EMWF Showcase: National Poetry Month Celebration
In partnership with the League of Canadian Poets
Thursday April 8, 8:00 - 9:00 p.m. EST (online)
Presenters: Roxanna Bennett (The Untranslatable I), Selina Boan (Undoing Hours), Leanne Dunic (One and Half of You), Therese Estacion (Phantompains), Louise B. Halfe (awâsis — kinky and dishevelled), Steven Heighton (Selected Poems: 1983-2020), Dallas Hunt (Creeland), Larissa Lai (Iron Goddess of Mercy), Grace Lau (The Language We Were Never Taught to Speak), Jen Sookfong Lee (The Shadow List), Garry Thomas Morse (Scofflaw), Ken Norris (South China Sea), Arleen Paré (First), Rebecca Salazar (sulphurtongue), Ian Williams (Word Problems)
In celebration of National Poetry Month, we’ve curated a showcase featuring some of the most dynamic poetry to be published in Canada this year. Take a break from pandemic life and join these poets on a journey that will explore the depth and breadth of the human experience. Grab your favourite beverage, pull up a chair and enjoy the ride.
This event includes closed captioning.
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The Untranslatable I
By Roxanna Bennett
Published by Gordon Hill Press
In unmeaningable, her previous Trillium Poetry Awards winning book with Gordon Hill Press, Roxanna Bennett renovated the North American disability poetics canon via her queer fusion of invisible and visible disability identities. The Untranslatable I builds on Roxanna's acute sense of form and cripping of myth by establishing a more reflective, heartbreaking voice that asks, "Was I chosen? Is this a gift or a curse?" and provides answers not as prescribed path or cure, but as beautiful song.
Roxanna Bennett is a poet living with disability in Whitby, Ontario. She is the author of unseen garden (chapbook, knife | fork | book, 2018) and The Uncertainty Principle (Tightrope Books, 2014). Her poetry has appeared in many magazines, journals, and anthologies, most recently CV2, Grain, Riddle Fence, PRISM International, Plenitude Magazine, and Tim Tim Literary Review. Her collection of poetry, unmeaningable (Gordon Hill Press, 2019) won the 2020 Trillium Book Award for Poetry and the 2020 Raymond Souster Award. Her latest collection, The Untranslatable I, is now available.
By Selina Boan
Published by Nightwood Editions
Selina Boan’s debut poetry collection, Undoing Hours, considers the various ways we undo, inherit, reclaim and (re)learn. Boan’s poems emphasize sound and breath. They tell stories of meeting family, of experiencing love and heartbreak, and of learning new ways to express and understand the world around her through nêhiyawêwin.
As a settler and urban nehiyaw who grew up disconnected from her father’s family and community, Boan turns to language as one way to challenge the impact of assimilation policies and colonization on her own being and the landscapes she inhabits. Exploring the nexus of language and power, the effects of which are both far-reaching and deeply intimate, these poems consider the ways language impacts the way we view and construct the world around us. Boan also explores what it means to be a white settler–nehiyaw woman actively building community and working to ground herself through language and relationships. Boan writes from a place of linguistic tension, tenderness and care, creating space to ask questions and to imagine intimate decolonial futures.
Selina Boan is a white settler-nehiyaw writer living on the traditional, unceded territories of thexʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), səl̓ilwətaɁɬ (Tsleil-waututh), and sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish) peoples. Her debut poetry collection, Undoing Hours, is forthcoming with Nightwood Editions in Spring 2021. Her work has been published widely, including The Best Canadian Poetry 2018 and 2020. She has received several honours, including the 2017 National Magazine Award for Poetry, and was a finalist for the 2020 CBC poetry award. She is currently a poetry editor for Rahila’s Ghost Press and is a member of The Growing Room Collective
One and Half of You
By Leanne Dunic
Published by Talonbooks
One and Half of You is a memoir that begins with the author’s growing up biracial on rural Vancouver Island. Not fitting in at school, she turns for comfort to her brother, who is in many ways the opposite of her. Only when she moves from the Island to the mainland does she meet another like her. Through sinuous language, risk, and surprising humour, this hybrid work explores sibling and romantic love, and the complexities of being a biracial person looking for completion in another. Includes links to recordings of three songs.
