EMWF Showcase: Hot nights. Cool Poets.
In partnership with the League of Canadian Poets
Friday August 28, 8:00 - 9:00 p.m. EST (online)
Presenters: Cicely Belle Blain, Burning Sugar, Sadiqa de Meijer, The Outer Wards, Mathew Henderson, Roguelike, Julie Joosten, Nought, Canisia Lubrin, The Dyzgraphxst, Randy Lundy, Field Notes for the Self, A. F. Moritz, As Far As You Know, Tyler Pennock, Bones, Rasiqra Revulva, Cephalopography 2.0, Kevin Spenst, Hearts Amok, John Steffler, And Yet, Lily Wang, Saturn Peach.
Heartbreak, hope, memory, body, trauma, motherhood, mayhem, love, self, queerness, oppression, resilience, addiction and…cephalopods. Grab your favourite beverage, pull up a chair and listen to a selection of the most dynamic Canadian voices in poetry to be published this year. These poems will break your heart, lift you up, turn you sideways and challenge you to think outside your own experience. Enjoy the ride.
This event includes closed captioning.
By Cicely Belle Blain
Published by Arsenal Pulp Press
In this incendiary debut collection, activist and poet Cicely Belle Blain intimately revisits familiar spaces in geography, in the arts, and in personal history to expose the legacy of colonization and its impact on Black bodies. They use poetry to illuminate their activist work: exposing racism, especially anti-Blackness, and helping people see the connections between history and systemic oppression that show up in every human interaction, space, and community. Their poems demonstrate how the world is both beautiful and cruel, a truth that inspires overwhelming anger and awe - all of which spills out onto the page to tell the story of a challenging, complex, nuanced, and joyful life.
In Burning Sugar, verse and epistolary, racism and resilience, pain and precarity are flawlessly sewn together by the mighty hands of a Black, queer femme.
Cicely Belle Blain is a Black/mixed, queer femme from London now living on the lands of the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh peoples. At the heart of their work, Cicely Belle harnesses their passion for justice, liberation and meaningful change via transformative education, always with laughter, and fearlessly in the face of resistance. They are noted for founding Black Lives Matter Vancouver and subsequently being listed as one of Vancouver magazine's 50 most powerful people, BCBusiness magazine's 30 under 30, and the CBC's 150 Black women and non-binary people making change across Canada. They are now the CEO of Cicely Blain Consulting, a social justice-informed diversity and inclusion consulting company with over 100 clients across North America, Europe, Asia and Africa. Cicely Belle is an instructor in executive leadership at Simon Fraser University, a board member for the PuSh International Performing Arts Festival, and a dialogue associate at the Morris J. Wosk Centre for Dialogue. Cicely Belle loves dinosaurs, Instagram, and YA fantasy. Burning Sugar is their first book.
The Outer Wards
By Sadiqa de Meijer
Published by Signal Editions (Véhicule Press)
Maternal love and duty disrupted by illness.
The Outer Wards, Sadiqa de Meijer’s new collection, explores questions of maternal love and duty—and the powerlessness that comes with the disruption of that role through illness. “I was awake. / The hour was wrong,” de Meijer writes, and her poems track, in visceral and tender detail, the distraction, exhaustion, exhilaration, and fear of child-rearing through crisis. For de Meijer, the experience was also a crisis of language, and the struggle to find new terms for her state. Addressed, in part, to a child she calls “my grievous spectacle, / my dearest unpossessable,” The Outer Wards is everywhere marked by a joy in words—their quick-fire turns, sumptuous sounds, and nursery-rhyme seductions.
Sadiqa de Meijer’s debut collection, Leaving Howe Island, was a nominee for the 2014 Governor General's Award for English-language poetry and for the 2014 Pat Lowther Award. Her forthcoming book, alfabet / alphabet, will be published with Palimpsest Press in September 2020. She lives with her family in Kingston, Ontario.
