Mikale’s Fall Picks for 2017

booksandtea

Today is the official first day of fall–by far my favorite season to sink my teeth into a good book. Not only is it the time for wool blankets, tea and general nesting activities (and coincidentally the shoulder period between ski and camping season), it’s also when many publishers unveil their annual heavy hitters in anticipation of all those glittering literary awards.

As the fiction librarian here at NVCL I am privileged to get an insider look into a few of the year’s more intriguing titles. Thus, may I present the books which I am most looking forward to get me through the next few months of hibernation!

 

The Power by Naomi Alderman  power

Although several top authors (Ursula LeGuinn, Margaret Atwood… to name a few) have crafted memorable speculative fiction about what would happen if the traditional power balance between men and women were swapped, Naomi Alderman’s newest book takes it to a new level by unveiling a story about what happens when teenage girls suddenly gain the ability to cause intense physical pain, and even death.

The book tackles questions such as what is power, how do you get it, and how long before it corrupts you. It’s Feminist Science Fiction. It won the Bailey’s Prize for Women’s Fiction. What more can I say? Still not convinced? Check out this stellar review from The Guardian.

 

The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin 

immortalistsI’m always intrigued when a book sells it’s TV rights prior to publication because it indicates that if nothing else, the novel’s concept is imaginative, expansive, and compulsive. As such, when I first heard that they were already planning a TV show centered around this novel which asks the question, “If you knew the date of your death, how would you live your life?” I knew I would read it.

“The Immortalists is a family love story spanning five decades, centering on four siblings who, as children, visit a fortune teller who predicts the day each will die. Subsequently, they find their lives spiraling and intertwining in dramatic ways, probing the line between destiny and choice, faith and magical thinking, reality and illusion, present and past, this world and the next” (From the publisher).

 

To Kill The President by Sam Bourne

I have mixed feelings about this one, which is the main reason it’s on this list. Although killpresdient“president assassinations” have almost become their own sub-genre, it’s a little bit different when the president in question is highly recognizable, still alive, and currently in office.  Then again, this whole book is about a struggle of conscience. It follows Maggie Costello, a White House Aide and recurring character from Bourne’s previous novels, as she learns about an assassination attempt against the out-of-control President who should clearly not be in power and tries to decide whether to let it happen or not. For anyone wanting to learn more not just about this book, but it’s controversy I recommend checking out this piece by The Guardian . In the meantime, I’ve already placed my hold!

 

Savage Country: A Novel by Robert Olmstead

savagecountry This raw and gritty story begins in September 1873 and follows Elizabeth Coughlin, a widow on the brink of bankruptcy, as she embarks on a buffalo hunt with her estranged and mysterious brother-in-law, Michael, in an attempt to salvage her economic future. Out of their element and overwhelmed by dangers like rattlesnakes, wildfire, rabies, flash floods and everything in between, Elizabeth and Michael’s souls unravel as they take on the cruel work of slaughtering the buffalo.
This is a gripping narrative of that infamous hunt, which drove the buffalo population to near extinction–the story of a moment in our history in which mass destruction of an animal population was seen as the only route to economic solvency. But it’s also the intimate story of how that hunt changed Michael and Elizabeth forever.(From the publisher).

Demi-Gods by Eliza Roberston

Full disclosure: Robertson and I were in the same writing program at the University of demigodsVictoria many moons ago. The fact that she has just published a novel which is receiving mass-acclaim from around the world gives me warm shiny feelings and I therefore cannot wait to read her novel.

 Set in the 1950s over the long, nostalgic days of summer, Demi-Gods is narrated by a striking young woman named Willa who describes a series of brief, highly charged encounters with her stepbrother. Sensitive, playful and original, Robertson is well known for her ability to craft imaginative and poetic prose who’s first collection of short stories Wallflower won the Commonwealth Short Story Prize. 

Future Home of the Living God by Louise Erdrich 

futurehomeApparently this fall I’m really into speculative fiction, female agency, and books with the word “God” in the title.

“The world as we know it is ending. Evolution has reversed itself, affecting every living creature on earth. Science cannot stop the world from running backwards, as woman after woman gives birth to infants that appear to be primitive species of humans. Thirty-two-year-old Cedar Hawk Songmaker, adopted daughter of a pair of big-hearted, open-minded Minneapolis liberals, is as disturbed and uncertain as the rest of America around her. But for Cedar, this change is profound and deeply personal. She is four months pregnant.

