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Most Anticipated: Our 2021 Spring Poetry Preview

Our Spring Preview continues with an amazing selection of new and forthcoming poetry.

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The Montreal Prize Anthology 2020 (April), by Jordan Abel, Kaveh Akbar and Wendy Cope, explodes with talent, combining radiant vision with striking invention in form. Andrea Actis's Grey All Over (April) not only celebrates a rare, close, complicated father-daughter bond, it also boldly expands the empathetic and critical capacities of poetry itself. Make the World New (April) brings together in a single volume some of the highlights of work by 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. Selina Boan’s debut poetry collection, Undoing Hours (March), considers the various ways we undo, inherit, reclaim and (re)learn. And Shane Book, the author of the acclaimed 2014 collection Congotronic, returns with All Black Everything (June), a collection of urgent, forceful, and energetic new poems.

Set in a small-town, sub-Arctic dive bar, Tara Borin’s debut collection The …

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The Chat with Sheree Fitch

Sheree Fitch NEW by Keith Minchin Photo

In the immediate aftermath of last year’s tragedy in Portapique, Nova Scotia, Sheree Fitch penned a verse that captured the heartache so many were feeling. Originally broadcast in a national vigil to honour victims of the tragedy, Sheree’s poem Because We Love, We Cry was recently released in book format by Nimbus Publishing.

Sheree Fitch’s first two books, Toes in My Nose (1987) and Sleeping Dragons All Around (1989), launched her career as a poet, rhymster, and a “kind of Canadian female Dr. Seuss.” Fitch has won almost every major award for Canadian children’s literature since then, including the 2000 Vicky Metcalf Award for a Body of Work Inspirational to Canadian Children. She has over twenty-five books to her credit, including her bestselling and critically praised adult novel, Kiss the Joy As It Flies (2008).

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Trevor Corkum: Because We Love, We Cry was written as a response to the tragedy in Portapique and surrounding areas last year. How did the poem come to life for you?

Sheree Fitch: That Sunday, as things unfolded, we were franti …

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A Record of Literary History: Best Canadian Poetry 2020

Best Canadian Poetry 2020 is out now, featuring work by poets including Amber Dawn, Billy-Ray Belcourt, Tim Bowling, Ivan Coyote, Louise Bernice Halfe–Sky Dancer, Tanis MacDonald, Nyla Matuk, Jason Purcell, Armand Garnet Ruffo, Robyn Sarah, Kevin Spenst, John Elizabeth Stintzi, and more.

Guest Editor Marilyn Dumont writes about her vision for the anthology in her introduction to the book, which we're pleased to excerpt here today. 

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Before taking on the task of guest-editing Best Canadian Poetry 2020, I had no idea how poems were identified for such an anthology, despite habitually acquiring collections on an annual basis myself. I avidly purchased anthologies throughout the years, and whether I agreed with the anthol­ogist on their yearly selection of poems or not, I always found anthologies instructive because of their capacity to curate a collection of poems that have spoken to a particular poet’s aes­thetic at a specific time in the literary history of a country. If I consider the number of volumes in my bookshelf with the word “best” in the title, there seems to be no end of the desire to isolate what warrants merit among the genres.

Anthologists are not search engines generating a reposi­tory of merit in collections, but instead are human bein …

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The Chat with David Bateman

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Acclaimed writer David Bateman has just released his fabulous debut novel, DR SAD (University of Calgary Press). It follows the life of Stephen, a poet and academic living in a small city in the Interior of BC who learns he is HIV positive.

The late artist and writer RM Vaughn said “Only David Bateman, one of our finest poets, could bring academe to such sensual life. DR SAD is the story of a generational shift, one that turned learning into careerism and writing into telegraphing, and, most important, all that’s been lost in this turn. DR SAD makes academe sexy again. That in itself is an Everest-like feat, but to do it with style and grace? Only David Bateman.”

