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Poetry That's Going to Grab You

These are poetry collections worth your attention this spring as we cap off National Poetry Month. And don't miss the League of Canadian Poets Longlists for their 2021 Awards for more poetic splendour.


Undoing Hours, by Selina Boan

About the book: Selina Boan’s debut poetry collection, Undoing Hours, considers the various ways we undo, inherit, reclaim and (re)learn. Boan’s poems emphasize sound and breath. They tell stories of meeting family, of experiencing love and heartbreak, and of learning new ways to express and understand the world around her through nêhiyawêwin.

As a settler and urban nehiyaw who grew up disconnected from her father’s family and community, Boan turns to language as one way to challenge the impact of assimilation policies and colonization on her own being and the landscapes she inhabits. Exploring the nexus of language and power, the effects of which are both far-reaching and deeply intimate, these poems consider the ways language impacts the way we view and construct the world around us. Boan also explores what it means to be a white settler-nehiyaw woman actively building community and working to ground herself through language and relationships. Boan writes from a place of linguistic tension, tenderness and care, creating sp …

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26 Books to Celebrate for Poetry Month

Halfway through Poetry Month, we're taking stock—have you made space in your life for poetry yet? If you have, are you still looking for more? Peruse our list of 26 new poetry titles out this spring to find a title or two that piques your interest. 


Fresh Pack of Smokes, by Cassandra Blanchard

About the book: Dissecting herself and the life she once knew living a transient life that included time spent in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside as a bonafide drug addict, Blanchard writes plainly about violence, drug use and sex work in Fresh Pack of Smokes, offering insight into an often overlooked or misunderstood world.


Hymnswitch, by Ali Blythe

About the book: Four years ago, Ali Blythe arrived with Twoism, a remarkable debut collection, every line shimmering with life and shivering with erotically charged glimpses of completeness. Now in Hymnswitch, Blythe takes up the themes of identity and the body once again, this time casting an eye backwards and forwards, visiting places of recovery and wrestling with the transition into one's own skin. Readers wi …

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Celebrating Nature with Poetry

Thanks to Hazel Millar, Nicole Brewer, and Madison Stoner  from the League of Canadian Poets for creating a recommended reading list just for us for National Poetry Month, which is kicking off today.  


The League of Canadian Poets invites you to celebrate the 21st annual National Poetry Month in April with nature—whether it’s mountain ranges, deserts, forests, ocean, or plains; whether it’s a cityscape or a landscape. Read, write, and share poetry that translates the emotional, practical, and reciprocal relationships we build—as individuals and communities—to the natural world onto the page. 

To celebrate nature with poetry, we’d like to spotlight some outstanding Canadian poetry collections that tackle the broad theme of nature out of love, curiosity, and necessity. These collections explore the ways that nature informs our everyday lives and creates our material conditions. They focus on science, environmentalism, anti-colonial activism, field studies, body politics, and appreciation for the natural world—however we have access to it in our everyday lives. From a fire tower in Alberta, to a carpenter’s site, to the great Canadian North, these collections and poets help paint a complex picture of Canada’s, and the wider world’s, varied natural surroundings. 


Book Cover Elemental

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8 Wide-Ranging Poetry Books from Alberta

Alice Major’s 11th collection, Welcome to the Anthropocene, continues her long engagement with science and poetry and explores our human impact on the planet. Here she offers a selection of recent books by her fellow Albertan poets.


Alberta’s poetry is as varied as its landscape and these books offer a sample of the territory. There are so many reasons to enjoy these writers: some grab you by the throat with their subject matter. Some are about ordinary life, written in a way that makes you think about the biggest questions. 

Some writers turn language upside down and shake it until everything falls out of the pockets, making you pause and think about what words are and what they do. And some are simply appealing—humorous, observant, easy-to-read.

These are only eight of more than two dozen poetry collections published last year by writers across the province. Among them, I hope you’ll find at least one corner of our poetry landscape that you want to explore. 


This Wound is a World, by Billy-Ray Belcourt

This book is a stunning debut. Chosen …

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16 Seriously Funny Poets

Poetry just isn't that funny.