 

A chilling dystopian novel both provocative and prescient, Future Home of the Living God is a startlingly original work from one of our most acclaimed writers: a moving meditation on female agency, self-determination, biology, and natural rights that speaks to the troubling changes of our time” (From the Publisher)

 

Happy reading!

-Mikale Fenton

 

Book Awards Season is (finally) here!!!

Some of us get excited about our kids going back to school, and some of us get excited about pumpkin spice season.  I’m sure I’m not alone in absolutely adoring fall because it marks the arrival of book award season — that wonderful time of the year when my TBR pile strains beyond all hope of ever reading every book on it — and I love it.

Here are some of the nominated works I hope to read soon:

From the Scotiabank Giller Prize Longlist:

truckI Am a Truck by Michelle Winters

Agathe and Réjean Lapointe are about to celebrate their twentieth wedding anniversary when Réjean’s beloved Chevy Silverado is found abandoned at the side of the road—with no trace of Réjean. As her hope dwindles, Agathe falls in with her spirited coworker, Debbie, who teaches Agathe about rock and roll, and with Martin Bureau, the one man who might know the truth about Réjean’s fate. Set against the landscape of rural Acadia, I Am a Truck is a funny and moving tale about the possibilities and impossibilities of love and loyalty.*

Boy EatingThe Bone Mother by David Demchuk

Three neighbouring villages on the Ukrainian/Romanian border are the final refuge for the last of the mythical creatures of Eastern Europe. Now, on the eve of the war that may eradicate their kind—and with the ruthless Night Police descending upon their sanctuary—they tell their stories and confront their destinies.  Eerie and unsettling like the best fairy tales, these incisor-sharp portraits of ghosts, witches, sirens, and seers—and the mortals who live at their side and in their thrall—will chill your marrow and tear at your heart.*

mindsofwinterMinds of Winter by Ed O’Loughlin

Fay Morgan and Nelson Nilsson have each arrived in Inuvik, Canada, about 120 miles north of the Arctic Circle. Both are in search of answers about a family member: Nelson for his estranged older brother, and Fay for her vanished grandfather. Driving Fay into town from the airport on a freezing January night, Nelson reveals a folder left behind by his brother. An image catches Fay’s eye: a clock she has seen before. Soon Fay and Nelson realize that their relatives have an extraordinary and historic connection — a secret share in one of the greatest unsolved mysteries of polar expedition.*

(I’ve read only one of the longlist, Eden Robinson’s Son of a Trickster and I highly recommend it for its refreshing blend of gritty and magic realism.)

From the Man Booker Prize Shortlist:

lincolnLincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders

Lincoln in the Bardo  is an astonishing feat of imagination and a bold step forward from one of the most important and influential writers of his generation. Formally daring, generous in spirit, deeply concerned with matters of the heart, it is a testament to fiction’s ability to speak honestly and powerfully to the things that really matter to us. Saunders has invented a thrilling new form that deploys a kaleidoscopic, theatrical panorama of voices to ask a timeless, profound question: How do we live and love when we know that everything we love must end?*

(I’ve read two of the remaining five on the shortlist — Mohsin Hamid’s Exit West and Emily Fridlund’s History of Wolves.  I’m partway through a third, Paul Auster’s (possibly pointless but nonetheless enjoyable) 4 3 2 1.  So far my money is on Hamid to take the prize; I’d go for the audiobook read by the author.)

From the Kirkus Prize for Young Readers Literature:

marrowthievesThe Marrow Thieves by Cherie Dimaline

Humanity has nearly destroyed its world through global warming, but now an even greater evil lurks. The indigenous people of North America are being hunted and harvested for their bone marrow, which carries the key to recovering something the rest of the population has lost: the ability to dream. In this dark world, Frenchie and his companions struggle to survive as they make their way up north to the old lands. For now, survival means staying hidden – but what they don’t know is that one of them holds the secret to defeating the marrow thieves.*

(If you haven’t already read it, please stop reading this post immediately and check out fellow finalist Angie Thomas’ gut wrenching The Hate U GiveIt’s topical, powerfully written, and well worth reading for Starr’s dad’s ideas about Harry Potter alone.)