Leanne Dunic transgresses genres and form to produce projects such as To Love the Coming End (Book*hug / Chin Music Press 2017) and The Gift (Book*hug 2019). She is the leader of The Deep Cove and lives on the unceded and occupied Traditional Territories of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm, Sḵwx̱wú7mesh, and səl̓ilwətaɁɬ peoples.
By Therese Estacion
Published by Book*hug Press
Therese Estacion survived a rare infection that nearly killed her, but not without losing both her legs below the knees, several fingers, and reproductive organs. Phantompains is a visceral, imaginative collection exploring disability, grief and life by interweaving stark memories with dreamlike surrealism.
Taking inspiration from Filipino horror and folk tales, Estacion incorporates some Visayan language into her work, telling stories of mermen, gnomes, and ogres that haunt childhood stories of the Philippines and, then, imaginings in her hospital room, where she spent months recovering after her operations.
Estacion says she wrote these poems out of necessity: an essential task to deal with the trauma of hospitalization and what followed. Now, they are demonstrations of the power of our imaginations to provide catharsis, preserve memory, rebel and even to find self-love.
Therese Estacion is part of the Visayan diaspora community. She spent her childhood between Cebu and Gihulngan, two distinct islands found in the archipelago named by its colonizers as the Philippines, before she moved to Canada with her family when she was ten years old. She is an elementary school teacher and is currently studying to be a psychotherapist. Therese is also a bilateral below knee and partial hands amputee, and identifies as a disabled person/person with a disability. Therese lives in Toronto. Her poems have been published in CV2 and PANK Magazine, and shortlisted for the Marina Nemat Award. Phantompains is her first book.
awâsis — kinky and dishevelled
By Louise B. Halfe — Sky Dancer
Published by Brick Books
There are no pronouns in Cree for gender; awâsis (which means illuminated child) reveals herself through shapeshifting, adopting different genders, exploring the English language with merriment, and sharing his journey of mishaps with humor, mystery, and spirituality. Opening with a joyful and intimate Foreword from Elder Maria Campbell, awâsis – kinky and dishevelled is a force of Indigenous resurgence, resistance, and soul-healing laughter.
Louise B. Halfe – Sky Dancer was raised on Saddle Lake Reserve and attended Blue Quills Residential School. Her first book, Bear Bones & Feathers, received the Milton Acorn People’s Poetry Award and was a finalist for the Spirit of Saskatchewan Award, the Pat Lowther Award, and the Gerald Lampert Award. Blue Marrow was a finalist for the 1998 Governor General’s Award for Poetry. Her fourth book, Burning in This Midnight Dream won the 2017 Saskatchewan Book Award and the Raymond Souster Award, among numerous others. Halfe was awarded the Latner Writers Trust Award for her body of work in 2017, and was awarded the 2020 Kloppenburg Award for Literary Excellence. In 2021, she was appointed Canada's ninth Poet Laureate. She was granted a lifetime membership in the League of Canadian Poets, and currently works with Elders in the organization Opikinawasowin (“raising our children”). She lives near Saskatoon.
Selected Poems 1983–2020
By Steven Heighton
Published by House of Anansi Press
Selected Poems 1983–2020 is Steven Heighton’s seventh volume of poetry and the first since his Governor General’s Literary Award–winning collection, The Waking Comes Late. Incorporating a grouping of previously unpublished poetry and a selection of key poems from his six previous acclaimed collections, this timely volume showcases a generational talent whose work has been described by critics as “exhilarating,” “genuine,” and “arrestingly beautiful.”
Heighton’s debut collection, Stalin’s Carnival, won the Gerald Lampert Award for Best First Book of Poetry in 1990. Subsequent books, which include bestselling novels, essays, and critical writings, confirmed Heighton as an exciting and important voice in Canadian letters. Heighton’s poetry is recognised for its technical skill, musicality, its erudition, and its empathy and unvarnished emotion.
