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Great Poetry Books – Updated Feb 2, 2012

Book Just In: Brian Henderson’s new book, Sharawadji is fabulous. If there is any sanity and anyone capable of appreciating a good book of poetry out there, this book will win big awards, like the GG and the Griffin. I will do a proper review shortly. I just had to let you know now. His last book, Nerve Language, was up for the GG and Griffin. An experimental book in the best sense of the word. Sharawadji is a different tack, a different aesthetic. Like a cross between Tim Lilburn and Don Domanski.


Return from Erebus Julia McCarthy, Brick Books, 2010 (Aug 21, 2011)

Although I had not been there before, I have gone and returned through the reading of Julia’s new book. Perfect as white, every phrase a surprise. A food so perfect you meet the end of hunger. ‘Its memory is porcelain it dreams albino / it’s the colour of a promise / before it’s broken … if you touch it you’ll know absence / so profound you won’t feel a thing’. We should all be so lucky that each of our phrases and poems are so touchable and so unreleasable. Soft, sure, an extensive vocabulary so broad it extends into perfectly apt neologisms and when one of these does not exist, she invents a word you find you have always known. Much magic in the Skeltonian sense. Benign, original, novel, a complete voice that is also a self-generating lung of endless meaning, a river we stare into the same as we do a fire. Nature poetry in the best sense, with a lived-in humanity that her translator’s ability renders into a language you not only understand but know must be exactly as she says it is. Stand in the bookstore and read Legerdemain; it is legerdemain in its best, non-pejorative, most magic sense: ‘beetles black as shrapnel’. Don Domanski says: Reading this book makes me ecstatic about poetry. I am with Don.

And then on rereading the book, which stands up admirably to a second perusal, my interest was piqued by the references to western mythology. As the internet today is a truly magnificent and usable source of information on any subject, I spent a couple of days just following up on the various references and the the mythological underpinnings of this book. Erebus, Asphodel and so on. Anyone who has strong interest in western mythology will find themselves stopping to consider the allusions and how the references add depth to the poems through the associations made. For instance, Hades, the shades, and so on. Erebus, part of the underworld after death, is, of course, difficult to leave and return to life, but it can be done, and one context in the book is that both of her parents have passed. I asked Julia about the intentionality of her allusions and she had included them as part of her store of knowledge as though these are part of the knowledge base we all share and simply another source of metaphor where they naturally fit. It is worth following them up if you don’t already know the references.

What It Means To Be Human – DC Reid

My tenth book (fifth of poetry), What It Means To Be Human, has come out recently.The first person to send me an email asking for a free copy will get one. Contact me at: Free poetry, ahem!

I post below some comments from other poets and reviewers:

Brian Henderson (See his great book, Nerve Language below – shortlisted for the GG)

I’m now thoroughly ensconced and really enjoying it, especially your language use. Lots of on your pulses collisions and power coming off the diction’s radiations. It’s an out of the corner of your eye writing with plenty of speed. Trying to crank up the word to be as fast as the skin (Massumi). P 72, p 84, yes. I think of it as Lorcaian, a kind of Duende art, filled with physicality, irrationality, intense awareness, & awareness of loss/time/death/otherness. Performing a kind of autopoiesis of language. I think in some way we’re driving thru a land of similar poetics, so I’m sending along a couple of things for your reading pleasure.

David KosubSpeaking of Poetry Blog

David is not a poet, but is that rare sort of person that poetry needs: an interested observer who is willing to put the effort into a poetry blog and do regular reviews and articles for the love of poetry. Thank you, David.

Here are some words: “Like Tim Lilburn’s work, the metabolic rate of Reid’s poems is pitched very high, the effort to meld the poetry’s imagery and the narrative prodigious.” He did not buy the concept of poems/novel, however – the main technical thing the book takes aim at. But you can go and look, and you can find a half hour interview with Carmine Starnino, who comes across as a much better, bright, even modest guy than some of his written criticism would have you believe.