From the National Book Award Longlist:

naomi kleinNo Is Not Enough: Resisting Trump’s Shock Politics and Winning the World We Need by Naomi Klein

Remember when it all seemed to be getting better? Before Trump happened? What went wrong, and what can we do about it? Naomi Klein – scourge of brand bullies, disaster capitalists and climate liars – shows us how we got to this surreal and dangerous place, how to stop it getting worse and how, if we keep our heads, we can seize the opportunity to make it better.*

manhattan beachManhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan
Anna Kerrigan, nearly twelve years old, accompanies her father to visit Dexter Styles, a man who, she gleans, is crucial to the survival of her father and her family. She is mesmerized by the sea beyond the house and by some charged mystery between the two men.

With the atmosphere of a noir thriller, Egan’s first historical novel follows Anna and Styles into a world populated by gangsters, sailors, divers, bankers, and union men. Manhattan Beach is a deft, dazzling, propulsive exploration of a transformative moment in the lives and identities of women and men, of America and the world. It is a magnificent novel by the author of A Visit from the Goon Squad, one of the great writers of our time.*

pachinkoPachinko by Min Jin Lee
Pachinko follows one Korean family through the generations, beginning in early 1900s Korea with Sunja, the prized daughter of a poor yet proud family, whose unplanned pregnancy threatens to shame them all. Deserted by her lover, Sunja is saved when a young tubercular minister offers to marry and bring her to Japan. So begins a sweeping saga of an exceptional family in exile from its homeland and caught in the indifferent arc of history.*

I’d love to hear what book award nominees excite you.

Happy stacking! Happy reading!

-Patricia

*Blurbs provided by publishers.

Kat’s Fall Picks 2017

September

provenanceProvenance, by Ann Leckie

Ann Leckie’s Imperial Radch trilogy, which started with Ancillary Justice, was a breath of fresh air in sci-fi, and earned her Hugo, Nebula, Locus, and Arthur C. Clarke awards. This novel, set in the same universe as the Radch trilogy,  follows Ingray – a power-driven woman seeking to gain status by regaining artifacts priceless to her people, but who soon finds herself and her world embroiled in an interstellar conflict which threatens her plans and her future.

 

demigods Demi-Gods, by Eliza Robertson

This is a debut novel from a Canadian writer, complete with a British Columbia setting. It’s a coming of age novel which begins in 1950 and follows the then-9-year-old Willa through adolescence to adulthood. In 1950 she is introduced to her new step-brothers for the first time, and her relationship with the younger of the two – Patrick – becomes increasingly damaging, despite how seemingly drawn to him she is.  The blurb on the cover – “A little bit dark. A little bit weird” – sums it up well, as Robertson creates a wonderfully pervasive sense of menace and dread whenever Patrick appears.

 

thissideofsad This Side of Sad, by Karen Smythe

Karen Smythe has previously written on elegies and mourning in both non-fiction and short-story format. In this first novel she begins with the death of a man, although whether his death was suicide or an accident is a mystery.  After his death, his widow begins a period of self-inquiry, questioning both her identify and her own capacity for love. Also a large part of me wanting to read that is that I’m just intrigued by that cover…

 

October

thecoreThe Core, by Peter V. Brett

This is the title I’m most excited about for the Fall, as it finally wraps up one of my favourite current fantasy series, which started back in 2008 with The Warded Man.  The series’ main draws for me are the superb world building, the unique system of magic, and the excellent ensemble cast of characters, each of whom the story follows from childhood to adulthood, while realistically developing their skills and powers, as well as their motivations.  If you need something to tide you over in between Game of Thrones seasons and books then pick this one up – it now also has the benefit of now being complete in 5 books.

 

plagueofgiantsA Plague of Giants, by Kevin Hearne

The first few books of Kevin Hearne’s previous series, The Iron Druid Chronicles, are among my favourite funny sci-fi/fantasy books, but after 8 books I have to confess some fatigue with it so I’m excited that he has a new series coming out. Here Hearne has switched from urban to high fantasy, and rather than drawing from world mythologies he has done his own world-building here, complete with a really interesting system of magic and an excellent cast of characters.

 

Generations, by Flavia Bondigenerations

This graphic novel follows a young man, Matteo, as returns home from three years in Milan after falling out with his father over his relationship with a man. To avoid his father, Matteo stays with his grandmother, who already lives with his three aunts and cousin, while he decides what to do with his life. This is a moving, realistic story exploring acceptance, generation gaps, and coming-of-age, ultimately demonstrating that the events that pull a family together can be stronger than the issues that pull them apart.

