by Emily Schimp for National Poetry Month 2021
Canadian National Slam Champion, Nisha Patel, debuts her first poetry collection Coconut.
Overview: “Coconut rises fiercely like the sun. These poems bestow light and warmth and the ability to witness the world, but they ask for more than basking; they ask readers to grow and warn that they can be burnt. Above all, Nisha Patel’s work questions and challenges propriety and what it means to be a good woman, second-generation immigrant, daughter, consumer, and lover. Nisha Patel commands her formidable insight and youthful, engaged voice to relay experiences of racism, sexuality, empowerment, grief, and love. These are vitally political, feminist poems for young women of colour, with bold portrayals of confession, hurt, and healing” (NeWest Press)
About the Author: Nisha Patel (she/her) is an award-winning, queer, Indo- Canadian poet and artist. She is currently the City of Edmonton’s Poet Laureate, as well as the Regional Writer in Residence at Strathcona County and St. Albert, and recipient of the Edmonton Artists’ Trust Fund Award. Nisha is the Executive Director of the Edmonton Poetry Festival and was the 2019 Canadian Individual Slam Champion. Nisha holds a Bachelor of Commerce from the University of Alberta School of Business with a major in Business Economics and Law and a Certificate in Leadership. She also has a micro press partnership called Moon Jelly House which publishes small-run chapbooks of BIPOC poets and voices.
From Rebecca Salazar, author of chapbooks the knife you need to justify the wound and Guzzle, comes her third collection, sulphurtongue.
Overview: sulphurtongue is “An urgent, powerful examination of place and the ways in which all kinds of identities exist and collide. The poems ask how to redefine desire and kinship across languages, and across polluted environments. Deeply entangled in relations both emotional and ecological, this collection confronts the stories we tell about gender, queerness, race, religion, illness, and trauma, seeking new forms of care for a changing world.” (Random House)
About the Author: Rebecca Salazar (she/they) is a queer Latinx poet, writer, editor, and community organizer. She edits poetry for The Fiddlehead and Plenitude magazines and is also a co-founder of BIPOC Pride Fredericton. Rebecca
is currently completing a PhD on trauma, queerness, and ecopoetics, while living on the unceded territory of the Wolastoqiyik people.
Canadian poet, writer, editor, instructor, and poetry culture builder, Margaret Christakos, gives us her twelfth publication with Dear Birch.
Overview: “Three years after her mother’s death and on the brink of a break up, a bisexual writer sits in the company of an urban birch tree, auditing the odds of new loves entering her future. So begins Dear Birch, an intimate poem cycle that improvises within the permutability of grief, wind, reading, refusal and desire, listening for an ethos of ongoingness. Synthesizing memoir, votive and epistle, Margaret Christakos displays her trademark fidelity to writing as attentive process, imbuing her work with the polyamory of tender intelligence.” (Palimpsest Press)
About the Author: Margaret Christakos (she/her) is a bisexual poet, writer, imagemaker and poetry mentor. She was born and raised in Sudbury, Canada. Widely acclaimed for her poetry, her body of work includes numerous chapbooks, ten collections of poetry, a novel, and an intergenre memoir. Christakos has been Writer in Residence at the University of Windsor, Western University, London Public Library, and the University of Alberta, and in Fall 2021, she will be Writer in Residence with Green College, UBC. She is associate faculty with the MFA program in creative writing at University of Guelph-Humber. Margaret is interested poetics of public culture, and in shaping unique events, gatherings, publication contexts and forms of exchange that bring cultural makers, non- profits and institutions into public interaction.
From Lambda Literary Award winner Larissa Lai, comes the masterfully written, long poem, Iron Goddess of Mercy.
Overview: “Iron Goddess of Mercy unravels the knotted thread of being defined and defining, reminding us that as uncomfortable as it might be, we occupy many spaces and realities all at once. And while it may be impossible to make sense of what will never make sense, how we choose to respond is an act of resistance all on its own. Language here sings and stings, the urgency of the moment palpable in every pause the poet chooses not to make, in every image that bumps up against the next one. Lai commands words to bow to her, the language of oppressors becomes fragmented and reassembled, serving as an act of resistance
in itself. Lai grabs the reader by the heart and pulls us into the cry. As we become the cry, we are also challenged to respond to the cry.” (Quill and Quire)
About the Author: Larissa Lai (she/her) is a Lesbian, Canadian novelist and literary critic. Lai is a multifaceted author who has been widely acclaimed for her work in fiction, poetry and criticism. Her novels explore Chinese and Chinese-Canadian experience in a prose style that is shaped by mythology, speculative fiction and attention to the impact of transglobal experience in the age of neoliberalism. She has written eight books, including When Fox is a Thousand, Salt Fish Girl and Automaton Biographies. Lai has been Writer-in-Residence at Simon Fraser University, and the University of Calgary, and teaches literature at the University of British Columbia. She has also won the Astraea Foundation Emerging Writers Award. Lai was a recipient of the 2018 Lambda Literary Award for Lesbian Fiction and Lambda Literary Foundation’s 2020 Jim Duggins, PhD Outstanding Mid- Career Novelist Prize.