Alice Major – her The Office Tower Tales won the Lowther Award in 2009

Yes, we certainly share a liking for odd, technical kinds of language — nares and virga as well as gelignite. I love ‘virga’ and the idea behind it — rain that never reaches ground. You use that image very effectively. And there are many other striking images throughout — ‘black points of lash’ and the hole of wood under the dusty glass.

We tackle story in very different ways — I hope we get a moment during the League AGM to talk about that. Your fragmentary and provocative approach challenges the reader to make a coherent narrative, or else to let the shards lie unconnected. It brings up interesting ideas about wholeness.

Jim Andrews – e-poet and Check out his neat media tool: dbcinema

… interesting, unusual… really intelligent…

Cynthia Kerkham-Woodman – Palimpsest Press will publish her, The Animal Lying Beside Me

… great title… intriguing, inspiring in its innovation… ‘the slow tongue of night in the tree tops giving way’…

Victoria Book Prize Society – 2010

This prize is awarded to one finalist of the multi-genre short list.’ What It Means To Be Human was the second book of poems:

Your book was the second favourite poetry book, absolutely. The other jurors (and moi) absolutely loved your language and playfulness. Personally, I think it’s your best book.
Julia McCarthy – I was very intrigued by the structural adventures you undertook, and it put me in mind of Sheila Watson for some reason. it is quite a haunting book and very successful, so many good lines and images.
You Shall Have No Other
The first publication from my sixth book of poems, also a novel, and ultimately a web presentation has just occurred.Visit ditch, for some of the Cloudio poems, a computer program created to impregnate his maker, Sandria. Cloudio has grammar and spelling problems. The line change oddness results at ditch. Have a look at:


2010 Books

Zieroth ‘ The Fly in Autumn

One of the pleasures of reading mature work is the ease, the smoothness, the assurance of the poet, having worked on his or her craft for several decades. The poet knows what does or does not come off his tongue and so one poem moves to another seamlessly and you are easily drawn. You do not question because the discrimination has been done for you. Nothing jars. Zieroth’s, The Fly in Autumn has these qualities. It is a fitting book to have taken the GG in 2010, similar in its flow to another recent winner, All Our Wonder Unavenged, by Don Domanski. But where Domanski’s is more a paean to nature, Zieroth’s is more to the mid-age questions of death and personal meaning in a world where meaning and the need for it are ultimately illusory, though one continues looking. An added felicity is Zieroth’s use of the heroic sestet: three stanzas of six lines, with a set rhyme and metre, though he has communicated to me that the latter requirement is not one that comes easily to him. So, consider it a modified form that fits. These poems make no declarations just an often shy registered comment and diffidence, in this existence ‘what we borrowed in our mother’s wombs’ and will relinquish. A kind of lament both sad and beautiful at times, well, beautiful at virtually all times in these poems. How To Walk In The Dark With Flowers, for instance: ‘Open your eyes to the light / in the armful of lilies you are holding’. Simple, beautiful images. A family joined to urge the dying one to move beyond sense and let them get back to their lease on living, his ‘angel face so open it’s bland’. Harbour and Nightwood have a knack for publishing books that should be published.


2008 – 2009 Books


What if red ran out ‘ Katia Grubisic ‘ Gooselane

Every poem in this book is superb. It is the work of a major Canadian poet at the peak of her powers. Reminiscent of Ted Hughes, but without his sense of declarative imperative, if that’s not double-speak, and of John Ashbury, but not too lush, too crammed with invention, not voltage that burns – at least not in a way that’s bad. And I had the sense, that I seldom have, that the book seemed the product of a male mind. Hmm, my failings, no doubt. Great authority, confidence, strong, undeniable narrative drive without being lyrical, occasional poems in the best sense of that expression. They take you easily where she wants you to go with her because she has that incandescent imagination that agrees with itself on where to go and without thinking about it, without it being an issue for the keen reader, you go there with her and discover along the way that you are glad you did. Poetry that is a communication, provided you want that out of your books, but not one that demands it either, muscular, a feral python. Only there is one little problem with all these attempts at words: this is Katia’s first book of poems and she is young. Makes one humble, jealous and thankful, too. Stop listening to my thoughts, you decide:


Sharp and white, the moon notches the horizon,
funnels clouds into the early morning
Hoodlums pushing bicycles through alleyways, past gaping

casements. In the sticky heat, lovers conclude the night naked
and not touching. Fruit, rugs, all-nite coffee storefronts elapse. Perhaps
the day will illuminate new absurdities. The buses are full

of men, their apparatus and tired beards, their metal boxes
shiny between scuffed boots. Everyone gets off, everyone
else gets on. The vanished uncurl from rags and boxes, mute

in brooks of garbage juice. No longer full nor numb,
they throw off blankets on the marble ramparts of insurance
buildings, emerge surprised and maybe a little disappointed

to be not dead. The bus runs a red
and the moon slides down between the towers,
not really bothered, not bothering.

This is a book that will win awards, if anyone out there is awake. Dare I note the obvious unusualities: notches, gaping, not touching, new absurdities, apparatus, tired beards, vanished, and the best of all: brooks of garbage juice (let’s all steal that), ramparts, not dead, not bothering.


2007 – 2008 Books

Note, I only review books I consider excellent, I don’t want to hurt any feelings out there by expressing misgivings, perhaps my own shortcomings, anyway, and my purpose here is to give the poet some confidence when working alone in the poet’s corner on that next book in times of indecision and questioning of one’s own abilities. A confidence thing.

Nerve Language ‘ Brian Henderson, Pedlar Press.

Nerve Language is an example from a very current stream in Canadian poetry: a documentary about a real person in a real time, and a taking licence with the story, along with the strategy of making the notes at the end of the book vital poetry for understanding the rest. This book is about the life of Daniel Paul Schreber, judge in Leipzig in 1894, who went delusional, and came to believe it was his responsibility to save the world. This is a spectacularly jagged book in both images and structural motion, jumping from the nerve language world of Schreber who talked to god and to other spectators of the mental institute. He describes it, for example, as ‘slightly overshooting blood metallic tinsel oxide smell of success.’ This is highly-current, non-lyrical, oblong-rhythmic, consonant-clash, stuffing into one phrase, exact-description words that make the reader dig deep to make a commitment to decipher the text and not fall back on wanting accessible lyricism. Henderson delivers: the fragmentary, the difficult, the asymmetric. Excellent. Raging, as bill bissett would say. In addition, Henderson’s book’s over all structure is so neat and tight that it adds an opposite tension like a tourniquet on the reader’s brain so that the jagged and the bound in conjunction marks this book as better than the rest.

the rush to here ‘ George Murray, Nightwood Editions

At once recognizable as a great book, the rush to here, effortlessly explores the sonnet in all of its permutations and is so neat in its execution, so Shakespearian in its lush authority that it sneaks up on a reader and takes him/her by the throat. There are quotable completely-full-of-themselves epigrams in each and every poem. From Silence is a Dead Language: What you’re looking for is ingenuity / enough to let ambition go: to find / yourself building the simple, the clever, / suddenly satisfied with what’s appearing // at the ends of your much-surprised hands. This is supple, sure, intelligent swelling of incandescence abundance. What impresses is the magic of great poetry captured in one of the western hemisphere’s millennia-long traditional forms, overleaping in one easy ‘ for Murray – step one current retrograde neo-conservative stream in Canadian poetry that holds up structure as the only important consideration in poetry. The rush to here blows that movement completely apart even though it’s not intending to. This guy is so smart so sparklingly clear in his poetic invocations that every line rings as clear as a glass tinged by a fingernail. You want the music to continue and continue in its arpeggio octaves.