By Mathew Henderson
Published by House of Anansi Press
Mathew Henderson’s Roguelike, the much-anticipated follow-up to his acclaimed 2012 debut The Lease, melds the unique online vocabulary, culture, and logic of video games with family and addiction narratives, specifically the poet’s relationship with his mother and her struggle with narcotics. The resulting poems are arresting and fresh, mining game mythology, fantasy, and family history, while exploring the rich connection between video gaming and notions of addiction, repetition, storytelling, and escapism.
Though the poems are largely narrative, ultimately Roguelike is less about stories themselves than it is about the psychological and emotional forces that define how and why we make them — how we’re all moved to shape the disparate and seemingly unconnected events of our lives into something meaningful, to make sense of the past and the present through storytelling.
Mathew Henderson grew up in Tracadie, Prince Edward Island. After he graduated high school, Henderson worked summers in the oil fields of Saskatchewan and Alberta. His experiences there provided inspiration for his first book of poetry, The Lease, which was a finalist for both the Trillium Book Award for Poetry and the Gerald Lampert Memorial Award. Henderson earned an M.F.A. from the University of Guelph and has had poems published in The Walrus, Brick, Maisonneuve, and Best Canadian Poetry.
By Julie Joosten
Published by Book*Hug Press
Nought, a new collection of poetry from Governor General’s Literary Award finalist Julie Joosten, explores the intersections of body, identity, and love. These poems, in all their passions, inhabit the unfastened “and” of capacious loves and allegiances, refusing to choose between them; in Nought, thought comes alive through the materiality of body and experience, neurology and metaphysics entangled with sentient physicality—skin, eyes, mouths. Throughout, Joosten grapples with form and rhythm, crafting work that is intimately perceptive; that pulses and teems with life.
In Nought, experience—from resistance to love and all points between—is constantly surprising and utterly enchanting. It will alter your perception and construction of, and attention to, yourself and the surrounding world.
Julie Joosten’s first book, Light Light, was a finalist for the Governor General’s Literary Award for Poetry, the Gerald Lampert Memorial Award, and the Goldie Award. She won the Malahat Review Long Poem Contest in 2011. She lives and writes in Toronto on the traditional land of the Huron-Wendat, the Seneca, and most recently, the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation.
By Canisia Lubrin
Published by McClelland & Stewart
The Dyzgraphxst presents seven inquiries into selfhood through the perennial figure Jejune. Polyvocal in register, the book moves to mine meanings of kinship through the wide and intimate reach of language across geographies and generations. Against the contemporary backdrop of intensified capitalist fascism, toxic nationalism, and climate disaster, the figure Jejune asks, how have I come to make home out of unrecognizability. Marked by and through diasporic life, Jejune declares, I was not myself. I am not myself. My self resembles something having nothing to do with me.
Canisia Lubrin is a writer, editor, and teacher. Her work is published widely and has been frequently anthologized, including translations into Italian and Spanish. Lubrin’s debut poetry collection Voodoo Hypothesis, was named a CBC Best Poetry Book, longlisted for the Gerald Lambert Award, the Pat Lowther Award, and a finalist for the Raymond Souster Award. She was a finalist for the Toronto Book Award for her fiction contribution to The Unpublished City: Vol 1 and 2019 Writer in Residence at Queen’s University. Lubrin holds an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Guelph.
Field Notes for the Self
By Randy Lundy
Published by University of Regina Press
Field Notes for the Self is a series of dark meditations: spiritual exercises in which the poem becomes a forensics of the soul. The poems converse with Patrick Lane, John Thompson, and Charles Wright, but their closest cousins may be Arvo Pärt’s tintinnabulations—overlapping structures in which notes or images are rung slowly and repeatedly like bells. The goal is freedom from illusion, freedom from memory, from “the same old stories” of Lundy’s violent past; and freedom, too, from the unreachable memories of the violence done to his Indigenous ancestors, which, Lundy tells us, seem to haunt his cellular biology. Rooted in exquisitely modulated observations of the natural world, the singular achievement of these poems is mind itself, suspended before interior vision like a bit of crystal twisting in the light.