 

November

artemisArtemis, by Andy Weir

Andy Weir’s debut novel, The Martian, was an excellent piece of straightforward, realistic yet highly approachable science-fiction. Artemis is much in the same vein, although this time his setting is an established colony on the moon. The protagonist here, Jazz Bashara, is a smuggler with ambitions mostly gaining wealth so she can afford more comfortable digs, but when she takes on a job with payday too good to refuse she finds herself embroiled in a struggle for control of Artemis itself.  This is a compulsively readable story with a very well-developed world, and Jazz herself makes for a thoroughly enjoyable and entertaining narrator.  If you’re a fan of classic sci-fi and/or caper stories, check this one out.

Enjoy!
Kat

 

NVCL Reads: BINGO!

Bryce, a Public Service Assistant here at the North Vancouver City Library, shares his NVCL Reads bingo.  There’s still time to get a bingo of your own — the contest closes end of day Tuesday, September 5 — and be entered into the draw to win one of 5 $25 gift cards to a fabulous local bookstore.

crosbieYOUR PICK:  Where Did You Sleep Last Night by Lynn Crosbie

The title of Crosbie’s book is derived from a lyric in seminal blues legend Lead Belly’s magnum opus “In The Pines”, later popularized by 90t’s alt-rock icon Kurt Cobain and Nirvana. Cobain also happens to be the raison d’etre for self-described “teenage dirtbag” Evelyn Gray and her drug-addled fantasies, to the point where a stint in hospital after an overdose conjures the spirit of His Mope-iness himself in the body of a man dressed only in a Celine Dion t-shirt and pajama bottoms. What follows next is Wild At Heart done grunge-rock style, as Crosbie mind-bendingly weaves the adventures of these two tragi-comic characters together in a Shakespearian Bonnie-and-Clyde prose, finishing with the realization that there may be a next life beyond the one that so many kids like Evelyn struggled to find in the decade of music’s mixed-up metaphors.

klassanILLUSTRATED: This Is Not My Hat by John Klassen

No it certainly is not, but doesn’t it look fantastic on him? A precocious fish tries to prank the owner of his newly “acquired” headgear by leading us to believe that they will never know it’s gone. Or will they? The author and illustrator of the award-winning I Want My Hat Back pens yet another funny tale of fins gone too far that will delight youngsters and parents alike.

owlsUNDER 200 PAGES: Owls In The Family by Farley Mowat

Full disclosure: I’m embarrassed to admit I’ve never read anything by Mr. Mowat. Until now. When most kids his age are tending to more domesticated pets, young Billy takes in two of the most unusual birds into his care. From bringing dead skunks to dinner and turning parades into riots, a rural town is turned upside down by their antics and no one (not even the family dog) will ever be the same again when Wol and Weeps make their home away from home.

 

ungiftedSET IN A SCHOOL: Ungifted by Gordon Korman

In Donovan Curtis’ world, school is a joke and pranks are his best subject. An “accident” involving a bronze statue and a big basketball game nearly puts an end to his hijinks for good until an administrative mix-up sends Donovan not to detention, but instead to ASD (the Academy of Scholastic Distinction). An “A” student Donovan is not, but he gets top marks for bringing a sense of normalcy to the staid and squeaky-clean lives of the students he befriends. As his “punishment” continues (to the chagrin of the Superintendent of Schools and faculty of ASD, the bewilderment of his parents and pregnant, panic-stricken sister and the awe of his peers), Curtis transforms from class clown to creative mastermind when the fate of summer school looks to ruin the future of the robotics club. Like Uncle Ben said to Peter Parker, “with great power comes great responsibility” and that responsibility for Curtis is to use his gifts for good even if he’s not exactly sure what they are. Filled with equal parts humour and humility, Korman takes us on a rollercoaster of middle school minds with enough twists and turns to make for a thoroughly enjoyable ride.

warsCANADIAN CLASSIC: The Wars by Timothy Findley

Gripping. Intense. Heartbreaking. Profound. All words used describe this epic tale of sacrifice in one of the darkest periods in Canada’s military history. Not convinced? Here are some more:

“Nobody knows what happened to prevent Robert from opening the doors. Perhaps he was injured in the moment (his collar bone was broken) by the panic-stricken horses and perhaps he even lost consciousness for those few precious minutes when he might have gotten them out. What in fact happened was that Robert began shouting “I can’t! I can’t! I can’t! and by the time Mickle realized this meant ‘I can’t open the doors’ it was too late. A man was sent running to pull them open – and he did so. Robert – riding the black mare – was seen trying to bring her under control in the middle of the barn. There were flames all around him and his clothing was on fire. Mickle admits that, at that moment, he said a quick prayer for Robert Ross – and the prayer was for a quick death.”

