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Winner, Writers’ Trust of Canada’s Dayne Ogilvie Prize for LGBTQ Emerging Writers; American Library Association Stonewall Honor Book; Finalist, Lambda Literary Award and Publishing Triangle Award for Trans and Gender Variant Literature
This extraordinary poetry collection is a vivid, beautifully wrought journey to the place where forgotten ancestors live and monstrous women roam–and where the distinctions between body, land, and language are lost. In these fierce yet tender narrative poems, Kai Cheng Thom draws equally from memory and mythology to create new maps of gender, race, sexuality, and violence. In the world of a place called No Homeland, the bodies of the marginalized–queer and transgender communities, survivors of abuse and assault, and children of diaspora–are celebrated, survival songs are sung, and the ancestors offer you forgiveness for not remembering their names.
Descended from the traditions of oral storytelling, spoken word, and queer punk poetry, Kai Cheng Thom’s debut collection is evocative and unforgettable.
I dream warm, wet
That rise and tremble and swell with the moon
To give birth to babies connected
By blue-river veins of memory
Jane Byers’ Acquired Community is both a collection of narrative poems about seminal moments in North American lesbian and gay history, mostly post-World War II, and a series of first person poems that act as a touchstone to compare the narrator’s coming out experience within the larger context of the gay liberation movement.
The “parade” poems such as “Celebration Was a Side Effect, 1992” explores the important role parades have played in the queer movement and how they have transformed from activism to celebration. “St Patrick’s Day Parade, 2014” takes the Boston St. Patrick’s Day committee’s homophobia to task, reminding us that this is not ancient history, but an ever-transforming experience. In her long poem, “Keen,” Byers imagines a dialogue between a young queer university student and Michael Lynch, an AIDS activist, poet and scholar who helped found many gay community institutions.
In this compelling poem we are reminded that the AIDS epidemic had a rippling effect, touching the lives of everyone within the gay community and well beyond. In this second book by Byers her poems go beyond the historical perspective of LGBT rights and are living examples of progress. Acquired Community examines and celebrates community resilience.
Chenille or Silk is a startling first collection of confessional poetry examining the slippery relations of desire, class, embodiment and trauma. Emma McKenna’s writing traverses the bounds and the wounds of a family marked by poverty and intergenerational trauma. The collection asserts the primacy of intimacy and sexuality to subjectivity, as the poems move through the struggle to find identity, love and belonging in an urban queer community’s ever-shifting economy of desire. Striking, brave and at times uncomfortable, Chenille or Silk captures the ambivalence–and the hope–of possibility.
To the street that is a village, Daniel Zomparelli conveys a liveliness and wit that rhetorically towel-flicks its way from the sardonic bathhouse banter of ancient Rome to the cinematic musical machismo of the poets of the San Francisco Renaissance, with each poem “translating” another chapter in his documentary of gay male culture in Vancouver.
To the tune of mononymous deities Beyoncé, Madonna, Barbra and Gaga, this home-brewed Catullus flirts with the very concept of “translation,” not only representing the movement and conversion of event, time and idea to the written word, but also deploying a crafty methodology that in the style of Robin Blaser and Jack Spicer emphasizes an aesthetic sensibility and musicality that pervades the pretty wireless shell of personal relations. These are also letters to the anonymous, the proud, the panicky, the petrified and particularly the lonely, written everywhere—upon ripped bodies and diner napkins, upon bathroom stalls, and in Craigslist personals and Miss Lonelyhearts columns.
Ranging from the rhapsodic to the epigrammatic with his dangerously experimental narrative that snorts the alphabet, Daniel Zomparelli imbues the fast-paced drug and party culture of Davie Village’s young gay males with grand poignancy and pathos. Stitching serial poems into this imaginary patchwork in the fashion of Robert Duncan, with drag queens and porn fantasy figures in tow, Zomparelli brashly faces up to fears of HIV and gay bashing. On this poetic street that is a universe, we turn away from violence, “dance fight, or turn it into a musical / West Side-like.”
With poetic tributes to his Vancouver idols Billeh Nickerson, George Stanley and Michael V. Smith, Zomparelli demonstrates, to paraphrase Oscar Wilde, that the young are always ready to give to those who are older than themselves the full benefits of their inexperience.
