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Deluxe redesign of the Gerald Lampert Award-winning classic.
On the occasion of the press’s 40th anniversary, Brick Books is proud to present the fourth of six new editions of classic books from our back catalogue. This edition of A Really Good Brown Girl features a new Introduction by Lee Maracle, a new Afterword by the author and a new cover and design by the renowned typographer Robert Bringhurst.
First published in 1996, A Really Good Brown Girl is a fierce, honest and courageous account of what it takes to grow into one’s self and one’s Métis heritage in the face of myriad institutional and cultural obstacles. It is an indispensable contribution to Canadian literature.
I am looking at a school picture, grade five, I am smiling easily … I look poised, settled, like I belong. I won an award that year for most improved student. I learned to follow really well. –from “Memoirs of a Really Good Brown Girl”
“No other book so exonerates us, elevates us and at the same time indicts Canada in language so eloquent it almost hurts to hear it.” –Lee Maracle, from the Introduction
An extraordinary debut set in Toronto, unfurling against the backdrop of an ancient Persian love story.
The story of Layla and Majnun, made immortal by the Persian poet Nizami Ganjavi in the 12th century, has been retold thousands of times, in thousands of different ways, throughout literature. Against the backdrop of this story, to the sound-track of modern hip-hop, and amid the struggle of an immigrant family to instill an old faith under new conditions, Irfan Ali’s Accretion hurtles towards an unsustainable, “greater madness.” Majnun, one of the foundational literary characters who haunt Accretion, is also an Arabic epithet for “possessed.” In this tradition, Ali has written a book from the places where the self is no longer the self; places where, in order not to shut down forever, the debris must be cleared, and the soul must inch towards love and hope, “on memory’s dusty beams.”
Accretion is written in a contemporary lyricism that honours ancient poetic traditions. It is a familiar story, imbued with a particularity and honesty that only Irfan Ali could bring to the table.
“Irfan Ali delves fearlessly into the beauty and cruelty of a utilitarian city and the chasms between people. The struggle between head and heart binds these poems. In fact, Accretion might be considered a roadmap for finding love in everything–ourselves, family, soul mates, urban life, and faith.” –Emily Pohl-Weary, author of Ghost Sick
Whether speaking of erotic love, domestic life, spiritual wilderness, or family entanglements, the poems of Auguries, the much-anticipated second collection from Yukon poet Clea Roberts, are saturated with their northern landscape. Roberts is well versed in the distances and dynamics between tedium and ecstasy, light and dark, isolation and solitude, freeze and thaw, flow and stillness. Her poems are spare and clean, each like a single larch in an immense white plain; their exactness startling and arresting. As the Gerald Lampert Award jury citation for her celebrated first book noted, “Her images . . . are not only crisp and precise, but manage to speak about the physical conditions of this place and its emotional landscape in one and the same lyrical breath . . .”
Written during a period in which Roberts both became a parent and lost a parent, the poems in Auguries lend themselves to prayer, surrender, celebration, reconciliation, meditation, and auspice.
how to breathe
and the beautiful,
slow with cold. (from “Cold Snap”)
“Clea Roberts writes poems of clear, quiet beauty. They contain the silence of perception: alive to the world with open eye and open heart.” — Anne Michaels
A gender-fluid trickster character leaps from Cree stories to inhabit this racous and rebellious new work by award-winning poet Louise Bernice Halfe.
There are no pronouns in Cree for gender; awâsis (which means illuminated child) reveals herself through shape-shifting, 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 Introduction from Elder Maria Campbell, awâsis – kinky and dishevelled is a force of Indigenous resurgence, resistance, and soul-healing laughter.
If you’ve read Halfe’s previous books, prepared to be surprised by this one. Raging in the dark, uncovering the painful facts wrought on her and her people’s lives by colonialism, racism, religion, and residential schools, she has walked us through raw realities with unabashed courage and intense, precise lyricism. But for her fifth book, another choice presented itself. Would she carve her way with determined ferocity into the still-powerful destructive forces of colonialism, despite Canada’s official, hollow promises to make things better? After a soul-searching Truth and Reconciliation process, the drinking water still hasn’t improved, and Louise began to wonder whether inspiration had deserted her.
