1)Cane | Fire,by Shani Mootoo
From internationally celebrated writer and visual artist Shani Mootoo comes Cane | Fire, an immersive and vivid collection that marks a long-awaited return to poetry.
Throughout this evocative, sensual collection, akin to a poetic memoir, past and present are in conversation with each other as the narrator moves from Ireland to San Fernando, and finally to Canada. The reinterpretations and translation of this journey and its associated family history give meaning to the present. Through these deeply personal poems, and Mootoo’s own artwork, we begin to understand how a life can not only be shaped, but even reimagined.
2) Broken Dawn Blessings, by Adam Sol
How do we respond to others’ pain, both the pain of those we love and the larger global pain of those we don’t know? In a religious context, a witness can offer blessing when those in the midst of suffering cannot. Taking on the responsibility of blessing, then, is a way to shoulder that burden for the sufferer. This presupposes the idea that blessing is a necessity — which may be a point up for debate.
In the context of his wife’s recovery from surgery, and with civic violence prevalent in his city, the speaker of the poems in Broken Dawn Blessings leans on the structure of the Birkhot haShachar (dawn blessings) to carve out space for empathy, complaint, and occasional flashes of wonder. These poems showcase Sol’s trademark blend of humor and lyric virtuosity, and display his familiarity with Jewish texts and traditions, but add a new intimacy and urgency that break new ground for one of Canada’s most respected poets. It is his most risky and most accomplished collection to date.
3) Nothing Will Save Your Life, by Nancy Jo Cullen
Nothing Will Save Your Life is an explosion of pop culture, femininity, sex, religion and motherhood held together with humour and lightened with fragments of joy. In this book Nancy Jo Cullen has created a collection that is deeply rooted in the messy day-to-day of life but takes on serious issues such as body image, aging, climate change, capitalism and even death – containing it all within traditional poetic forms. From kitten videos to confirmation bias to cucumber diets to vintage Vivienne Westwood, these poems are a whirlwind of constrained energy. Sometimes neurotic, sometimes bawdy, sometimes tender – they are always irresistible to the reader, drawing us deep into Cullen’s world where she pulls apart society to show us just what it is to be alive in this moment.
4) Living In The Tall Grass, by Chief R. Stacey Laforme (Available on Audible Canada)
In Living in the Tall Grass: Poems of Reconciliation, Chief Stacey Laforme gives a history of his people through stories and poetry to allow us to see through the eyes of indigenous people. In it, he hits hard on matters of residential schools, the environment, suicide among indigenous youth, domestic abuse, and so on, but also writes poems of love and hope. Chief Laforme’s universal message is, “We should not have to change to fit into society, the world should adapt to embrace our uniqueness.”