Winner, Dayne Ogilvie Prize for LGBTQ Emerging Writers (Writers’ Trust of Canada) and the Indigenous Voices Award; finalist, Publishing Triangle Award for Trans and Gender-Variant Literature
In her powerful debut collection of poetry, Arielle Twist unravels the complexities of human relationships after death and metamorphosis. In these spare yet powerful poems, she explores, with both rage and tenderness, the parameters of grief, trauma, displacement, and identity. Weaving together a past made murky by uncertainty and a present which exists in multitudes, Arielle Twist poetically navigates through what it means to be an Indigenous trans woman, discovering the possibilities of a hopeful future and a transcendent, beautiful path to regaining softness.
Publishing Triangle Award for Trans and Gender-Variant Literature winner
Lambda Literary Award finalist
Longlisted for Canada Reads
As a writer, musician, performance artist, and filmmaker, Vivek Shraya has, over the course of the last few years, established herself as a tour de force artist of the highest order. Vivek’s body
of work includes ten albums, four short films, and three books, including the YA book God Loves Hair (A Quill and Quire and Canadian Children’s Book Centre Best Book of the Year) and the adult novel She of the Mountains (a Lambda Literary Award finalist).
Vivek’s debut collection of poetry, even this page is white, is a bold, timely, and personal interrogation of skin–its origins, functions, and limitations. Poems that range in style from starkly concrete to limber break down the barriers that prevent understanding of
what it means to be racialized. Shraya paints the face of everyday racism with words, rendering it visible, tangible, and undeniable.
This poetry collections focuses on a hybridized Indigiqueer Trickster character named Zoa who brings together the organic (the protozoan) and the technologic (the binaric) in order to re-beautify and re-member queer Indigeneity. This Trickster is a Two-Spirit / Indigiqueer invention that resurges in the apocalypse to haunt, atrophy, and to reclaim. Following oral tradition (à la Iktomi, Nanaboozho, Wovoka), Zoa infects, invades, and becomes a virus to canonical and popular works in order to re-centre Two-Spirit livelihoods. They dazzlingly and fiercely take on the likes of Edmund Spenser, Shakespeare, Charles Dickens, and John Milton while also not forgetting contemporary pop culture figures such as Lana Del Rey, Grindr, and Peter Pan. Zoa world-builds a fourth-dimension, lives in the cyber space, and survives in NDN-time – they have learned to sing the skin back onto their bodies and remain #woke at the end of the world. “Do not read me as a vanished ndn,” they ask, “read me as a ghastly one.”
full-metal indigiqueer is influenced by the works of Jordan Abel, Tanya Tagaq, Daniel Heath Justice, Claudia Rankine, Vivek Shraya, Qwo-Li Driskill, Leanne Simpson, Kent Monkman, and Donna Haraway. It is a project of resurgence for Two-Spirit / Indigiqueer folk who have been ghosted in policy, page, tradition, and hi/story – the very lives of Two-Spirit / Indigiqueer youth are rarely mentioned (and even dispossessed in our very mandates for reconciliation), our lives are precarious but they too are precious. We find ourselves made spectral in settler and neocolonial Indigenous nationalisms – if reconciliation is a means of “burying the hatchet,” Zoa seeks to unearth the bones buried with those hatched scalps and perform a séance to ghost dance Indigiqueerness into existence. Zoa world-destroys in order to world-build a new space – they care little for reconciliation but rather aim to reterroritorialize space in literature, pop culture, and oral storytelling. This project follows in the tradition of the aforementioned authors who, Whitehead believes, utilize deconstruction as a means of decolonization. This is a sex-positive project that tirelessly works to create coalition between those who have, as Haraway once noted, “been injured, profoundly.” Zoa stands in solidarity with all qpoc folk who exist as ghosts with intergenerational and colonial phantom pains – they sing with Donna Summer, RuPaul, Effie White, and Trixie Mattel. The space made is a post-apocalyptic hub of sex and decolonization – a world where making love is akin to making live.
Shortlisted, Dorothy Livesay Poetry Prize
Standing in the granite of his own voice.
Remembering your gathering body.
Hello, My Forever Ago, don’t worry,
you won’t be reading this much longer.
You will have already returned
in a snowcloud, which is suggestively,
fashionably, only ever one second old.
Yes, Darling, it’s me, it says
as proof that in space
though there are many silences,
fleeting isn’t the opposite
of infinite, but its perfect match.
Four years ago, Ali Blythe arrived with Twoism, a remarkable debut collection, every line shimmering with life and shivering with erotically charged glimpses of completeness. Now in Hymnswitch, Blythe takes up the themes of identity and the body once again, this time casting an eye backwards and forwards, visiting places of recovery and wrestling with the transition into one’s own skin. Readers will find themselves holding their breath at the risk and beauty and difficulty of the balance Blythe strikes in the midst of ineffable complexity.