-Bryce

NVCL Reads: Set in a School

Back to school is almost upon us, which means that summer – and summer reading – is winding down.  For those of you participating in the NVCL Reads: Canada 150 bingo there are still a few more days to get your entries in.  The contest closes on Tuesday, September 5th.  You can enter in person or onlineOn Wednesday, we’ll draw 5 winners for the $25 gift cards to 32 Books and Kidsbooks.  If you haven’t finished your card yet don’t fear — there is still time.  And if ‘Set in a School’ is the square holding you back, we’ve got some suggestions for you:

class clownClass Clown (Picture book MUN) by Robert N. Munsch

Leonardo has been funny since the day he was born: he was a funny baby, he was a funny toddler, he was a funny first grader. Now he is in grade four; and Mrs. Gomez asks him to stop being funny. He tries his best, but he just has to make a funny face, then tell a funny joke, and then show a funny drawing–with predictable results. And when he finally SERIOUSLY promises faithfully never to be funny again, he makes the teacher laugh so hard she falls down on the floor!

athlete mathleteAthlete vs. Mathlete (Children’s Paperback MAC) by W. C. Mack

Owen Evans lights up the scoreboards. His brother, Russell, rocks the school boards. These twin brothers couldn’t be more different. They’ve long kept the peace by going their separate ways, but all that is about to change. The new basketball coach recruits Russell for the seventh grade team and a jealous Owen has to fight to stay in the game. When someone tries to steal Russell’s spot as captain of the mathlete team, will the two be able to put aside their differences in order to save his position? Or will they be sidelined?

geekThe Opposite of Geek (Teen Fiction VOR, or Cloud Library ebook) by Ria Voros

Gretchen Meyers doesn’t know exactly what went wrong, but life in the tenth grade is beginning to suck. As if having a semi-nudist, food-obsessed family wasn’t awkward enough, she has lost her best friend to the fanatical school swim team, and her math grade is so close to negative digits that only emergency tutoring can save it. So far, so high school.

 

fallFall (Online Audiobook) by Colin McAdam

Award-winning author Colin McAdam’s second novel takes place at St. Ebury, an elite Ottawa boarding school. It’s a place of privilege and hollow rules, of newly minted “traditions” and the barely restrained animal instincts of the boys. A handful of girls are also in attendance, among them Fall, a beautiful and elusive figure who becomes the object of fascination for many of the male students, including Noel, a smart, intensely idiosyncratic young man. Told from the very different perspectives of Julius and Noel, Fall is a psychologically acute and relentless literary thriller of the first order.

preciouscargoPrecious Cargo : My Year Driving the Kids on School Bus 3077 (Biography, Rows 8-11, 921 DAV or Cloud Library ebook) by Craig Davidson

One morning in 2008, desperate and impoverished while trying unsuccessfully to write, Davidson plucked a flyer out of his mailbox that read, “Bus Drivers Wanted.” That was the first step towards an unlikely new career: driving a school bus full of special-needs kids for a year. Armed only with a sense of humour akin to that of his charges, a creative approach to the challenge of driving a large, awkward vehicle while corralling a rowdy gang of kids, and unexpected reserves of empathy, Davidson takes us along for the ride.

residentialResidential Schools: The Devastating Impact on Canada’s Indigenous Peoples and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Findings and Calls for Action (Teen Non-Fiction 371.8299 FLO) by Melanie Florence

In 1857, the Gradual Civilization Act was passed by the Legislature of the Province of Canada with the aim of assimilating Indigenous people. Canada’s residential school system for Indigenous young people is now recognized as a grievous historic wrong.

-Kate

*All descriptions courtesy of the publishers

 

NVCL Reads: Set in Vancouver

Be a tourist in your own town by reading a great book set in this great city! Check out these 5 titles that you can find on the shelves at NVCL for your Canada Reads 150 Bingo needs! You’ll discover Vancouver again through the eyes of some amazing authors, and fill out that bingo card while you’re at it!

