Asian Heritage Month: Poetry Spotlight

May 10, 2023

Next up for Asian Heritage Month, we’re shining a spotlight on poetry collections that can’t be missed. A mix of debuts and award-winning authors, these poets provide perspectives of war, immigration, and what it means to grapple with multiple cultural identities. 

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Each week during Asian Heritage Month we'll be serving up recommendations of Asian-Canadian writing from both rising and established literary stars - a great way to add talents new and old to your bookshelf.

The book: Archipelago (Book*hug Press)

The author: Laila Malik

Why you should read it: Laila Malik debut lyrical poetry collection brings focus to barbed ancestral legacies and subverts conventions of lineage of coming of age in the 80s and 90s between Canada, the Arabian Gulf, East Africa and Kashmir. Archipelago is a letter to generational daughters that question the certainty of home.


The book: Hsin (Brick Books)

The author: Nanci Lee

Why you should read it: Born to a Syrian father and a Chinese mother, that gave her up for adoption, Nanci Lee unfolds her origins through poem fragments. According to Hang Thaddeus T'ui-Chieh, Hsin frustrates, "the psychological fragmentation and compartmentalization of the West." Hsin is a 2023 J. M. Abraham Atlantic Poetry Award Finalist, and a 2023 Maxine Tynes Nova Scotia Poetry Award Finalist. 


The book: Exit Wounds (Caitlin Press)

The author: Tāriq Malik

Why you should read it: Another debut collection for the Poetry Spotlight! Indo-Canadian poet Tāriq Malik sifts through his family’s experience with immigration and three wars. Malik reflects on his childhood, imagining being a dead solider in the sands of the Kuwaiti desert. Combining traditional Punjabi mythology and contemporary events, this collection resonates with plurality of minority experiences.


The book: You Still Look the Same (Freehand books)

The author: Farzana Doctor

Why you should read it: Divorce, humour and wit, Farzana Doctor in You Still Look the Same delves into contemporary explanations and perspectives of mid-life breakups and dating, female genital cutting, imprints of racism and misogyny. This collection depicts the flow of everyday life and the reader is brought into Farzana Doctor’s reality of what it means to live in a dual cultural bind. 


The book: The Shadow List (Wolsak & Wynn Publishers)

The author: Jen Sookfong Lee

Why you should read it: Acclaimed author Jen Sookfong Lee’s collection The Shadow List is filled with devastating lyrical poems. Creating hidden lists of what she wants the reader is encouraged the politics of who gets to choose and who doesn’t. Journalist Charlie Smith says, “There’s an urgency [The Shadow List]. It’s direct, detailed, and courageous. And it delivers rich, contemporary tales through vignettes in the narrator’s life.”


The book:  Quiet Night Think (ECW Press)

The author: Gillian Sze

Why you should read it: Gillian Sze is an award-winning poet who expresses her own definition in her collection Quiet Night Think. The title for this collection is taken from an eighth-century translation from Chinese poem by Li Bai, which Sze makes the subject of her opening essay. Quiet Night Think is an intimate and diverse recognition of the entanglements of culture and languages.



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What book are you most looking forward to picking up this Asian Heritage Month? Let us know in the comments or on social media @alllitupcanada.


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