Combining a stark, tensile precision with musicality that lulls and surprises, Blythe, a surreal engineer of language, has once again created an unusually memorable collection. Imbued with emotional awareness, these stunning poems will imprint readers with startling images and silences as potent as words.
Shortlisted for the 2014 Governor General’s Award for Poetry
Shortlisted for the 2014 Gerald Lampert Memorial Award for Poetry.
Moving from the Enlightenment science of natural history to the contemporary science of global warming, Light Light is a provocative engagement with the technologies and languages that shape discourses of knowing. It bridges the histories of botany, empire, and mind to take up the claim of “objectivity” as the dissolution of a discrete self and thus explores the mind’s movement toward and with the world. The poems in Light Light range from the epigrammatic to the experimental, from the narrative to the lyric, consistently exploring the way language captures the undulation of a mind’s working, how that rhythm becomes the embodiment of thought, and how that embodiment forms a politics engaged with the environment and its increasing alterations.
Dani Couture’s latest poems are transmissions that travel across the cosmos, the spaces we live in, as well as within the more intimate distances we navigate between one another. Distances we hope to bridge with contact, often to profound or disastrous effects. With language rooted in science, sociology, memoir and aesthetics, she questions the limits of our bodies, both human and celestial. Like the subtle cues we lend one another and the hopeful messages we send into deep space, these poems broadcast our greatest aspirations and vulnerabilities.
Growing up during the 50s and 60s in small town Alberta, Pam was keenly aware, by the age of nine, that she was a lesbian. And she also knew well to hide this about herself. Pam would search for books on the “The Island of Lesbos”, only to return from the library with a copy of Little Women. In between the vast spaces of dust and dugouts, she grows up and grows old, playing her saxophone in deep, blaring notes. Age is a constant marker throughout these poems for an otherwise long and lonely time of waiting for queer rights, for acceptance, for love.
Poet Tina Biello unearths just about everything from beneath the Alberta ground-dinosaur bones, a family’s firstborn, missing cows. A voice from within the Prairies, Playing into Silence is a look back at a dry time in lesbian identity.
Poems that give full attention to a world in shambles, a world in which “mercy is failing.”
Maureen Hynes, in her fifth book of poetry, speaks tenderly yet vehemently about the threatened worlds that concern her. From Toronto, where she lives and walks the city’s afflicted watershed, she turns her attention to the near and far, shifting it from the First Nations’ stolen lands to Syria and the refugee crisis in the Mediterranean; from the deaths of family and friends to the newborns into whose care our endangered planet will pass; and from love’s transient regrets to the sustaining love two women share. Hynes’ is a gaze that grieves quietly, delights humbly, and, in the search for solace, never rests. Each poem in Sotto Voce is a recitative of healing. Hear the music in every word and, despite the damaged environments Hynes gives voice to, be restored.
This is a book that bears witness to the “dynamite stick of injustice,” one that balances fear and hope, misfortune and renewal, calamity and natural beauty. Sotto Voce carries the complexity and seriousness of its themes lightly–it’s important to know when to speak loudly, and when to whisper.
A long poem memorializing the art and lives of sculptors Frances Loring and Florence Wyle.
Arleen Paré, in her first book-length poem after her Governor General Literary Award-winning Lake of Two Mountains, turns her cool, benevolent eye to the shared lives of Florence Wyle and Frances Loring, two of Canada’s greatest artists, whose sculptures she comes face to face with at the National Gallery of Canada. In the guise of a curator, Paré takes us on a moving, carefully structured tour through the rooms where their work is displayed, the Gallery’s walls falling away to travel in time to Chicago (where they met at art school and fell in love in the 1910s), New York, and Toronto (where they lived and worked for the next six decades). Along the way, Paré looks at fashions in art, the politics of gender, and the love that longtime proximity calls forth in us. The Girls with Stone Faces is one of the finest collections of poetry about the lives of artists–and most importantly their work–to appear in Canada in many years.
Although Wyle and Loring were well known during their lifetimes, they have dropped out of common memory. Paré’s collection is art loving art, women loving women, words loving shape, poetry loving stone, the curve of jaw, the trajectory of days.
“… Like the sculpted female figures she describes as ‘tacking their bodies against the history of storm,’ Paré has positioned her own graceful, finely chiselled lines to recast the history of women in art, in society, in love.” –Anita Lahey
“… A distinctive and memorable book, sympathetic and gloriously questioning.” –Stephanie Bolster