Steven Heighton’s most recent books are the novel The Nightingale Won’t Let You Sleep (Hamish Hamilton, 2017), the Governor General’s Literary Award–winning poetry collection The Waking Comes Late (House of Anansi Press, 2016), and the memoir Reaching Mithymna (Biblioasis, 2020), which was a finalist for the Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust Prize for Nonfiction. He is also the author of the novel Afterlands, which was published in six countries, was a New York Times Book Review Editor’s Choice, and was a “best of year” selection from ten publications in Canada, the U.S., and the U.K. The novel has also been optioned for film by Pall Grimsson and is currently in pre-production. His other poetry collections include The Ecstasy of Skeptics and The Address Book. His fiction and poetry have been translated into ten languages, have appeared in the London Review of Books, Tin House, Poetry, Brick, the Independent, the Literary Review, and The Walrus Magazine, among others; have been internationally anthologized in Best English Stories, Best American Poetry, The Minerva Book of Stories, and Best American Mystery Stories; and have won the Governor General’s Literary Award for Poetry, the Gerald Lampert Award, the K. M. Hunter Award, the P. K. Page Founders’ Award, the Petra Kenney Prize, the Air Canada Award, and four gold National Magazine Awards. In addition, Heighton has been a finalist for the Governor General’s Literary Award, the Trillium Book Award, the Pushcart Prize, the Journey Prize, the Moth Prize, and Britain’s W. H. Smith Award. Heighton is also a fiction reviewer for the New York Times Book Review. In 2021, Wolfe Island Records will release an album of his songs, The Devil’s Share. To listen, visit www.wolfeislandrecords.com/stevenheighton.
By Dallas Hunt
Published by Nightwood Editions
Creeland is a poetry collection concerned with notions of home and the quotidian attachments we feel to those notions, even across great distances. Even in an area such as Treaty Eight (northern Alberta), a geography decimated by resource extraction and development, people are creating, living, laughing, surviving and flourishing—or at least attempting to.
The poems in this collection are preoccupied with the role of Indigenous aesthetics in the creation and nurturing of complex Indigenous lifeworlds. They aim to honour the encounters that everyday Cree economies enable, and the words that try—and ultimately fail—to articulate them. Hunt gestures to the movements, speech acts and relations that exceed available vocabularies, that may be housed within words like joy, but which the words themselves cannot fully convey. This debut collection is vital in the context of a colonial aesthetic designed to perpetually foreclose on Indigenous futures and erase Indigenous existence.
Dallas Hunt is Cree and a member of Wapsewsipi (Swan River First Nation) in Treaty Eight territory in northern Alberta. He has had creative worked published in Contemporary Verse 2, Prairie Fire, PRISM international and Arc Poetry. His first children’s book, Awâsis and the World-famous Bannock, was published through Highwater Press in 2018, and was nominated for several awards. Hunt is an assistant professor of Indigenous literatures at the University of British Columbia.
Iron Goddess of Mercy
By Larissa Lai
Published by Arsenal Pulp Press
Iron Goddess of Mercy by Lambda Literary Award winner Larissa Lai (for the novel The Tiger Flu) is a long poem that captures the vengeful yet hopeful movement of the Furies mid-whirl and dance with them through the horror of the long now. Inspired by the tumultuous history of Hong Kong, from the Japanese and British occupations to the ongoing pro-democracy protests, the poem interrogates the complicated notion of identity, offering a prism through which the term 'Asian' can be understood to make sense of a complex set of relations. The self crystallizes in moments of solidity, only to dissolve and whirl away again. The poet is a windsock, catching all the affect that blows at her and ballooning to fullness, only to empty again when the wind changes direction. Iron Goddess of Mercy is a game of mah jong played deep into the night, an endless gamble. Summoning the ghosts of history and politics, Iron Goddess of Mercy explores the complexities of identity through the lens of rage and empowerment.