Muybridge’s Horse ‘ Rob Winger, Nightwood Editions

I wanted, while I read another 60 books in this contest, for this oeuvre book to be my winner. This is the true story ‘ if that is not an oxymoron ‘ of Eadweard Muybridge, who proved with 50 precisely-timed still cameras, that when running, a horse’s four feet are off the ground during mid-stride; ground breaking work in 1878, that also led to moving pictures. In anyone else’s hands this story could be as humdrum as old yellow newsprint. But Winger starts with fire and just keeps on going. The first poem seeks to capture in words something in mid-motion. It is a very-current-poem-type that seeks to coalesce similar material rather than move in a trajectory from a to b. There is neither a nor b, only the quality of being between be and to be. For example: The time between target and gunshot’[in addition, by reversing the more usual order, the phrase actually implies motion as the sound rushes toward its object] a minute hand jumping to its next hour before the clock can chime’ the darkness that happens before any object collides with your face’ Thus the whole point of the book is made in the first poem, and in a way one that, in addition, confidently throws away on this page the usual way we write poems as a progression of thoughts as a connecting feature, setting down instead a list of syntactically and subjectly unconnected strings of words. And of course this is only the first poem. The rest is a documentary, novel, panorama of a life, twice as long as the usual book of poetry ‘ every page good, even the ones that are essentially found lists of boxes of photograph titles worked up by an agile infusing intelligence.

This is a book that moves what poetry means along to the next link of the chain; it will last, in the same way that Ondaatje’s Collected Works of Billy the Kid has lasted as one of the best books of poetry of the last half century in this country and one that influenced a whole generation of young Canadian poets. Finally, it has to be said that Nightwood should be given an award for the best designed book of poetry of this decade. One small item: a horse at the bottom of many pages that if you run the pages through your hands like a deck of cards, it gallops.

Thin Moon Psalm ‘ Sheri Benning, Brick Books

It has been said that all poets when they are young exhaust their coming to the world in the metaphors of actualization they contribute to the world of poetry. Once they run out of completely new, original phrases they move on to thematic concerns. If that is so, Sheri Benning is in the middle of her young poet’s life where every phrase is novel, every image startling and surprising in its un-before thought accuracy that older poets will recognize of themselves at an earlier age. Here’s an example: a flute can pull us from our prisons, / can piece together disarticulated days, // but these men strum furiously, their fingers inflamed wicks. / With vein-bulging intensity they shout their songs – // all of the cocked triggers of all the executions’ And each of these is brought within the arc that art must conform to to satisfy the mind. These are not simply images that don’t connect with the story within which they fall and rise. On the contrary their shorthand code does connect. The poet moves light fingers between thoughts. Once they are lined up with one another you see the story within which the dissonant lines inevitably must belong. Benning has the puppeteer’s hand, the butcher’s meat cleaver and the beauty of a discarded algorithm. She sees with her phrase-making eye that the ordinary conventional words of our speaking are not great enough to convey the images that she sees. Like Tim Lilburn, she makes startling hyphenated new words of unexpected rhythms to convey what she sees. A gorgeous beauty of original, prairie landscape lyricism. The images spill forth in her need to write and move on because there is more, much more. Benning’sphotograph at the end is as jarring and jangly, as her work. Read the book. Look at the picture.

Quick ‘ Anne Simpson, McClelland and Stewart.

Once again this is a book that is sure of itself, a mature, nimble mind of a book that passes from one crystalline phrase to another. Each poem has zero extra material, no slither, as Pound used to say. The crispness is a sign of a decisive, confident mind, and the images it works with so compacted that one can go right on by and then have to come back and make the mind pay attention. The mind is rewarded in this book of poems about the body of a human and of nature. The confusion, the concussion of a near fatal car crash, to the bodily observations of a bee and a human woman. How easily rain forgets us as it softens, pulls back into cloud. How it forgets. A hundred scents ribbon my body this way and that. The bee, of course, is drawn to flowers by scent and Simpson’s lucent mind and touch make clear that the lovely confusions of scent are a problem for the bee. The woman observes it another way: Out of the nothing of daylight comes one watery shape, another. The architecture of what’s heard’. It’s as close as sky gets: fingertips trembling over our upturned faces. Decisive, exact, perfect.

Domain ‘ Barbara Nickel, Anansi.

