April is National Poetry Month! To celebrate, members of the Room editorial collective have compiled a recommended reading list of some of their favourite poetry books by Canadian women. This April, we encourage you to run down to your nearest library or bookstore and check out one, two, three, or all of these excellent titles to celebrate Canadian poetry.
1. MxT by Sina Queyras
It’s populated with a cast of artists and writers, delightful allusions, poems that walk around in three cities I have lived in, and it focusses on grief and the elegiac, but most importantly, MxT (memory x time, the formula for grief) inspires me with its messages on breaking silence.
2. Blue Sonoma by Jane Munro
Jane Munro’s writing has a quiet intensity and in this collection her wit pairs well with sacred form in “Old Man Vacanas." I feel it teaches me something about the strength of grace and humour in the face of things (and people) coming undone.
3. Ossuaries by Dionne Brand
There isn’t a genre that Dionne Brand writes in that I don’t love and this book is arguably an entirely new genre—not a novel in verse, but rather a book of verse with a novel-in-scope narrative.
4. Harbour by Miranda Pearson
When Miranda Pearson taught me at SFU’s Writer’s Studio, the list of CanLit poets I knew well was rather short. Her workshops quickly changed not just this, but when she generously shared early drafts of poems from this sage and honest (and B.C. Book-prize nominated) book on how we seek sanctuary, it changed how I read and write poetry.
5. Bonus: The Pemmican Eaters by Marilyn Dumont (Out April 1)
I’m eager to read Marilyn Dumont’s telling in verse of the Riel Resistance, and expect if it’s anything like 1996's A Really Good Brown Girl, it’s going to be electric.
6. Begin with the Corners by Almeda Glenn Miller
Some of these poems were first published in Room (issue 36.4). This intimate collection explores family, travel, and rural life.
7. Pale as Real Ladies by Joan Crate
This collection of poems, inspired by 19th Century Metis author Pauline Johnson, examines Canada's past and present through race, gender, and history
8. Journals of Susanna Moodie by Margaret Atwood
Another collection inspired by an historical Canadian woman, in this case Susanna Moodie. Atwood re-tells many of Moodie's stories in poetic form, delving into the concept of Canadian identity and what it means to belong.
9. Enter the Chrysanthemum by Fiona Tinwei Lam
I often use poems from this book when teaching poetry whether for expressive arts classes or poetry workshops. The poetry takes so many tender personal moments and turns them ever so slightly while keeping their beauty intact.
10. Correspondences by Anne Michaels
This beautifully designed book puts Michaels' poetry on one side of the page and artist and writer Bernice Eisenstein's portraits and quotes from famous writers and thinkers at the time of the holocaust, on the other. Unusual in it's design in the accordion page layout the book unfolds into a beautiful dialogue between poet and artist. This work should not be missed.
11. Living Under Plastic by Evelyn Lau
I love this book. There are so many of Evelyn's images that resonate for me from the beginning to the end. Her ideas of family, love, death hit the mark over and over again for me.
12. milk tooth bane bone by Daniela Elza
I have heard Daniela read from this over and over before and after it was published and have never grown tired of her words or images. I find new things every time I listen. I am constantly amazed at how much richer her work becomes each time. From the simplest idea of surrendering her teeth to the crows when she was young to the reasoning that this must be why the crows won't leave her alone, we come to know her unique world, as she questions all and takes us on a incredible journey.
13. Bonus: The Exiles' Gallery by Elise Partridge (Out April 9)
The Exiles' Gallery is being launched Thursday May 21st from 7-9 at the Heartwood Community Café — 317 E. Broadway, Vancouver. I love her work and I have no doubt that this book will be incredibly poignant. Her family have asked you buy two books in the hopes of keeping her words and memory alive. Pass one on. I know I am.
14. Thirsty by Dionne Brand
The city is patient, but many other important things are not, and waiting isn't an option.
15. School by Jen Currin
Freedom begins with teaching, learning, conversations and blank slates.
16. For Your Safety Please Hold On by Kayla Czaga
Dark humour and memories mix with innocence of first observations to create a poetic adventure into the past.
17. Glass, Irony and God by Anne Carson
Lactating biblical prophets, Emily Bronte and an article about the gender of sound
18. Nox by Anne Carson
It’s elegy, a scrapbook, dictionary fragments and it’s in a box and unfolds like an accordion.
19. Rebuild by Sachiko Murakami
Ever feel like any moment someone is going to tear you down to make room for more condos? This is the book for you!
20. The Vision Tree by Phyllis Webb
Poems addressed to Rilke, Dostoevsky and one with the title The Eschatology of Spring. Some poems are long-lined and some are spare and surrounded by white space. So many places to read.
21. The Things I Heard About You by Alex Leslie
Leslie distills each of these powerful prose poems down into smaller and smaller (and more precise) fragments, ending each with a single, poignant sentence. Loss, violence, and the West Coast all make an appearance—final lines echoed through me for hours after I closed the book.
22. A Man To Marry, A Man To Bury by Susan Musgrave
You want it to last forever,
you want to own it.
You want to take love's tiny life
in your hands
and crush it to death before it dies.
I love Susan Musgrave so much. Hers are the love poems I read over and over as a teenager and young adult. (Quote from "Right Through The Heart" by Susan Musgrave).
23. Preparing My Daughter for Rain by Key Ballah (read her poetry online)
Self-proclaimed "brown girl poet", Key Ballah, reminds her readers what it means to fight, survive, heal, and love. Her sharp and soft words sure help me face the world each morning and sleep better at night.