David Bateman has a PhD in English literature with a specialization in creative writing from the University of Calgary. He is currently a freelance arts journalist, painter, and performance poet who lives in Toronto. His poetry collections, all from Frontenac House Press (Calgary), include Invisible Foreground, Impersonating Flowers, ’tis pity, and Designation Youth. His collaborative long poems include “Wait Until Late Afternoon” with Hiromi Goto (Frontenac House Press) and “Pause” with Naomi Beth Wakan (Bevalia Press). His collection of short stories and creative non-fiction entitled A …

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Launchpad: knot body, by Eli Tareq El Bechelany-Lynch

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Last spring—as launches, festivals and other events were cancelled across the country—49th Shelf helped Canadian authors launch more than 50 new books with LAUNCHPAD. And now we're back this fall, but with a twist.

LAUNCHPAD 2.0 features new releases selected by great Canadian writers who've chosen books that absolutely deserve to find their way into the hands of readers.

Today Amber Dawn is championing knot body, by Eli Tareq El Bechelany-Lynch, writing, "In this moment, when trans, racialized and disabled bodies are met with voyeuristic and polarizing commentary within the public sphere, Eli Tareq El Bechelany-Lynch offers legitimate intimacy in their debut collection knot body. As self-communional as Kiese Laymon’s Heavy and Terese Marie Mailhot’s Heart Berries,  they amplify the epistolary memoir. Each of their letters are emotionally and thematically complete and, yet, each letter decidedly speaks to the next. Readers may sit and ruminate on the sharp and sensual inquiry offered by each individual letter, or read cover-to-cover and be present to the gorgeously-engaged, call-and-response quality of knot body as a whole.

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2020 Poetry Delights

Pearl Pirie's new collection, footlights, is available now.

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These are compelling reads from Canadian poets. They delight in being imaginative and in distinct dense tellings of their worlds. These books turn and explore, question and listen.

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Niagara & Government, by Phil Hall

These poems don't get swept up in themselves, but heckle easy assumptions, resist hero or villain, the lyric impulse for perfect beauty or paper-cut endings. He wants to be more real than that and escape the literary within the literary. "I dare not smear with wit or cheapen with harmony" (p. 79).

He reflects on past decades, and interpretations, and impacts within the moment's "deep accordion sigh" (p. 55) and realizing "this is Bottom I thought but I was wrong. /I was wearing the hole in Bottom// the bottle still had it over me/I was its tongue" (p. 51). His expression is fresh and deft. It is an ear candy to read, and fittingly absurd to stick candy in the ear. He is irreverent. "happy to muck about allow & accumulate".

He explores being an outsider to those he was born amon …

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TreeTalk-ing or, "How I Became a Serial Poetry Monogamist"

Ariel Gordon, award-winning poet, brings things together—people, ideas, forms and genres, and more. She is author of essay collection Treed: Walking in Canada's Urban Forest, and her latest release is TreeTalk, her third poetry collection.

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It was a midnight proposal.

I was a long-time admirer of Synonym Art Consultation’s residency program, which took place at The Tallest Poppy, a Jewish diner/hangout in Winnipeg’s West Broadway neighbourhood.

One night, after a good half hour of browsing SAC’s website like it was a dating site, all I could think was: “I want to do one of those!” And: “But what could I do?”

At that point, I was halfway through the writing of my collection of essays, Treed: Walking in Canada’s Urban Forest, which means I was (and still am!) obsessed with all things arboreal.

And while I was officially working on Treed, I am a serial poetry monogamist, which is to say that I’d published two collections of poetry (Hump and Stowaways) and generally made it my mission in life to convert non-believers to poetry.

At events, I’d shamelessly try to steal prose-writers’ audiences. My favourite thing, afterwards, was to hear people say, “You know, I don’t read poetry usually, but that was really interesting…”

(And yes, if you …

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Filling the Gaps, Minding the Gaps: the Unconventional (Mostly) Small Town Girls of CanLit

My latest poetry collection, Gaptoothed, is about my own bashful, lusty Wife of Bath smile. Yet it is also about gaps in identity, memory, history—flaws, holes, spaces and absences, that when looked at from a certain angle, become powerful instruments of poetic expression. The collection, released by Gaspereau Press this past spring, is also about gender, girlhood, and the unconventional and vulnerable girls who too often fall through the cracks—or gaps—in a system that was never built to help the likes of them. The collection is dedicated to my late grandmother; she was supposed to be one of forgotten, cast-aside girls, but her tremendous wit, her razor-sharp tongue, her vitality made her unforgettable. The book is about the beauty of the one-of-a-kind that tells you off for not noticing sooner.