Randy Lundy is a member of the Barren Lands (Cree) First Nation. Born in northern Manitoba, he has lived most of his life in Saskatchewan. He has published three previous books, Under the Night Sun, Gift of the Hawk, and Blackbird Song. An award-winning poet, his work has been widely anthologized. He lives in Pense, Saskatchewan.
As Far As You Know
By A. F. Moritz
Published by House of Anansi Press
As Far As You Know, acclaimed poet A. F. Moritz’s twentieth collection of poems, begins with two sections entitled “Terrorism” and “Poetry.” The book unfolds in six movements, yet it revolves around and agonizes over the struggle between these two catalyzing concepts, in all the forms they might take, eventually arguing they are the unavoidable conditions and quandary of human life.
Written and organized chronologically around before and after the poet’s serious illness and heart surgery in 2014, these gorgeously unguarded poems plumb and deepen the reader’s understanding of Moritz’s primary and ongoing obsessions: beauty, impermanence, history, social conscience and responsibility, and, always and most urgently, love. For all its necessary engagement with worry, sorrow, and fragility, As Far As You Know sings a final insistent chorus to what it loves: “You will live.”
A. F. Moritz is widely considered one of the defining and most beloved lyric poets of his generation. His many honours include a Guggenheim Fellowship, the Award in Literature from the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters, the Griffin Poetry Prize, the Bess Hokin Prize, and an Ingram Merrill Fellowship. He currently serves as the sixth poet laureate of the City of Toronto.
By Tyler Pennock
Published by Brick Books
Poems about a young two-spirit Indigenous man moving through shadow and trauma toward strength and awareness.
Bones, Tyler Pennock’s wise and arresting debut, is about the ways we process the traumas of our past, and about how often these experiences eliminate moments of softness and gentleness. Here, poems journey inward, guided by the world of dreams, seeking memories of a loving sister lost beneath layers of tragedy and abuse. With bravery, these poems stand up to the demons lurking in the many shadows of their lines, seeking glimpses of a good that is always just out of reach.
At moments heart-rending and gut-punching, at others still and sweet, Bones is a collection of deep and painstaking work that examines the human spirit in all of us. This is a hero’s journey and a stark look at the many conditions of the soul. This is a book for survivors, for fighters, for dreamers, and for believers.
Tyler Pennock was adopted from a Cree and Métis family around the Lesser Slave Lake area of Alberta. He is a graduate of Guelph University’s Creative Writing MFA program. He currently lives in Toronto, where he has worked as an educator and community worker for over ten years. Bones is his first book.
Published by Wolsak and Wynn
Cephalopography 2.0 is as much a passionate celebration of cephalopods in all their plurality and finery as it is a collection of poems exploring human identity and experience through the lens of these marine animals. These experiments with traditional poetic forms such as ghazals, tankas and cinquains, as well as more contemporary forms, make poems that are uniquely and beautifully composed. Cephalopography 2.0 plunges into the depths of human experience to daringly remark on the wild and transformative links between cephalopods and humanity beyond the land and the sea.
Rasiqra Revulva is a queer femme writer, multimedia artist, editor, musician, performer and SciComm advocate. She is an editor of the climate crisis anthology Watch Your Head: A Call to Action, and one half of the experimental electronic duo The Databats (Slice Records, Melbourne; Toronto). She has published two chapbooks of glitch-illustrated poetry: Cephalopography (words(on)pages press, 2016) and If You Forget the Whipped Cream, You’re No Good As A Woman (Gap Riot Press, 2018). Cephalopography 2.0 is her debut collection.
By Kevin Spenst
Published by Anvil Press
In language that twists together hobo slang and flights of troubadourish diction, Hearts Amok scrutinizes the history of the love sonnet in Surrey, England and simultaneously celebrates the tickings and tollings of one love-struck heart in Surrey, British Columbia. Examining the underpinnings of love, this book journeys from the Middle Ages to the present where Spenst dates his way through Vancouver to finally find the love of his life.
