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Eight Local Books to Celebrate National Poetry Month

Get poetic this April with collections from writers across Canada.

April heralds the start of National Poetry Month, a 30-day celebration of words and the poets who craft them. Whether you’re a poetry aficionado or brand new to the genre, these eight books from the independent publishers of the Literary Press Group of Canada will bring you closer to your humanity and inspire the poet within. Read on to find the perfect collection — or collections — to set you on a month-long poetic journey.

A swooping, shape-shifting collection thrumming with life

Precedented Parroting
By Barbara Tran
(Palimpsest Press)

Opening with an exit, the poems in Precedented Parroting accept no assumptions. With the determination and curiosity of a problem-solving crow, this expansive debut plumbs personal archives and traverses the natural world, endeavouring to shake the tight cage of stereotypes, Asian and avian. Praised as “lively and intelligent” and “lyrically delicious,” Barbara Tran’s poetry offers us both the keen eye and grace of a hawk, “red-tailed gliding/on time.”

Poems deftly capturing what it's like for those who don’t fit within rigid notions of gender

Phases
By Belinda Betker
(Shadowpaw Press Reprise)

In this expanded and revised edition of her acclaimed debut poetry collection, Saskatoon’s Belinda Betker deftly captures what life is like for those who don’t fit within rigid notions of what it means to be a “boy” or a “girl.” She takes readers on a luminous journey of a young girl’s coming-of-age, her burgeoning sexuality, an unhappy marriage, the triumphant release of coming out, and the liberating power of drag.

In these poems, readers will find a celestial and transcendent rediscovering of the self; an unravelling of society’s expectations of gender, love and desire, and how these falsehoods threaten to eclipse our truth. Phases is mercurial and unpredictable, a celebration of the non-conformist in each of us.

Poems that display an uncommon eye for the mysteries of ordinary life

Talking to Strangers
By Rhea Tregebov
(Signal Editions/Véhicule Press)

Talking to Strangers is a book of bracing encounters. Throughout her four decades as poet, Rhea Tregebov has displayed an uncommon eye for the mysteries of ordinary life — moments where, as she writes, “[t]he simplest things/elude me.” This gift is brought to brilliant effect in her eighth book of poetry and most charged to date.

In gorgeous arias of recollection and evocation, of elegy and heartbreak, Tregebov mourns, praises, prays, regrets, summons, celebrates and bears witness with formidable artistry and tenderness (“You wouldn’t think the inanimate would get tired/but it does.”) Direct, never forced, keenly observant, and marked by scrupulous craft, these new poems unfold in beguiling, often breathtaking ways, confirming Tregebov’s place among the most significant poets of her generation.

Poems of gentle reverence for anyone in a state of longing within un/belonging

Dayo
by Marc Perez
(Brick Books)

Dayo is a Tagalog word meaning someone who exists in a place not their own: a traveller, wanderer, migrant, refugee, exile, or simply a stranger. The poems in Marc Perez’s elegant debut collection ask, with quiet dignity, what belonging can mean in a society suffused with colonial, imperial and racial violence.

Employing keen observation to magnify the interconnectivity of all things and to celebrate the quotidian, this collection embodies the true curiosity and tenacious spirit of a dayo seeking a place to replant, tend and grow delicate roots.

Frank, fearless and brilliant poetry representing a quarter-century of work

This Side of Light: Selected Poems (1995-2020)
By Carolyn Marie Souaid
(Signature Editions)

This Side of Light is Carolyn Marie Souaid's ninth book of poetry. Selected and introduced by Governor General Award winner Arleen Paré, this timely volume celebrates the evolution and scope of Souaid's work over a 25-year period — from the early titles focused on human connectedness and the difficult bridging of worlds, to more recent ones exploring themes of aging, loss, letting go and the vulnerability of life. Praised for her bold experiments with the long poem, Souaid is known for her evocative imagery.

A lyrical exploration of the lives of the Lenape people

North of Middle Island
By D. A. Lockhart
(Kegedonce Press)

D.A. Lockhart’s newest poetry collection brings a decolonial lyric exploration to Pelee Island, Ontario. With poems that explore this community’s contemporary and historical Indigenous context, Lockhart uses his work to showcase and reveal this jewel in the far south of Canada — an island teeming with birds and wildlife, encroached upon by a distant mainland.

North of Middle Island centres around a new Lenape story told in the style and structure of an Anglo-Saxon epic poem that brings famed professional wrestler Rowdy “Roddy” Piper to rescue the community from dark medicines that have landed upon their once-idyllic island. A true merging of the Lenape storytelling tradition and the literary origins of English poetry, the book merges embraces the multiplicity of traditions that must, and do, take root in our collective experience.

A poetic travelogue and introspective adventure through time and art

Acutely Life
By Sue Sorensen
(At Bay Press)

In these poems, Sue Sorensen visits the Village Vanguard jazz club in June 1961, Freud’s study in London, and the novelist Henry James. Working her allusive and spirited way inside books and paintings, she has acute meetings with musicians, photographers, fictional characters — and most of all, herself.

An award-winning poetry activity book that invites children to express their grief, emotions and memories in a safe and nurturing way

When I Miss You: A Trace and Colour Book
By Heidi Sander
(Pathways to Poetry/Blue Moon Publishers)

It can be difficult for children to articulate their feelings and grapple with the complex emotions of grief. For families seeking a tool to facilitate healing conversations, When I Miss You, winner of the Mom’s Choice Awards, is a valuable resource.

When I Miss You invites children to capture and honour the memory of their loved one through a unique blend of tracing and colouring activities, and process their feelings in a gentle and creative way.

There you have it: eight stellar poetry collections that will put you in the poetic spirit this April. Happy poetry month!  [Tyee]

Read more: Books

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