Larissa Lai is the author of three novels, The Tiger Flu (Lambda Literary Award winner), Salt Fish Girl, and When Fox is a Thousand, and three poetry books, Sybil Unrest (with Rita Wong), Automaton Biographies (shortlisted for the Dorothy Livesay Poetry Prize), and the forthcoming Iron Goddess of Mercy. She is also the winner of Lambda Literary's Jim Duggins Outstanding Mid-Career Novelists' Prize, and an Astraea Award. She holds a Canada Research Chair in Creative Writing at the University of Calgary where she directs the The Insurgent Architects' House for Creative Writing.
The Language We Were Never Taught to Speak
By Grace Lau
Published by Guernica Editions
The poems in The Language We Were Never Taught to Speak explore the many identities, both visible and invisible, that a body contains. With influences from pop culture, the Bible, tech, and Hong-Kongese history, these pieces reflect and reveal how the stories of immigrants in Canada hold both universal truths and singular distinctions. From boy bands that show the way to become “the kind of girl a girl could love” to “rich flavours that are just a few generations of poverty away,” they invite the reader to meditate on spirituality, food, and the shapes love takes.
Grace Lau is a Hong Kong–born, Chinese Canadian writer raised in Vancouver and currently living in Toronto. She enjoys Harry Styles’ fashion choices, swaying to music, and sushi. Find her on social media @thrillandgrace.
The Shadow List
By Jen Sookfong Lee
Published by Wolsak & Wynn
In these devastating lyric poems Jen Sookfong Lee unfolds the experience of her narrator, following her through frost-chilled nights and salt-scented days, as she pulls at the knot of accumulated expectations around her trying to create space to want and to be. The Shadow List is a book filled with desire, where we question the politics of who gets to choose and who doesn't and where the narrator creates hidden lists of what she really wants. With a novelist's way with character, Lee builds a deep connection with the narrator of the poems, yet each individual poem creates a vivid snapshot of moments many will recognize. The slick of black ice, the killing light of day, the cheap, plastic diamonds – they are all pieces of a life we gather and put in our pockets to remember with.
Jen Sookfong Lee was born and raised in Vancouver’s East Side, and she now lives with her son in North Burnaby. Her books include The Conjoined, nominated for International Dublin Literary Award and a finalist for the Ethel Wilson Fiction Prize, The Better Mother, a finalist for the City of Vancouver Book Award, The End of East, Gentlemen of the Shade, and Chinese New Year. Jen teaches at The Writers’ Studio Online with Simon Fraser University, edits fiction for ECW, and co-hosts the literary podcast, Can’t Lit.
By Garry Thomas Morse
Published by Anvil Press
Scofflaw is a long poem, a playful exploration of Indigenous-Settler relations amid globalized pressures. For the most part, the poem is a lyrical dialectic flowing between a shadowy figure known as Scofflaw and an enigmatic “we.” The content ranges from the effect of pesticides on Manitoba butterflies to the reworking of a John Newlove poem on Indigenous peoples to Native remains beneath the Canadian Museum for Human Rights. The text culminates in a “lexicon standoff,” where Scofflaw uses metaphysical means to avoid a character assassination, battling against the culling of words from the language.
Garry Thomas Morse is a two-time nominee for the Governor General’s Award for his poetry collections, Discovery Passages and Prairie Harbour, and a two-time nominee for the ReLit Award for his speculative fiction novels, Minor Episodes/Major Ruckus and Rogue Cells/Carbon Harbour. His most recent titles are Yams Do Not Exist and Scofflaw. Morse has served as the 2018 Jack McClelland Writer-in-Residence at the University of Toronto, and as the 2019 Carol Shields Writer-in-Residence at the University of Winnipeg.
South China Sea: A Poet’s Autobiography
By Ken Norris
Published by Guernica Editions
South China Sea is a poet's autobiography. Forgoing the props of conventional narrative, the book travels through space and time, revealing the moments in a life that anchor reality and constitute memory. In poems that compel us to remember and to re-evaluate our own personal stories, Norris travels back to a New York City childhood and to his years as a young man in the art and literary scene of Montreal, while moving forward in the present on a soul-changing journey through China. In the pages of South China Sea, memory and experience dance together through the complex maze of existence.