Kevin Spenst, a Pushcart Prize nominee, is the author of Ignite, Jabbering with Bing Bong (both Anvil Press), and over a dozen chapbooks including Pray Goodbye (Alfred Gustav Press), Ward Notes (serif of nottingham), Flip Flop Faces and Unexpurgated Lives (JackPine Press), and most recently Upend (Frog Hollow Press: Dis/Ability series). His work has won the Lush Triumphant Award for Poetry, been nominated for both the Alfred G. Bailey Prize and the Robert Kroetsch Award for Innovative Poetry, and has appeared in dozens of publications including Prairie Fire, CV2, BafterC, Lemon Hound, Poetry is Dead, and the anthology Best Canadian Poetry 2014. He lives on unceded Coast Salish territory (Vancouver) with the love of his life Shauna Kaendo.
By John Steffler
Published by McClelland & Stewart
A former Poet Laureate of Canada and finalist for the Griffin Poetry Prize returns with a wide-ranging new collection of poems.
In John Steffler's luminous new collection, And Yet, dreams, memory and desire are forms of wilderness that burst into our daily lives, inspiring us to see ourselves and the world anew. Exuberant, powerful, even prescient, the poems confront the unknown and unexpected around and within us and call up our impulse to resist certainty and finality. The flimsiest shelter might seem best; a trail guide's house is revealed as a forest beyond names. What is outside might be most desired; a suit of clothes gazing into a mirror longs to become an iguana. In the title poem, a road-weary traveller comes in sight of the longed-for home--yet at the last minute turns away. Restless in their own language, the poems muster the impact of direct sensory experience and remind us what it means to live closer to the physical world. At times their attenuated forms acquire the anxious beauty of Giacometti sculptures. Our capacity for surprising change, these poems suggest, is both a cause for caution and a reason to hope that we can reinvent ourselves and transform our destructive technological culture.
John Steffler is the author of six books of poetry, including Lookout, which was shortlisted for the Griffin Poetry Prize, The Grey Islands and That Night We Were Ravenous. His novel The Afterlife of George Cartwright won the Smithbooks/Books in Canada First Novel Award and the Thomas Raddall Atlantic Fiction Award. From 2006 to 2008 he was Parliamentary Poet Laureate of Canada
By Lily Wang
Published by Gordon Hill Press
In Saturn Peach, Lily Wang establishes a distinctive voice that is part heartbreak and part wise witness chronicling the strangeness of a technologized world. When asked to describe her book, Wang answered in her quintessential way, “There are things I never want to know but always know. Every day I live with them. Every day I live. I am like a young fruit. Like a peach, common, not the popular kind but oblate, saturn. I live and inside me this pale fruit, yellow and white. I take bites out of myself and share them with you. Maybe you taste like me. Maybe you hold this fruit and become a tree.” If ever there were a book that disarmingly – and seemingly effortlessly – encouraged its reader to become a metaphor, then Saturn Peach is it.
Lily Wang is the founder and editor of Half a Grapefruit Magazine. She is doing her MA in English and Creative Writing at the University of Toronto. Her first chapbook Everyone In Your Dream is You was published by Anstruther Press in 2018. Her work has appeared in Peach Mag, The Puritan, The Hart House Review, Bad Nudes, Hobart Pulp, and more.
Want a copy of the books featured on this panel?
The Bookshelf (Guelph) is our bookselling partner for this event. If you would like to purchase a copy of one of the books from this event, you can order online at bookshelf.ca or phone 519-821-3311 x1. Free shipping or curbside delivery in Guelph. $10.00 shipping cost outside of Guelph.
Thank you to our supporters:
The Angel Gabriel Foundation, The Canada Council for the Arts, The Department of Canadian Heritage, Kitchener Waterloo Community Foundation, Open Book, The Ontario Arts Council, The Pollock Family Fund and Wellington County.