A highly-skilled, waited-for book from a poet who has already left her mark, in this, her second book of poems. A great series of exceptionally done glosas on Catherine the Great is part of the spine of the book, making the revelation, but only ultimately a detail:The girl pulls the blind and eyes the pills./They’re light as blossoms. Pale eyes.

The work on every day reality , its history, its absentness, its ultimate structure of a life, takes domesticity to a new and clearer place. So many times when poets start out they disappear for a decade in a time when children come to them. Some of them never make it back out, to being a poet. Barbara Nickel has done both and the trip through her and our Domains is a better place for her having born witness to what we see and most of us forget, or worse, think nothing more of ‘the what is happening’, what John Lennon said is ‘what is happening when you are busy making other plans’. I’m glad for us poets that she found her way back out of what happens. We are richer for it. Read: The Storage Room, and you will get what she found, not unapart from the what that has happened to her. The simple, the foreboding, the wrapping in the warm fresh scent of cedar: In the dark I’m all alone and safe, down here/in cedar closet smell and furnace purr, and the mirror’s returning images of different emotions, times and people.

No, read first the lead poems to each section. Each does a nifty trick of tying its last line to the beginning line of the next section’s lead poem. So it is a kind of history of what we live in our own lives – they become the real spine, and a frame for the book in its many parts as though the rings of the years of a tree. The things we do not understand, the mother we remember and then re-remember the years that we are growing. And the Domain is contained, and yet keeps on flowing, memory and witness the subject of our briefness in this world, the intentionality of memory, the artistic whole that gives structure to the dome that we would like our lives to be. Yes.

My mother agrees with the dead ‘ Susan Stenson, Wolsak and Wynn

This is the best fully-accessible book of poetry I have ever read. Not one word too many, not one word too few. A fully realized meditation on real death. The best feature is how Stenson captures in few words her mother’s character, a woman who was a mother in the 1950s and ’60s’, in small town Saskatchewan. Spare and laconic, without sentimentalism. After getting the cancer message, the two confer, write lists, and go through them together, without flinching, well, the mother at least: Book the hall. Buy the coffin/… Fix the zipper on the silk blouse. As though her mother needs to die as she lived, as though there are rules for living, her nose all the way to the paper as she writes, and slowly perfects each letter as though a teacher were watching over her shoulder and there is a need to do it right; this sense pervades the book dense with character, personal idiosyncracies and in its accumulation it is a death that each of us has seen with a person close enough to us that we are forced to pay attention, prepare for the loss.

The Shovel ‘ Colin Browne, Talonbooks

This book should be required reading for every would-be poet. That is because it covers so much ground, so many styles, and is just so endlessly brainy and erudite that before they are allowed to paint with words, all poets should see the entire canvas and tradition within which they will work. After all, anyone who wants to be leading edge, or experimental, cannot do so without knowing what the edge is, and where it is, despite what the poet might think.



All our wonder unavenged ‘ Don Domanski, Brick Books – I have an extra copy that will go to the first person who sends me an email at:’ Sorry the book is now gone. Keep your eyes open for another double!

This book of poetry is sure, quiet, endlessly inventive in images and thoughts that flow from one phrase to the next in an apparent effortlessness that is, as Dickinson said it: the gift of screws. Hard, hard work by a mature poet who has come to a flowering point in his art. Nature poetry in the best sense of the words. This book deserved the GG.


write and rewrite then shut off the light ‘ roll the great stone
back into place ‘ all flat land after that ‘ all the way to sleep

All poets can appreciate the ease of this writing, that moves gently but with assurance from one small, or large subject to another, as though they and all the other words have to be there, and you go, yes, this is so. We are glad to be reminded what we have taken for granted in the endlessly renewing world. And the simple lyricism that is what so much of Canadian poetry is, is not done so well as here in Domanski’s eighth book of poems. There is much to be learned by many poets in this writing.


A Few Words Will Do ‘ Lionel Kearns, Talonbooks

This book, a selected works, has flow and a mercurial mind of endless felicities. Lovely.