Born in New York City in 1951, Ken Norris came to Canada in the early 1970s. He is currently a Professor of Canadian Literature, University of Maine. One of Canada's most prolific poets, Norris is the author of more than 30 books. His work has been widely anthologized in Canada and throughout the English-speaking world, as well as published in translation in France, Belgium, Israel and China. He divides his time between Canada, the U.S., and Asia.
By Arleen Paré
Published by Brick Books
Governor General’s Award–winning poet Arleen Paré combines the story of two first best friends with questions of the mystery of cosmic first cause.
The poems in First, Arleen Paré’s seventh collection, search for a long-lost first friend. They conjure the subtle layers of meaning in that early friendship to riff on to a search for how we might possibly understand the primal First: the beginnings of the cosmos that contains our own particular lives, beginnings and longings.
Arleen Paré’s first book, Paper Trail, was nominated for the Dorothy Livesay BC Book Award for Poetry and won the City of Victoria Butler Book Prize in 2008. Leaving Now, a mixed-genre novel released in 2012, was highlighted on All Lit Up. Lake of Two Mountains, her third book, won the 2014 Governor General’s Award for Poetry, was nominated for the Butler Book Prize and won the CBC Bookie Award. Paré’s poetry collection, He Leaves His Face in the Funeral Car, was a 2015 Victoria Butler Book Prize finalist. The Girls with Stone Faces, her fifth book, won the American Golden Crown Award for poetry in 2018. Her sixth book, Earle Street, was released in Spring, 2020. She lives in Victoria with her partner of forty years.
By Rebecca Salazar
Published by McClelland & Stewart
An urgent, powerful examination of place and the ways in which all kinds of identities exist and collide.
The poems in sulphurtongue ask how to redefine desire and kinship across languages, and across polluted environments. An immigrant family scatters over a stolen continent. Oracles appear in public transit, and online. Bodies are transformed by nearby nickel mines. Doppelgangers, Catholic saints, and polyamorists alike pass on unusual inheritances. Deeply entangled in relations both emotional and ecological, this collection confronts the stories we tell about gender, queerness, race, religion, illness, and trauma, seeking new forms of care for a changing world.
Rebecca Salazar (she/they) is a writer, editor, and community organizer currently living on the unceded territory of the Wolastoqiyik people. The author of poetry chapbooks the knife you need to justify the wound (Rahila's Ghost) and Guzzle (Anstruther), Salazar also edits for The Fiddlehead and Plenitude magazines.
By Ian Williams
Published by Coach House Books
Frustrated by how tough the issues of our time are to solve – racial inequality, our pernicious depression, the troubled relationships we have with other people – Ian Williams revisits the seemingly simple questions of grade school for inspiration: if Billy has five nickels and Jane has three dimes, how many Black men will be murdered by police? He finds no satisfaction, realizing that maybe there are no easy answers to ineffable questions.
Williams uses his characteristic inventiveness to find not just new answers but new questions, reconsidering what poetry can be, using math and grammar lessons to shape poems that invite us to participate. Two long poems cut through the text like vibrating bass notes, curiosities circle endlessly, and microaggressions spin into lyric. And all done with a light touch and a joyful sense of humour.
Ian Williams is the author of the Giller Prize-winning novel Reproduction . His last poetry collection Personals was shortlisted for the Griffin Poetry Prize and the Robert Kroetsch Poetry Book Award. His short story collection, Not Anyone's Anything, won the Danuta Gleed Literary Award for the best first collection of short fiction in Canada. His first book, You Know Who You Are, was a finalist for the ReLit Poetry Prize. Williams holds a Ph.D. in English at the University of Toronto and is currently an assistant professor of poetry in the Creative Writing program at the University of British Columbia. He was the 2014-2015 Canadian Writer-in-Residence for the University of Calgary's Distinguished Writers Program. Ian Williams currently resides in Vancouver, BC.