 

yY, by Marjorie Celona

This the story of Shannon, a newborn baby dumped at the doors of the YMCA, swaddled in a dirty grey sweatshirt with nothing but a Swiss Army knife. She is found moments later by a man who catches a mere glimpse of her troubled mother as she disappears from view. All three lives are forever changed by the single decision.

Bounced between foster homes, Shannon endures neglect and abuse but then finds stability and love in the home of Miranda, a kind single mother who refuses to let anything ever go to waste. But as Shannon grows, so do the questions inside her. Where is she from? Who is her true family? Why would they abandon her on the day she was born?

 

stanleyparkStanley Park, by Timothy L Taylor

Trained in France, Jeremy Papier, the young Vancouver chef, is becoming known for his unpretentious dishes that highlight fresh, local ingredients. His restaurant, The Monkey’s Paw Bistro, while struggling financially, is attracting the attention of local foodies, and is not going unnoticed by Dante Beale, owner of a successful coffeehouse chain, Dante’s Inferno. Meanwhile, Jeremy’s father, an eccentric anthropologist, has moved into Stanley Park to better acquaint himself with the homeless and their daily struggles for food, shelter and company. Jeremy’s father also has a strange fascination for a years-old unsolved murder case, known as “The Babes in the Wood” and asks Jeremy to help him research it.

 

gumthiefThe Gum Thief, by Douglas Coupland

The first and only story of love and looming apocalypse set in the aisles of an office supply superstore. In Douglas Coupland’s ingenious novel-sort of a Clerks-meets-Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf-we meet Roger, a divorced, middle-aged aisles associate at a Staples outlet, condemned to restocking reams of twenty-lb. bond paper for the rest of his life. And then there’s Roger’s co-worker Bethany, who’s at the end of her Goth phase, and young enough to be looking at fifty more years of sorting the red pens from the blue in Aisle Six. One day, Bethany comes across Roger’s notebook in the staff room. When she opens it up, she discovers that this old guy she’s never considered as quite human is writing mock diary entries pretending to be her-and spookily, he is getting her right. She also learns he has a tragedy in his past-and suddenly he no longer seems like just a paper-stocking robot with a name tag.

 

allthatmattersAll that matters, by Wayson Choy

Kiam-Kim is three years old when he arrives by ship at Gold Mountain with his father and his grandmother, Poh-Poh. From his earliest years, Kiam-Kim is deeply conscious of his responsibility to maintain the family’s honor and to set an example for his younger siblings. However, his life is increasingly complicated by his burgeoning awareness of the world outside Vancouver’s Chinatown.

 

saltfishgirlSalt Fish Girl, by Larissa Lai

Salt Fish Girl is the mesmerizing tale of an ageless female character who shifts shape and form through time and place. Told in the beguiling voice of a narrator who is fish, snake, girl, and woman – all of whom must struggle against adversity for survival – the novel is set alternately in nineteenth-century China and in a futuristic Pacific Northwest.

At turns whimsical and wry, Salt Fish Girl intertwines the story of Nu Wa, the shape-shifter, and that of Miranda, a troubled young girl living in the walled city of Serendipity circa 2044. Miranda is haunted by traces of her mother’s glamourous cabaret career, the strange smell of durian fruit that lingers about her, and odd tokens reminiscent of Nu Wa. Could Miranda be infected by the Dreaming Disease that makes the past leak into the present?

– Brie

NVCL Reads: Poetry

Its time to polish up on our Canadian Poetry — not just because poetry can be moving and rich and vibrant and naughty, and all kinds of other things — but also because this lot of poetry is distinctly Canadian, and one more step to completing our #NVCLreads Canada 150 bingo contest.

Just for the record, I’m not by nature a poetry reader. However, this particular post gave me a much needed opportunity to dip my hands into an overflowing pool of talent and perspective that I have for too long ignored, spanning idiosyncrasies of voice and style.  Take these for what they are, a small smattering of what’s available, and mostly, a sure-fire way to expose yourself to poetry from the insides to the margins of Canada’s evolving literary landscape.

