edited by Ronald Cummings.

With echoes of Jacques Brault, Simone Weil, Baudelaire and Petrarch, in Of Love (October), Paul Bélanger continues his poetic quest for the sources of spiritual ecstasy. The Answer to Everything (September) showcases the definitive works of Ken Belfo …

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