This is the kind of outlandish and generalized subjective-disguised-as-objective statement critics make about poetry all the time, donning their authority as one might don a hat. Critics do the same thing with humour—as though funny can be definitive, as though it wasn't kind of weird that one guy gets to be the definer.

So now I'm going to do that too, and pretend the following list is scientific and totally not subjective and not at all compromised by the list being limited to books I happen to have on my bookshelf. I'm going to put on the hat and OWN my authority: Behold, sixteen seriously funny poets.

Thanks to Dina Del Bucchia for the inspiration. And in the spirit of conversation (and expanding the limits of science) please tweet us YOUR favourite funny Canadian poems and poets @49thShelf


Fake Paul, by Kimmy Beach

What's so funny: he asks if anyone is called Michelle

I could fucking be Michelle

a frumpy woman with grease

in her hair calls, I'm Michelle!


she's not even looking at him

she's talking to her friends while he sings

                       to her!

he doesn't even look at me the whole song

I'll tell him I broke the wineglass accidentally 

cut myself a bit but I'm all right

leave my blood on the table


I can see the vei …

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Eric Schmaltz: Reading at the Intersection of Text and Image

Book Cover Surfaces

Pushing writing to its limits, Surfaces is Eric Schmaltz’s compelling debut collection, situated at the intersection of language, bodies, and digital culture. In this recommended reading list, he recommends other books where text and image are working together. 


The list presented here could be much longer than a list of ten books, which also means there are many omissions. However, this list consists of ten books published within the last ten years or so that have struck me as indispensable collections of visually based poems. These books highlight the intersection of text and image to create compelling explorations of linguistic meaning-making through not just reading, but also seeing, gazing, and skimming.


Un/Inhabited, by Jordan Abel 

Published two years before his Griffin Poetry Prize winning Injun, Jordan Abel’s Un/Inhabited is one of the most striking poetry collections of recent years that fuses text and image. A research-based book that intervenes into the mentality of the settler-colonial Western novel, Abel recasts that genre’s la …

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Celebrating 20 Years of National Poetry Month

National Poetry Month Logo

Thanks to Hazel Millar, Nicole Brewer, and Madison Stoner from the League of Canadian Poets for creating a recommended reading list just for us for National Poetry Month, which is happening right now.  


This April, National Poetry Month is all about looking back and moving forward: it’s the twentieth anniversary of National Poetry Month in Canada! We decided to go back in time 20 years to 1998 and remember some of the outstanding poetry releases of that year. We’ve highlighted the winners of some of Canada’s most notable poetry prizes from 1998 and we are so excited to fall in love with these works—again—with you. 

It's a hard truth that, looking back, all the winners we’ve rounded up from 1998 are not a diverse group of writers. But looking forward, many writers and publishers in CanLit are working hard to make long overdue space for historically underrepresented writers, who have been writing in and against an exclusionary industry for decades. We are excited to see awards lists filling up with more and more books of poetry from poets of colour, Indigenous poets, LGBTQ2S poets, and disabled poets—as well as the introduction of many, many more poetry prizes that expressly support poets from systemically oppressed groups.

In the spirit of annivers …

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Poetry Must-Reads for Spring

Poetry collections are to springtime what ripe peaches are to late summer, and let me tell you: the crop this year is splendid. Let the juice run down your chin. 


No TV For Woodpeckers, by Gary Barwin

About the book: In the pages of Gary Barwin's latest collection of poetry, No TV for Woodpeckers, the lines between haunting and hilarious, wondrous and weird, beautiful and beastly, are blurred in the most satisfying ways. No stranger to poetic experimentation, Barwin employs a range of techniques from the lyrical to the conceptual in order to explore loss, mortality, family, the self and our relationship to the natural world.

Many of these poems reveal a submerged reality full of forgotten, unknown or invisible life forms that surround us—that are us. Within this reality, Barwin explores the connection between bodies, language, culture and the environment. He reveals how we construct both self and reality through these relationships and also considers the human in relation to the concepts of "nature" and "the animal."

As philosophical as it is entertaining—weaving together threads of surrealism, ecopoetics, Dada and more—No TV for Woodpeckers is a complex and multi-layered work that offers an unexpected range of pleasures.

