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.
Bardia Sinaee’s Intruder is honest and evocative, built from his experiences and ideas into a meticulously curated collection of poems. Intruder quickly characterizes Sinaee’s style as one filled with succinct imagery, a fact that repeated like a mantra as I read and reread the collection. Within a few lines or a single phrase, the speaker of the poem brings the reader exactly where Sinaee needs them to be.
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.
Titilope Sonuga’s This is How we Disappear, blends the personal and political through the powerful voice with which she writes. Tackling patriarchal censorship, trauma, the female experience, the political climate of Nigeria, and the portrayal of blackness within mainstream society, Sonuga prompts the reader to think and feel the weight of every word. Most pieces come from the “I” of the speaker, or the portrayal of dialogue through speaking to a “you,” inviting the reader into the intimate reflections and corners of the speaker’s experience as the poetry critically explores dark and complex themes.