Other notable books from 2007


Fluttertongue 4 ‘ adagio for the pressured surround ‘ Steven Ross Smith, NeWest Press

Like Colin Brown’s book, Steven Ross Smith’s book needs to be read by poets, so they can see one of the dimensions of Canadian poetry. From the bp nichol, Fred Wah sound poetry angle, Fluttertongue 4 is not an easy book. It requires a person to read until they are in synch with the style and then keep going. Throw out conventional structure – no little narrative stories here. This is a book-length poem that intends in its brought together fragments to be a different kind of telling. You have to bring your mind down to the microsopic to take in the perceptions as they come to you, as though you are turning in a circle, eyes coming to light here and then there. There is connecting movement, but it is told through the individual line or two fragment, and comes back to Smith’s wife, his father, his son, a trip to coastal Canada and the repetition of each gives the book passage from beginning to end. sun a low blaze, molten through trees. // i have read a few thousand words since rising, to free them. // was it wind calling? tires on gravelled road? the pressure? These are three back to back stanzas so this has that precision of small, but each is a leaping on or to other and this characterizes the whole book. This is a method for writing poetry that the poet should pick up and understand that it is legitimate, and try to write this way because in doing so is to take a great leap in what you can do. Smith’s book is a style, fleetingly enjambed-takes on what he poet sees, thinks and experiences. Doing things that are hard make a poet better. Even knowing that this kind of poetry exists gives the poet the context within which she or he writes. Do remember that the fragmentary need not be organized for there to be poetry, and even though this is subversive of the artifice of poetry.

Aesthetics Lesson – Christopher Doda, Mansfield Press

This book has a great series of glosas. For the as yet uninformed, the poet takes four lines from a poem, usually one that the poet admires greatly, and posits them above the poem about to be written. The glosa is a four stanza poem with ten lines per stanza. The first line from the quote is the tenth line of the first stanza and so on. There is also a rhyme scheme, if memory serves me correctly, the second line and fourth line together, and then the fifth, ninth and tenth together.

The glosa is an early Renaissance form, developed by the Spanish court poets. P.K. Page brought the form to the attention of current Canadian poets in 1994, in her now seminal, Hologram, from Brick Books and since then the poets of this country have turned out exceptional glosas. There is something about this form, as there is about the sestina, that brings out the absolute best that a poet can do – I think it is the using of the four lines from one’s idols that does it -and Christopher Doda’s glosas are… my search for superlatives comes up short.

And, Doda has added another twist that makes the poems even more difficult. He has written not one, but eight glosas, all are related. In addition to this difficulty, he has, starting with a favourite quote from John Donne, made each successive poem start with the last four lines of the previous glosa as its quote to be worked upon in the glosa form. This means that the fourth line from the Donne quote is the last line in all eight glosas. Added to this symmetry the eighth glosa in Doda’s series ends with the four lines that are the Donne quote that is posited on the first page. Doda’s bookis a good place to start when you are thinking of writing this form.

Found – Souvankham Thammavongsa – Pedlar Press

If you like books that marry content and design well, one real gem, that should take the silver medal for design in 2007 has to be Found. The cover lets you know what the design is all about: space and a few words, so that you focus entirely upon them. The front cover has one silver line on a navy blue background. This book is from her father’s scrapbook – and some of her own words, later – written in 1978 while her parents were living in a Laotian refugee camp. This is a book about understatement.

Souvankham’s father was not literate and his scrapbook could not be called a diary in the usual sense of the word. But Pedlar Press has done a fabulously understated design so assymetric, Asian, so simple that it makes you feel humble in its unadorned, bleak, thin, grey gruel of humanity stunted words of a man who had no words but was compelled to write down the little that he thought. And the photo of Souvankham at the end looks down and away, so that it would be hard to recognize her from the photo. Perhaps it is small because of her father; I don’t know. A few pages before the end, the single downstroke of the cover is understood to mean that on that day, or week or month, he stroke it off and there was nothing to be said. And it was also his record of captivity – when you look at a calendar of each day stroked out, it is a captivity, a striking off of what has been of little value, but is gone.

