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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 Belford. I Love You, Call Me Back (October) is a new poetry collection from Sabrina Benaim, bestselling author of Depression & Other Magic Tricks, exploring loneliness, anxiety, depression, grief and longing, while also celebrating a moment to be on your own—all written during the quarantine. And Dream of No One but Myself (September), by David Bradford, is an expansive, hybrid, debut collection of prose poems, self-erasures, verse, and family photo cut-ups about growing up in a racially trinary, diversely troubled family.

From her feminist work to her eco poetics, readers will get a chance to see the breathtaking career of one of Canada's most influential poets, Di Brandt, in The Sweetest Dance on Earth (September), a selection of her best work. In Nora Bowman’s Breath, Like Water: An Anti-Colonial Romance (September) the narrator, a settler-colonial hiker, grapples with her attachment to the Okanagan Mountain alongside her desire to honour the Land Back movement of Indigenous peoples and the harmful history of white colonizers. And Antonyms for Daughter (September), Jenny Boychuk's poetry debut, addresses a harrowing subject: the loss of the poet's mother to addiction.

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Drawing on Arthurian myth, the Romantic poets, the ill-fated "Great War" efforts of the Newfoundland Regiment, modern parenthood, 16-bit video games, and Major League Baseball, the poems in Mark Callanan’s Romantic (October) examine the stories we tell ourselves about ourselves, both as individuals and as communities, in order to explain how and why we are the way we are. The poems in Drawing Daybreak (October), Maria Caltabiano’s debut collection, depict a healing process that imposes a new perspective as one embarks on an unknown road: the fears, the guilt, the joys. And in Vlarf (November), Jason Camlot plumbs the canon of Victorian literature, as one would search the internet, to fashion strange, sad, and funny forms and feelings in poetry.

In the riddling and seeking whereabouts (August), Edward Carson navigates the emotional, often contradictory intelligence of the heart and mind. In [SQUELCH PROCEDURES] (August), MLA Chernoff contemplates the ways that trauma, poverty and strict gender norms rupture the concept of childhood. Composed over a span of three months, Postscripts from a City Burning (September), by Sam Cheuk, reassembles the embers left behind by the 2019 Hong Kong protests (and ultimately failed coup), weaving nostalgia, loss, and possible redemption into a time capsule of diaristic verse, photographs, dramatic monologues, and historical testimony.

Named after a local word meaning “soaked through” or “weighed down,” Scotiabank Giller Prize finalist Megan Gail Coles’s debut poetry collection Satched (September) is a vivid portrait of intergenerational trauma, ecological grief, and late-stage capitalism from the perspective of a woman of rural-remote, Northern, working class, mixed ancestry. Poet Dennis Cooley's eloquent words merge with photographer/composer Michael Matthews' decadent abstract photographs in Gibbous Moon (October). In barangay: an offshore poem (October) Adrian De Leon considers the deadly impact of colonialism, the far-reaching effects of the diaspora from the Philippines and the personal loss of his ability to speak Ilokano, his grandmother’s native tongue.

In Danger Flower (September), Jaclyn Desforges leads enlightened witnesses through a wild garden where archetypal tales are treated with tongue-in-cheek irreverence. Governor General's Award-winning poet Don Domanski's posthumous last collection, Fetishes of the Floating World (October), once again melds perception-expanding environmental poetry and metaphysics into a seamless, moving lyric whole. Henry Doyle's potent combination of gritty realism, weary wisdom and wry humour make No Shelter (September) an unforgettable collection. Swinging from post-explosion Beirut to a Parc-Extension balcony in summer, the verse and prose poems in The Good Arabs (September), by Eli Tareq El Bechelany-Lynch, ground the reader in place, language, and the body. And Rik Emmet’s Reinvention (September) is a poetry collection from lead guitarist of the multi-platinum record selling legendary band Triumph.

In The Lost Time Accidents (October), a timely and powerful debut, Síle Englert explores what it is to feel othered in a world where everything is connected. In Postmodern Weather Report (August), Kristian Enright expertly weaves critical theory with playful poetics to suffuse the space with reflections on science, semantics, pop culture, philosophy, and a blossoming emergence into new cultural awareness for a contemporary age. Deeply personal and reflective, Triny Finlay’s Myself A Paperclip (October) confronts abuse and experiences with debilitating mental illnesses, therapies, and hospitalizations, all shaped into the remarkable form of a serial long poem.