Why we're taking  notice: Barwin w …

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National Poetry Month: Poems on Time

Thanks to Hazel Millar and Nicole Brewer from the League of Canadian Poets for creating a recommended reading list just for us for National Poetry Month, which is happening right now. 


This April, the League of Canadian Poets will celebrate National Poetry Month by sharing and discussing poetry and poems on the theme of “time”—history, progress, resistance, and what’s to come. These six poetry collections span lifetimes, while still reveling in the tiniest moments; they dive into a turbulent past, they celebrate change, they anxiously await the future. Take a moment this April to celebrate poetry with one of these time-themed collections! For more reading recommendations and other ways to get involved with National Poetry Month, visit


Passage, by Gwen Benaway

In Passage, Benaway—a Two-Spirited Trans poet of Anishinaabe and Métis descent—seeks to reconcile herself to the land, the history of her ancestors, and her separation from her partner and family by invoking the beauty and power of her ancestral waterways. Traveling …

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On the Road With the League of Canadian Poets

NPM Poster

We're so pleased that the League of Canadian Poets has created a post for us along the theme of this year's National Poetry Month, which is "The Road." Certainly, these are poems that take their readers places.

Thanks to Hazel Millar, Kate Flaherty, and Nicole Brewer for putting it all together. And check out National Poetry Month events happening across Canada


This April, for National Poetry Month 2016, the League of Canadian Poets is encouraging Canadians to celebrate the roads in their lives and their literature: roads not taken; roads well travelled; roads real and imagined on journeys both tangible and intangible. We’ve gathered together ten books that explore a range of journeys from a road trip, to the Riel Resistance of the Métis, to the adventures of Bonnie and Clyde, and beyond. In the mood for an armchair adventure? Sit down with these books and let poetry take you on the road!

Book Cover The Road In Is Not the Same Road Out

In celebrated poet Karen Solie's latest book, The Road In Is Not the Same Road Out, there are poems that journey on foot and in rental cars, poems that trav …

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Notes from a Children's Librarian: Poetry Books

Our Children's Librarian columnist, Julie Booker, brings us a new view from the stacks every month.


Other Goose: Recycled Rhymes for Our Fragile Times, by Barbara Wyn Klunder, is a little gem, with etching style illustrations. Its tongue-in-cheek take on the environment includes poems about "This little piggy" going to market but not finding parking, Jack and Jill opting for bottled water, and "Baa baa, black sheep/ Have you any gas?/ Are you kidding me, man? / No one has!" The collection addresses second-hand smoke, logging, consumerism, food banks, the soil cycle, pollution, politics, gas dependency, today's fast-pace, environmental allergens, oil slicks, the role of art and celebrity. Because of the high-level humour and the need to understand the context of the satire, this one would work best with grades 4 to 6. 

Voices from the Wild, An Animal Sensagoria, by David Bouchard, paintings by Ron Parker, is a dialogue between a Northern painter and his animal subjects. It's divided into five sections, with creatures sorted according to their domin …

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Celebrating Canadian Poetry: Brick Books Turns 40

Brick Books Postcard

Sometimes when it seems like we're smack in the middle of publishing doom-and-gloom, it's worth noting that amazing Canadian indie publishers including Biblioasis, Goose Lane and ECW all celebrated monumental birthdays last year, and now in 2015, the venerable Brick Books is turning 40.

Brick Books was founded by Stan Dragland and Don McKay in 1975 (and you can find out here how their history is tangled up with that of Brick Magazine). Dragland tells the story of Brick Books here, ending with a question and an answer: "Why are we moonlighting in this demanding, non-paying job? I’m not sure we’d all have the same answer, but a composite response would have to stress the deep satisfaction of being members of a thoroughly professional body with an amateur heart. We do it for love."

Also worth checking out is Don McKay's address on the press's 25th anniversary on all the reasons such an endeavour as Brick Books shouldn't work

It won’t work because they once perpetrated a cover featuring shocking pink letters on a background of wonderful cerise.

It won’t work because they once rejected a poet so gently he thought he’d been accepted and wrote back grateful thanks.

It won’t work because idealism.

It won’t work because foolishness.

It won’t work because nobody …

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