Read his daughter’s acknowledgements at the back of the book. They will tug at you if you are human, and that will make you want for there to be a place for bare pain reduced to sadness to be kept safe from all the damage of the world. There are many names in this list, and so you will know, that many people feel this way, too. This book is the memory of what is spare. The book will not take long to be read, but it will rest a long time in you once it has been read. This is a good thing. Thank you, Souvankham.

more to keep us warm – Jacob scheier – ECW

One my my chores last year as VP of the League of Canadian Poets, was to be chair of the membership committee. That meant reading about 60 books a year, along with submissions of poems for associate membership. more to keep us warm by jacob scheier was the best book I read. His style is straight ahead speaking of the story he is telling, not lyrical, mysterious or floating, not deliberately elegaic, but telling you what he is thinking: We decorate the past with gin martinis/that night, now, heavy as an olive pit/sinking in your coffee. In this there is the the surpise of the end of the first line and the end of the second. There is much in this poetry that is like this, many surprises which is the mark of an active mind of its own novel perspective on the world.

Most Canadian poets will know that Jacob’s mother was Libby Scheier, a feminist, academic poet who was felled before her time by cancer. And there are those poems in this book that deal with that time for him, and the distance that he has with his father. But they are clear, intelligent, idiosyncratic, in a good way, and moving where his agile mind will take him. There is cleverness, too, with a human side so that it is appealing. And anger: Fuck, I’m not comtemporary enough for publication. I’m too/narrative, too personal. Or, I should just tell CanLit to “go/fuck yourself with your regional aesthetics” But that’s not/subversive enough on a syntactic level. and so on, a short part of a long prosy poem about the state of, apres Howl, poetry. There is angst. Confessionalism that is not embarrassing. Honesty. There is much to be said about honesty, for it is its own crucible and there is much difficulty in bringing that forward for all to see, and a first book that is of uniformly high quality from beginning to end. And it has been short-listed for the 2008 GG, a great accomplishment for a debut book. And funny, too. November 18 brought in the news that Jacob’s book has won the GG for 2008.

And briefly, others that want to be read and should be, too:

The Bindery – Shane Rhodes, Newest Press,
The Bone Broker – Lillian Necakov, Mansfield Press
return to open water – Harold Rhenisch, Ronsdale
The Crooked Good – Louise Bernice Halfe, the best aboriginal book of many a year, and among the best in Canada from 2007
Torch River – Elizabeth PHilips, Brick Books, has the best section on childbirth I have ever read.
The Incorrection – George McWhirter, Oolichan, a book of many different interests, styles by one of the best-loved, by his students, academics in Canada
The Exile’s Papers – Wayne Clifford, Porcupine’s Press, you want sonnets done as easily as breathing, you got ’em.
this is erth these ar peopul – bill bissett, Talonbooks, another idosyncratic book from Dr. Bill who singlehandedly invented performance poetry way back when
rivers… and other blackness… between us – d’bi’young.anitafrika, Women’s Press, urban, woman of colour, a book that really rocks. Again another stream in Canadian poetry. She’s going to be great.
Notes for a Rescue Narrative – J. Mark Smith, Oolichan
forage – Rita Wong, Nightwood, the first third of this book is highly inventive, using hand writing written around the poems and internet information beside it, poems of environmental outrage, that again, on their own form another stream in Canadian poetry. Read this, again, for what it can teach you about new dimensions in poetry. Wong’s book won the Dorothy Livesay award for the best book of poetry in BC, 2008
Red Bird – Ian Roy, Buschek Books
Father Tongue – Danielle Lagah, Oolichan (many good boods from Oolichan in 2007)

Made Beautiful by Use – Sean Horlor, Signature Editions, a great first book
LIfting the Stone – Susan McCaslin, Seraphim Editions, my choice for the best Christian book of the year
Human Resources
– Rachel Zolf, Coach House Press a kinky, computer word generator book, and took the Trillium if I remember correctly