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Written over the span of a decade and a half, Coast Mountain Foot (October), by Ryan Fitzpatrick, keens its ear to the energies that connect cities, refracting the gesture of George Bowering’s 1968 classic Rocky Mountain Foot. Influenced by Friedrich Nietzsche’s The Birth of Tragedy, the writings of Plato, the films of Pier Paolo Pasolini, and The Odyssey, ORACULE (September), by Nicole Raziya Fong, approaches self and identity through a fractal, performative lens, subverting Socratic dialogue. And a stunning new voice emerges in Gold Pours (October) as Aurore Gatwenzi shares the experience of being young and Black in northern Ontario with poems about God, identity, heartbreak and passion.

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In with/holding (September), the follow-up to her award-winning debut collection, How She Read, Chantal Gibson delivers an unflinching critique of the representation of Blackness, past and present. The Essential John Glassco (October), edited by Carmine Starnino, collects of the poetic achievements of Glassco, a Montreal Group poet whose technical giftedness and unimpeachable wordplay brought music and flair to poems characterized by darkness and decay. And Elise Marcella Godfrey’s Pitchblende (September) is a powerful, political collection that challenges us to urgently rethink our responsibilities to the land, water, and air that sustains all species, and our responsibilities to one another.

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Carol Rose GoldenEagle’s Essential Ingredients (October) is a celebration of parenthood, in the form of love letters to the poet’s children, ultimately a tribute to the memories of those many magic moments which define love, purpose and pride. Frost & Pollen (October), by Helen Hajnoczky, is a poetry collection in two acts: "Bloom & Martyr" is a sensuous walk through a menacing garden of flowers and desire, while "Foliage" retells the Arthurian legend of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight from the point of view of the Green Knight, the mysterious figure who teases and torments Gawain. Carol Harvey Steski’s rump + flank (September) sheds light on what bodies—especially female ones—endure, probing the full range of experiences from pleasure and hope to deep loss and trauma. In A Sure Connection (October), W.M. Herring contemplates the connections that matter, and that confirm we matter—connections with others and with our real or re-imagined selves.

Poet-critic Jim Johnstone has described Kevin Heslop’s the correct fury of your why is a mountain (August) as among “the most promising poetic projects to come out of Canada in recent years.” Inspired by the literary landscape of the late poet John Thompson, Kevin Irie's The Tantramar Re-Vision (August) presents a portrait of nature where the benign and the bedevilled coexist, collude, or collide. Starting with ad copy that extols the iconic Pink Pearl eraser, Susan Holbrook, in Ink Earl (September), erases and erases, revealing more and more, taking the popular subgenre of erasure poetry to its illogical conclusion.

Girl running (September), the debut collection by Métis poet Diana Hope Tegenkamp, takes us through many worlds and wonders. Seven years after the publication of Firesmoke, Sheniz Janmohamed returns with her third collection of poetry, Reminders on the Path (September), in which the poet is wayfarer, exploring the path we inherit and seek out, that disappears with every step we take on it. Claiming the word “queer” for “those who self-proclaim the authority of their own bodies in defiance of church and state,” Kirby pays tribute to gay touchstones while embodying both their work and joy in Poetry is Queer (October).

The Absence of Zero (November), by R. Kolewe, is a triumphantly-executed celebration of the the long poem tradition. Specializing in fast-moving monologues that track the vagaries and divagations of a mind in action, Virginia Konchan in Hallelujah Time (September) cuts our most hallowed cultural institutions and constructions down to size with surprising turns of language both theatrical and sincere. And Go Down Odawa Way (October), by Daniel Lockhart, is a poetry collection that explores the physical, historical, and cultural spaces that make up the southwestern traditional territory of the Three Fires Confederacy.

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Inspired by mystical traditions, birdwatching, tree planting, ethics, neuropsychology, and quantum physics, Gabrielle McIntire's poems in Unbound (July) draw us in with their passionate attention to what it means to be human in a still-wondrous natural environment. The latest from Don McKay is Lurch (August), in which language dances its ardent incompetence as a translator of “the profane wonders of the wilderness,” whether manifest as Balsam Fir, Catbirds, the extinct Eskimo Curlew, or the ever-present Cosmic Microwave Background. Problematica (September) not only represents the best of George Murray’s earlier poems, but also surprises readers with a section of never-before-seen new work, revealing a life spent wrestling with what it means to arrive, live, and leave.

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Lambda Literary and Stonewall Book Award-winner Hasan Namir shares a joyful collection about parenting, fatherhood and hope in Umbilical Cord (September). Inspired by contemporary English language haiku, accomplished poet, Jude Neale, explores ordinary objects through both poetry and photography in her new collection, Inside the Pearl (September). Embracing uncertainty and incorporating seasonal forecasts, humour, trivia, satire, politics, the environment, loss, and the mundane, the poems in David O’Meara’s Masses on Radar (September) are a detection system signaling a paradox of meanings.