Then awâsis showed up–a trickster, teacher, healer, wheeler-dealer, shapeshifter, woman, man, nuisance, inspiration. A Holy Fool with their fly open, speaking Cree, awâsis came to Louise out of the ancient stories of her people, her Elders, from community input (through tears and laughter), from her own full heart and her three-dimensional dreams. Following awâsis’s lead, Louise has flipped her blanket over, revealing a joking, mischievous, unapologetic alter ego–right on time.
“Louise Halfe knows, without question, how to make miyo-iskotêw, a beautiful fire with her kindling of words and moss gathered from a sacred place known only to her, to the Old Ones. These poems, sharp and crackling, are among one of the most beautiful fires I’ve ever sat beside.” –Gregory Scofield, author of Witness, I Am
“Louise makes awâsis out of irreverent sacred text. The darkness enlightens. She uses humor as a scalpel and sometimes as a butcher knife, to cut away, or hack off, our hurts, our pain, our grief and our traumas. In the end we laugh and laugh and laugh.” –Harold R. Johnson, author of Peace and Good Order: The Case for Indigenous Justice in Canada
“This is all about Indigenizing and reconciliation among ourselves. It’s the kind of funny, shake up, poking, smacking and farting we all need while laughing our guts out. It’s beautiful, gentle and loving.” –Maria Campbell, author of Halfbreed (from the Introduction)
“There really isn’t any template for telling stories as experienced from within Indigenous minds. In her book awâsis – kinky and dishevelled, Cree poet Louise Bernice Halfe – Skydancer presents a whole new way to experience story poems. It’s kinda like she writes in English but thinks in Cree. Lovely, revealing, funny, stunning. A whole new way to write!” –Buffy Sainte-Marie
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, the poems journey inward, guided by the world of dreams, seeking memories of a loving sister lost beneath layers of tragedy and abuse. With bravery, the 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 heartrending 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.
“Here is a spare and urgent voice that speaks of ‘wounds and beauty,’ that gestures to a story of trauma and abuse while offering us a potent journey of self-reckoning and reclamation. Bones entwines brutality with the deepest tenderness and in its clear-eyed way asks us, as poetry must, to re-see the world.” –Catherine Bush, author of Accusation and The Rules of Engagement
“Tyler Pennock’s poetry unfurls like breath: measured, light, caught, whispering, and vital. It charts memory with a steady hand and unerring allegiance to locating the ‘beauty/in terrible things.’ Bones addresses the effects of intergenerational, state-sponsored trauma with an enviable grace, inscribing and affirming life on the other side of overwhelming pain, abuse, and grief. It carries on, resilient, defiant, gazing at the stars, one breath at a time.” –Laurie D. Graham, author of Settler Education
“Tyler Pennock’s Bones is a soft meandering through the memories of the narrator’s hearthome: a place in which trauma, kinship, abuse, and nostalgia cradle one another in a circle. Here, poetics are deployed to inspect the most minute of objects with such wild abandon that the narrator transplants us into a world rife with sharpness so as to make the image complete, focussed, lifelike, photographic even as he continually ‘wish[es he] were like water’. Here we find memory and dream animated in equal measure: two spirits sitting in a basement, a headless mother, a white bear, wihtiko, and a sister slowly vanishing. Lyrical, witty, heart-wrenching, and empowering, Pennock’s debut book of poetry is a contemplative epic asking us to ponder the ethics of remembrance in all of its lacings of razing and revitalization.” –Joshua Whitehead, author of Full-Metal Indigiqueer and Jonny Appleseed
A deeply scouring poetic account of the residential school experience, and a deeply important indictment of colonialism in Canada.
Many of the poems in Louise Halfe’s Burning in This Midnight Dream were written in response to the grim tide of emotions, memories, dreams and nightmares that arose in her as the Truth and Reconciliation process unfolded. In heart-wrenching detail, Halfe recalls the damage done to her parents, her family, herself. With fearlessly wrought verse, Halfe describes how the experience of the residential schools continues to haunt those who survive, and how the effects pass like a virus from one generation to the next. She asks us to consider the damage done to children taken from their families, to families mourning their children; damage done to entire communities and to ancient cultures.
Halfe’s poetic voice soars in this incredibly moving collection as she digs deep to discover the root of her pain. Her images, created from the natural world, reveal the spiritual strength of her culture.
