Tackling systemic issues of racism through a language of powerful imagery, metaphor and dynamic use of the page, Ian Williams’ Word Problems is a game changer to the Canadian poetry scene. Breaking the linear convention of free form-atting, many of Williams’ poems wrap or bend around the page. In “I will never leave thee or forsake thee” the poem is two interlocking circles of text. Like a literary ouroboros, the poem loops in on itself. More than just a pleasant visual, the cyclical nature transforms the lines into a mantra of “I am alone whether I feel I am or not.” Williams uses this tool again with greater complexity in “Where are you,” where three circles interlock with horizontal lines in the stanza, creating poems within the poem and mantras that repeat in your head as the poem flows on, taking the reader with it. Shifting from circular shapes, poems with horizontal and vertical lines, digital messaging boxes, sheet music bars, a fingerprint, and a grid of the word “white” amid a few appearances of the letter “I,” you are kept on your toes as you turn the page, not only to read but to visually navigate the collection.
The recently renewed discussion over renaming Dundas Street in downtown Toronto is a reminder that naming, in our entrenched settler-colonial mindset, is a form of staking claim by transposing the old world onto the new. Naming is a birth, a step through the threshold of permanence, particularly when it comes to naming a location around which people will later orient their existence, particularly when the name given is as charged as Sappho.
Brandon Wint’s collection, Divine Animal, showcases his facility with words. Like the work of spoken word artists such as Toronto’s Andrea Thompson, his poetry sings on paper. Divine Animal is rich with anger, mourning, yearning, celebration, sensuality, and hope. The collection is also a timely and important reflection on the origins of systemic racism and long-time police brutality against Black people in the Western world.
I love this conceptually and formally playful book by Nasser Hussain, a catalogue of poems composed (we discover) exclusively of international airport location codes. His constraint-based collection glints with wit, humour and daring, uninterested in being compared with less formally audacious poetry carriers.
In K.B. Thors’ debut collection of poetry the Ukrainian-Icelandic Canadian deftly weaves the themes of identity and oppression through the rural landscape of Alberta.
Ben Ladouceur follows Otter, his Gerald Lampert Memorial Award-winning debut collection, with Mad Long Emotion. It opens with a direct address to the reader in “Property of: _________________.” The poem is a “gift like every gift,” for the giver and not the receiver. The poem is for the poet.
The Super-Kamiokande, a Cherenkov detector, is a large stainless-steel tank holding 50,000 tons of ultra pure water, sunk deep underground in the Kamioka-mine of Hida-city, Gifu, Japan. These conditions make it possible to observe the oscillations of solar, atmospheric, and man-made neutrinos—illustration of the creation of matter in the early universe. The detector also searches for evidence that protons decay; as the Super-Kamiokande home page notes, “if the proton decay is observed it may be possible to prove the GUTs [Grand Unified Theories].” If we believe the scientists (and Google), about 100 trillion neutrinos flow through your body every second.
Montreal poet Domenica Martinello comes with impressive early-career credentials, including the Bronwen Wallace Award shortlist and an MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. All Day I Dream About Sirens—a.k.a. ADIDAS—is her first full-length collection.
From death in pop culture to those dead from hate crimes to processing personal grief, Obits. by Tess Liem pushes death beyond the scope of obituaries. The reader follows the narrator’s grief for the queer, racialized, gendered dead, as well as mourning for the living.
With his debut collection of lyric poems, Jay Ritchie firmly plants himself in the ever-blossoming terrain of Anglo-Montreal poets. In their uncertain but affectionate grasp of the polis (its sidewalks, bagel shops, and shimmering populace), the poems in Cheer Up, Jay Ritchie are themselves personifications of the commonplace, as the winking narrator unscrews another dépanneur wine by the fountain spray in Parc Jarry.