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Topic: Guernica Editions

They Arrested the Windows: Changing the Face of Canadian Literature, edited by Dane Swan

This is Essential Anthology Series 12 from Guernica. I applaud Dane Swan’s bracing, celebratory forward to focus the reader on diversity, inclusion, and active listening as they read a wide array of narratives. It is a reminder to stay alert and keep pushing for change. Here, the focus is on the poetry, spoken word, and fiction of 30 writers from across the landscape of the nation that calls itself Canada. There are no formal sections, but the works move the reader forward in a sine wave of images and powerful feelings. The range of emotions is vast: fury in the face of lifetimes of systemic racism and exclusion; despair and trauma; profound mistrust of institutions; and a lack of respect and dignity that can sear the pages. At times there is strangeness, and other times wry wit; every voice has an essential story to tell.

Self-Portrait in Shadow and Light: A Map of Rain Days by Jennifer Hosein

As the title suggests, poet-painter Jennifer Hosein’s A Map of Rain Days conjures loss and despair. Her paintings and sketches at the start of each section portray a woman turned inward, her back to the world. Her collection is an unflinching evocation of the physical and emotional violence men can do to women under the pretext of love. Her poems, that describe the wounds inflicted by racism, are also visceral and visual. However, Hosein’s love for her mother and daughter shines through even the bleakest of her poems.

Quintessential Heroics: Crito Di Volta by Marc Di Saverio

Few are the poets who succeed in changing our perception of reality with their pansophy. Marc Di Saverio is one such poet. In his epic Crito di Volta, he has penned a work of unparalleled intellectual depth and poetic intensity, spanning the gamut of literature, philosophy, theology and science. Praised for its authentic poetic voice, Crito di Volta defies tradition, all the while encompassing it.

Beards, Orchids and Hangers: Downtown Flirt by Peter Jickling

Chronicling the narrative of a Yukon lad turned Torontonian, Downtown Flirt speaks to urban living with refreshingly honest poetry. From contemplating a second shower to fix a soapy scrotum to the cons of black mattress covers, Jickling brings the reader into these lived moments with full transparency. The casual tone and diction of the poetry make it incredibly accessible, as it reads like a series of relatable journal entries rooted in economic struggle, connection amidst social isolation, and the congestion of urban living.

A Loving Bond: The Long Bond: Selected and New Poems by Allan Briesmaster

Allan Briesmaster’s new volume yields the rich gifts of his long, involved bond with poetry. Behind his careful work pulses an instinct, both genuine and inevitable of a writer who sees poems everywhere, all the time.

A Society of Dead Poets: Insult to the Brain Nicola Vulpe

From religious texts to fiction to true crime, death, dying, and the possibilities of what comes after have been written about throughout history. And though fascination with death is not unique to writers, they are perhaps uniquely qualified to address it, at least in an entertaining and thoughtful way. Nicola Vulpe does just that in his new collection of poems, Insult to the Brain. Described on the front cover as an “altogether unreliable account” of Vulpe’s “conversations with poets, mostly about dying, but also about other matters great and small,” this collection is a unique ode to poets, their lives, and poetry itself.

Madmen and Specialists: George Elliott Clarke’s Canticles I (MMXVI)

Ranging over 400 pages, the incumbent Parliamentary Poet Laureate’s Canticles I (MMXVI) is a torrent of erudition. Refreshingly, it also happens to contain much good poetry. Conceived as “a lyric styled epic,” Clarke roams the valley of history’s losers and sheaths dry bones with breath. Calling History (capitalized) a “demonic Bible” in his opening poem “Apologia” Clarke’s work can be best understood as an uninhibited attempt to provincialize the Eurocentricity of our regnant narratives.