The books listed below have filled in the gaps for me over the years on a literary landscape that so often seemed full of holes—that still seems to be short so many vibrant and vital stories and poems and voices.

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Monkey Beach, by Eden Robinson

This is …

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Most Anticipated: Our 2020 Fall Poetry Preview

Our Fall Preview continues with poetry, with an intriguing selection of debuts, selected/collected works, and other excellent new releases.

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(Re)Generation (January) 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. Susan Alexander’s Nothing You Can Carry (September) is rooted in a keen, even holy, sense of place within the natural world. Text Messages (September) is the first multi-genre collection by Montreal-based Iraqi hip-hop artist, activist, and professor Yassin “Narcy” Alsalman. And Dearly (November) is Margaret Atwood’s first collection in over a decade, bringing together many of her most recognizable and celebrated themes, but distilled.

The concerns of Swivelmount (September)—the collapse of subject and world, eros and law, knowledge and bafflement—gain new urgency as Ken Babstock fiercely reimagines and reassembles the remnants into a viable order. A b …

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The Chat with Cicely Belle Blain

This week on the Chat, we’re in conversation with Cicely Belle Blain, author of the forthcoming poetry collection Burning Sugar (VS. Books/Arsenal Pulp Press).

Author Jillian Christmas says,“Cicely Belle Blain's Burning Sugar beautifully narrates a journey over more than lands and waters. It is an exploration of the near perfect bliss of brazen blackness, interrupted by in all its forms. But even that intrusion is outmatched by the beauty of Blain's wildest dreams that offer a sharp and unflinching analysis, with a tender belly and a steady voice. Each poem pulls its teeth from the book's title, and offers the soft and deliberate sweetness of what could have been—before the burning.” 

Cicely Belle Blain is a Black/mixed, queer femme from London, now living on the lands of the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh peoples. At the heart of their work, Cicely Belle harnesses their passion for justice, liberation, and meaningful change via transformative education, always with laughter, and fearlessly, in the face of resistance. They are noted for founding Black Lives Matter Vancouver and subsequently being listed as one of Vancouver magazine’s 50 most powerful people, BCBusiness’s 30 under 30, and the CBC’s 150 Black women and non-binary people making change across Canada. They are now the CEO of Cicely Blain Consulting, a social justice–informed diversity and inclusion consulting company with over 100 clients across North America, Europe, Asia, and Africa. Cicel …

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Launchpad: Murmurations, by Annick MacAskill

This spring we've made it our mission (even more than usual) to celebrate new releases in the wake of cancelled launch parties, book festivals, and reading series. With 49th Shelf Launchpad, we're holding virtual launch parties here on our platform complete with witty banter and great insight to give you a taste of the books on offer. You can request these books from your local library, get them as e-books or audio books, order them from your local indie bookseller if they're delivering, buy them direct from the publisher or from online retailers.

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Today we're launching Murmurations, by Annick MacAskill, whose previous book was nominated for the League of Canadian Poets’ Gerald Lampert Memorial Award and shortlisted for the J. M. Abraham Poetry Award (Atlantic Book Awards).

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The Elevator Pitch. Tell us about your book in a sentence.

Murmurations is a book of love poems, heavy on the bird imagery.

Describe your ideal reader.

Any reader is my ideal reader! But to play fair: anyone who’s wondered what lovers and birds have to do with each other, or w …

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Launchpad: the broken boat, by Daniela Elza

Launchpad Logo

This spring we've made it our mission (even more than usual) to celebrate new releases in the wake of cancelled launch parties, book festivals, and reading series. With 49th Shelf Launchpad, we're holding virtual launch parties here on our platform complete with witty banter and great insight to give you a taste of the books on offer. You can request these books from your local library, get them as e-books or audio books, order them from your local indie bookseller if they're delivering, buy them direct from the publisher or from online retailers.

Today we're launching the broken boat, by Daniela Elza, described by Miranda Pearson as "both lament and praise for the ending of a marriage. The poems, fractured and musical on the page, are at once stark and complex, surreal and familiar. There is a vertiginous sense of unsteady balance, of climbing, rung to rung. And yet, a delicate strength is here—a learning how to move through grief.”

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The Elevator Pitch. Tell us about your book in a sentence.

This book is all about asking questions to stay aflo …

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