DisPlace: The Poetry of Nduka Otiono (October), edited by Peter Midgley, engages actively with a diasporic world: Otiono is equally at home critiquing petroculture in Nigeria and in Canada, his work straddling multiple poetic traditions and places African intellectual history at the forefront of an engagement with Western poetics. And blue gait (October), by shauna paull, offers witness to another way of living where human and material concerns are not at the centre of things and where human ascendency and heroic catharsis is redressed.

Miraculous Sickness (September), by ky Perraun, deals with society's views and treatment of schizophrenia from ancient times to modern day. With kitchen-table candour and empathy, Charlie Petch's debut collection of poems, Why I Was Late (September) offers witness to a decades-long trans/personal coming of age, finding heroes in unexpected places. Guided, and haunted, by a series of ghosts, from Coco Chanel to Gypsy Rose Lee to Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Marguerite Pigeon’s narrator in The Endless Garment (October) moves through the floors of a grand existential department store, comprehending, reinventing and questioning her approach to, and understanding of, fashion.

The poems in Mouthfuls of Space (October), by Tom Prime, offer a dissociative journey through the life of a once homeless recovering drug addict and victim of childhood sexual, emotional, and physical abuse. If “poetry is what we do to break bread with the dead,” as Seamus Heaney put it, John Reibetanz’s Earth Words (October) breaks bread with three earlier writers through the glosa, a poetic form that unfolds as a dialogue. Iceland is Melting and So Are You (October) is the latest collection from award-winning poet Talya Rubin, exploring the melting of ice sheets and the thawing of the heart. And The Collected Poetry of Carol Shields (October) includes three previously published collections and over eighty unpublished poems, ranging from the early 1970s to Shields’s death in 2003.

searching for eastman (September), by charles c. smith, is a multidisciplinary performance in 4 acts, based on the interpretation of four of Julius Eastman's compositions through poetry, theatre, music, dance, video and digital. Flying Red Horse (September), by Dale Martin Smith, is a book of poetry, with a lyric essay, about fatherhood and masculinity, and the conditions of whiteness that pressure those terms for contemporary relevance and meaning. Trillium Book Award–winning poet Adam Sol’s newest collection Broken Dawn Blessings (September) is made up of poems that are loosely linked to the traditional Jewish morning prayers, the Birchot haShachar, which try to find moments of blessing in the midst of personal and public pain, shame, and worry.

In Somewhat Absurd, Somehow Existential (October), J. J. Steinfeld’s work continues to not only orbit a multitude of realities and multifaceted worlds, but to interrogate various aspects of being, whether they appear as the worldly or the otherworldly, the ordinary or the extraordinary, the physical or the spiritual. The poems in Lesley Strutt’s Window Ledge (November) are a raw unadorned testament to what has been done and is being done human to human, and human to animal, plant, fowl, and fish. And Unbecoming (November), Neil Surkan's sophomore collection, clings to hope while the world deteriorates, transforms, and grows less hospitable from moment to moment.

The Voyage (September), by H. Nigel Thomas, is a collection of poems culled from a lifetime of meditations on self, family, time, and aging; it also reflects on political and social aspects of human lives, such as hubris, abuse of power, racism and oppression. Linda K. Thompson's Black Bears in the Carrot Field (July) is described as "bold, humourous, and with the twang of a hurting song." Autowar (November), by Assiyah Jamilla Touré, is a visceral, vital, unblinking debut collection of poems exploring kinesthetic memory and longing, inherited violence, and the body as a geographical site. Carolyne Van Der Meer’s Sensorial (October) proposes one set of responses to the never-ending data we process as we navigate through life, in particular considering aging and illness on the journey towards life’s end—and examines gain and loss in the aggregate.

Bitter in the Belly (November) reckons with suicide’s wreckage, John Emil Vincent sorting through and trying to arrange cosmologies, eloquence, narrative, insight, only to find fatal limitations. Within the darkest moments of personal and ecological loss, Kristen Wittman's second collection, Death Becomes Us (August), fashions a garden of love poems from memories of soft kisses and falling towers, a broken Eden where pain nurtures tender, blooming petals, and the ceaseless heartbeat of Mother Nature pulses underfoot, bringing forth every new dawn. And James Yeku’s Where the Baedeker Leads (November) uncovers the many delicate layers that lie in the spaces between departures and arrivals, offering memories and stories.

August 9, 2021
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