GriffinGriffin Poetry Prize: The Griffin Poetry Prize anthology: a selection of the shortlist

Up first is the 2016 anthology put out by the organizers of The Griffin Poetry Prize. The Prize is one of the richest poetry awards in the world. For this edition, Editor Adam Sol selected from a host of international and Canadian poets, the latter of which include poems from Per Brask and Patrick Friesen’s Frayed Opus for Strings & Wind Instruments (Brick Books), translated from the Danish written by Ulrikka S. Gernes, Infinite Citizen of the Shaking Tent by Liz Howard (McClelland & Stewart), and Tell: poems for a girlhood by Soraya Peerbaye (Pedlar Press).

wrongcatThe Wrong Cat: Poems by Lorna Crozier

One of Swift Current, Saskatchewan’s greatest gifts to Canada surely has to come in the form of poet Lorna Crozier, and particularly in this 17th work titled the The Wrong Cat: Poems.  Her style has evolved beyond just lyrical and effortless turns of phrase. Here she transcends the mediocre with an irreverence of style that never waivers from a clear sense of character and a simple story told – ah, but always with a twist, humor where it is right, and scrumptious bites of reality. Take ‘Book of Small Mistakes’ as an example, and there is one about A ‘Moose’ that is sure to require a revisit, for all the right reasons. Animals of all kinds help her reflect on everything from the subdued to the sublime.

somebirdsSome Birds Walk for the Hell of it by C.R. Avery

If irreverence is a style, C.R. Avery is its ambassador. He’s a local guy; fueled by his Commercial Drive roots, this avant- garde entertainer/slam poet gets to the heart of a variety of downtrodden, eccentrics, ‘temporaries’ and Bohemians that are the world around him in his home of East Vancouver.  While his live performance always adds that extra bit of spice to his ‘beat’ inspired meanderings, he is of us, and all of us in many ways. As one reviewer notes, however, be prepared, “Avery’s poetry is alternatively profane, brilliantly vulgar, outrageously funny, and brash in its lonesome courage”. But, he is innovative in his style, continuing to evolve as a poet, and well worth a read.

pemmicanThe Pemmican Eaters: Poems by Marilyn Dumont

John A. MacDonald referred to the Metis people as “pemmican eaters”. Such is the moniker that titles this collection of work by Marilyn Dumont, dedicated to illuminating characters and stories of the time of Louis Riel, and the rise of the Metis in Canada, bringing them seemingly into the present to face a reckoning. She confronts MacDonald directly, as well as all those who sought to denigrate the Metis by claiming herself and her identity as ‘halfbreed’ proudly.  She declares herself loudly and movingly — never ceding dignity and integrity in the process. I’m particularly informed by “What We Don’t Need”, as I am equally moved by “Our Gabriel”, a celebration of sorts of her ancestor, Gabriel Dumont, and his courageous place in our history.

injunInjun by Jordan Abel

Awarded 2017’s Griffin Poetry Prize, Jordan Abel confronts the legacies of our Colonial past with ‘Injun’ a single poem, wrought out of inaccurate depictions of Indigenous people throughout dozens of pulp western novels. He took these novels and painstakingly searched for occurrences of the word ‘Injun’, isolating the sentences they were contained in, and fashioning a single poem out of the results. What is created, along with annotations for a little bit of context is a confrontation with the language of the occupier, with the violence that has been wrought on the First People of the land, and an opportunity to heal from complicit attempts to erase and discount culture through language, as difficult as it may be to face that. It is that difficulty that makes the poem all that much more worthwhile to read.

milkandhoneyMilk and Honey by Rupi Kaur
The most tender chapters of our lives are written through experiences with abuse, loss, violence and love. Milk and Honey is a pilgrimage through these deepest of emotions but resolved with a softness that comes through the light that is always there, wanting to find its way through.  Divided into four sections that include “the hurting”, “the loving”, “the breaking”, and “the healing,” Kaur uses prose to address themes of loss and femininity.  Milk and Honey is one of the few books of Canadian poetry that has spent 52 weeks on the New York times best sellers list and has been translated into over 25 languages around the world.

To This Day: For the Bullied and Beautiful by Shane Koyczan
There wasn’t any Canadian who didn’t feel the pride of a nation bearing witness to poet Shane Koyczan’s stirring poem “We Are More” at the opening ceremonies of 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver. Here he takes another of his poems ‘To This Day’ and refashions it into a rallying cry against bullying. Based on his own experiences being bullied, the poem is heartfelt and emotional, but strong and inspirational.  Koyczan helps us rise to the resilience that lies beneath, confronting the bully within and around us all. So inspirational was the poem that he produced a YouTube video for a 2013 Ted Conference that has garnered millions of views, and continues to encourage others to this day.

-Chris