Originally published in 2016 by Coteau Books, Burning in This Midnight Dream won the Indigenous Peoples’ Publishing Award, the Rasmussen, Ramussen & Charowsky Indigenous Peoples’ Writing Award, the Saskatchewan Arts Board Poetry Award, the League of Canadian Poets’ Raymond Souster Award, and the High Plains Book Award for Indigenous Writers. It was also the 2017 WILLA Literacy Award Finalist in Poetry. This new edition includes a new Afterword by Halfe.
“Burning in this Midnight Dream honours the witness of a singular experience, Halfe’s experience, that many others of kin and clan experienced. Halfe descends into personal and cultural darkness with the care of a master story-teller and gives story voice to mourning. By giving voice to shame, confusion, injustice Halfe begins to reclaim a history. It is the start of a larger dialogue than what is contained in the pages.” –Raymond Souster Award jury citation
Poems that examine the creative achievements of the human hand, from cave art to contemporary photography.
John Reibetanz’s twelfth collection, By Hand, begins with an epigraph from Lewis Mumford: “Until modern times, apart from the esoteric knowledge of the priests, philosophers, and astronomers, the greater part of human thought and imagination flowed through the hands.” Reibetanz’s new poems investigate human creativity as a visceral interaction with the world: our imagining hands finding the music implicit in the stuff of earth, a “duet// of earthbound songsters,” of mind and material, each shaping the other. Centered on this duet, the book encompasses the wide-ranging aspects of our humanity–hands used for good and ill–portrayed in the examined paintings and sculptures, gardens, tapestries, photographs, and carvings. And they explore in particular the relationship in these artifacts between the “givens” of nature and the modifications and contributions of human culture. As Roo Borson says of the collection, “the poems are shot through with moments in which language’s particular dexterity comes into its own and real objects are remade, as when these lines from ‘The Installation’ celebrate the ‘commonality of clay’ in a relief by della Robbia:”
the light-quickened humus
of the eyes that, for hundreds of years, have read the notes
inscribed on the banner an angel is unscrolling…
“These are the words of a real craftsman, writing about other makers. …Through acute seeing, [Reibetanz] communicates to the reader the nowness of things made centuries ago and the humanity of their creators.” –Robert Lemay
Poems about commitment and catastrophe,
from a voice of intense lyrical skepticism and wonderful tonal mobility.
False Spring, Darren Bifford’s second collection of poetry, is a book largely concerned with various forms of collapse and cultural disintegration. These are poems of considerable weight and great energy at once, so that the impression is of a large-muscled animal that is also nimble. They are the work of an engaged moral imagination, alive with the conceptual issues of the times embedded in experience; their “philosophical” import speaks out of the poetic act itself.
Bifford seems always in active conversation, dialogue, dispute with figures from literary and classical traditions. There is also a set of “translations” of a Polish poet of Bifford’s invention, which permit him to write, Pessoa-like, in another voice–even if it shares a few features (as a disillusioned Pole writing of general collapse) with his own.
While non-confessional in intent, the poems do attend to the inner pitch–like a white noise–which the events of the world sound. The book thus contends with a nostalgia for old forms without belying any sustained confidence in their veracity.
It’s like in a cartoon, all the forest fires
Leapfrogging fires. Small civilizations caught
In the dirty, say they’re sorry and plead their cases
Ad hoc and brilliantly. “Scared as shit”
Is my summary.
(from “Habitable Earth in the Last Analysis”)
Swinging from post-explosion Beirut to a Parc-Extension balcony in summer, the verse and prose poems in The Good Arabs ground the reader in place, language, and the body. Peeling and rinsing radishes. Dancing as a pre-teen to Nancy Ajram. Being drenched in stares on the city bus. The collection is an interlocking and rich offering of the speaker’s communities, geographical surroundings both expansive and precise, and family both biological and chosen.
The Good Arabs gifts the reader with insight into cycles and repetition in ourselves and our broken nations. This genre-defying collection maps Arab and trans identity through the immensity of experience felt in one body, the sorrow of citizens let down by their countries, and the garbage crisis in Lebanon. Ultimately, it shows how we might love amid dismay, adore the pungent and the ugly, and exist in our multiplicity across spaces.
“Please stay with me, please stay here, please cause poltergeists in my stupid apartment…”
Late in the evening of December 13, 2007, Andrea Actis found her father, Jeff, facedown dead in her East Vancouver apartment. So began her passage through grief, self-reckoning, and graduate school in Providence, Rhode Island, where the poetics she studied (and sometimes repudiated) became integral to her gradual reconstruction of wholeness. An assemblage of “evidence” recovered from emails about paranormal encounters sent and received by Jeff (firstname.lastname@example.org), junk mail from false prophets, an annotated excerpt from Laura (Riding) Jackson’s The Serious Angels: A True Story, and transcripts of Actis’ dreams, conversations, and messages to the dead, Grey All Over not only celebrates a rare, close, complicated father-daughter bond, it also boldly expands the empathetic and critical capacities of poetry itself. In pulling us outside the comfort zones of received aesthetics and social norms, Actis asks us to embrace with whole seriousness “the pragmatics of intuition” in all the ways we read, live, and love.
“When a loved one dies, there’s all this stuff to deal with, and in the midst of grief we begin to collect, sort, document, store, and discard. Andrea Actis has taken the stuff surrounding her father’s death and created a book that is, like grief, in turns heartbreaking, wise, chaotic, drunk, wry, and always unflinchingly honest. This powerful testament of survival is for anyone who has felt the ‘déjà vu in reverse’ of grief. It is for the living.” –Sachiko Murakami, author of Render
“Love letter, experimental poem, meditation, conversation with the dead–Andrea Actis’s compelling debut is unlike any memoir I’ve ever read. In one passage, Actis digs out the biggest piece of bone she can find in the vessel of her father’s ashes and gently bites on it. Reading Grey All Over I had a similar sensation. Ash. Bone. Love.” –Jen Currin, author of Hider/Seeker
“This absolutely beautiful work makes plain that seriousness feels like love.” –Aisha Sasha John, author of I have to live.
New light on Michael Crummey’s classic depiction of Newfoundland and Labrador’s past.
On the occasion of the press’s 40th anniversary, Brick Books is proud to present the fifth of six new editions of classic books from our back catalogue. This edition of Hard Light features a new Introduction by Lisa Moore, a new Afterword by the author and a new cover and design by the renowned typographer Robert Bringhurst.
In Hard Light, first published in 1998, Crummey retells and reimagines his father’s and others’ stories of outport Newfoundland and the Labrador fishery. These deeply felt poems are rooted in the places where “human desire comes up against rock” (John Steffler).
I have a fair trial on the fishing line now,
being three summers out from home, two summers on
the French Shore, four down on the Labrador,
and three trips this year to the Banks of Newfoundland,
and this is what I have learned to be the price of fish
–“‘The price of fish.’ (September, 1887)”
“In these stories and poems, an intimate, bright world flares up, glowing in the darkness of recent history, full-blown and vivid.” –Lisa Moore, from the Introduction
Precision-built poems that attempt CPR on their own irregular meter, on their own unreliable meaning.
Vancouver poet Shaun Robinson’s If You Discover a Fire is a debut collection of poems that make a virtue of their failure to communicate. They forage through the syntax and vocabulary of late-night voicemails, letters to the editor, songs invented in the shower, professional jargon, “Witness Wanted” signs, technical manuals, and text-message typos to assemble verbal collages that raise more questions than they answer. In settings ranging from Montreal’s Mile End to a commercial flight above the Midwest to a wildfire in the mountains of British Columbia, these are poems rooted in working-class Canadian experience, poems that flirt with both safety and danger, that drone on like drunken strangers in a bar. Gathering reference from weather reports, football announcers, aerial disappearances, and the movie Groundhog Day, these poems sound their forlorn yawp through the alleys of East Vancouver.
Out on the porch, between shots, he tells you
things you’ve always known, how the past
and the future are lovers spooning
in bed, and the present is how they don’t
quite fit together. (from “Carpe Dos and Carpe Don’ts (FT. Panda Bear)”)
“Darkly comic, or just plain dark, these poems offers no assurances, but as the particulars accumulate – all-night gyms, boredom, plastic flowers, rec rooms where children in blindfolds swing wildly at air – they generate a vital, unpredictable force. Like the octopus that sets loose the lid of the jar it’s been placed in, If You Discover A Fire has the imagination to outsmart the world’s relentless conditions.” –Sheryda Warrener