Tara Borin gives us their first full-length poetry collection with The Pit.
Overview: “Set in a small-town, sub-Arctic dive bar, this debut poetry collection explores the complexities of addiction and the person beneath, and the possibility of finding home and community in unexpected places. In the melancholy atmosphere of the bar and the rooms upstairs, the speakers of Borin’s poems find unexpected solace and belonging. The habits, the routine, the regulars, the predictability of it all brings some kind of chaotic order to chaotic life.” (Harbour Publishing).
About the Author: Tara Borin (they/them) is a queer, nonbinary settler poet living and writing in the traditional territory of the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in, Dawson City, Yukon. Tara’s chapbook manuscript Thick was a finalist for Quattro Books’ inaugural Best New Poets in Canada contest and they also have work forthcoming in the Resistance anthology, from University of Regina Press in Spring 2021. Tara’s poems have been published in Prism International, Prairie Fire, The LaHave Review, Red Alder Review, and elsewhere online and in print. They are a recent graduate of Simon Fraser University’s the Writer’s Studio Online.
From Billeh Nickerson comes his seventh book, Duct-Taped Roses.
Overview: “In Duct-Taped Roses, Billeh Nickerson shares heartbreaks and offers odes and elegies in reflections on family, community, life, and loss. As a bush pilot, Nickerson’s father would duct-tape his planes to keep them flying. The poignancy of his relationship with his father is celebrated here in the long poem “Skies.” Other poems reminisce about love and the complex resiliency of gay men.
Through his signature irreverence, honesty and wit, Nickerson explores what can be repaired, what must be celebrated, and what—inevitably—is lost to time.” (Book*Hug Press)
About the Author: Billeh Nickerson (he/him), is the a past editor of both Event and Prism International, and co-editor of the groundbreaking anthology Seminal: The Anthology of Canada’s Gay Male Poets. He lives and works in Vancouver where he is the co-chair of the Creative Writing Department at Kwantlen Polytechnic University, and past writer-in-residence at both Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario and Berton House in Dawson City, Yukon. He is also a former silver medalist at the Canadian Gay Curling Championships. Billeh’s work includes titles such as The Asthmatic Glassblower; McPoems; Impact: The Titanic Poems; and Artificial Cherry— and the humour collection Let Me Kiss It Better.
Available for the first time in more than fifteen years is Museum of Bone and Water, a formative collection from celebrated poet, novelist, and essayist Nicole Brossard.
Overview: “Museum of Bone and Water delivers sensual and provocative investigations of the human body — our physical and spiritual museums of identity and desire — that pulse and surprise at every turn. In this collection, fingers, lips, fists, cheeks mingle in the palm trees of Dublin and Key West, the heat of Palermo and Madrid. With each dazzling turn and each “crazy” silence, Brossard speeds our breath and quickens our hearts, reminding us that poetry too is both a physical and spiritual reality.” (House of Anansi Press)
About the Author: Nicole Brossard (she/her), is a two-time Governor General’s Award winner for her poetry and has recently been honoured with the Lifetime Recognition Award by the Griffin Trust for Excellence in Poetry. She co-founded and co-directed the literary magazine La Barre du Jour, and co-edited the acclaimed Anthologie de la poésie des femmes au Québec. Brossard is an officer of the Order of Canada, chevalière of the National Order of Quebec, and a member of l’Académie des lettres du Québec. Her work is known for exploration of feminist themes and for challenging masculine-oriented language and points of view in French literature. Her work also explores how together, feminism and desire, connect to the structure and flexibility of language.
After writing 90 poems in 90 days, Ash Winters brings us Run Riot, their debut collection.
Overview: “Run Riot is a collection of ninety poems, one written each day during Ash Winters’ ninety day stay at a Vancouver rehab centre. A fiercely personal account of what it feels like to stop drinking after a decade of excess, Run Riot takes the reader through moments of determination, anger, hilarity, and heartbreak. Winter’s frank account of early sobriety offers companionship to those who know it well and insight for those that want to know it better. Weaving the past and the present together with ruthless vulnerability, Run Riot is a powerful portrait of one person’s struggle against addiction, laying bare an honest search to heal and better understand one’s self.” (Caitlin Press)
About the Author: Ash Winters (they/them), is an emerging Toronto-based poet. Their poetry has appeared in Existere and Open Minds Quarterly. Queer and sober, their work navigates the intersections of addiction, identity, and trauma. Growing up queer in small town Ontario gave Ash a chance to develop a lavish sense of humour and a deep respect for empathy both of which come through in their work. They graduated with their BA in English from Lakehead University in 2010.
Coming next month is The Languages We Were Never Taught to Speak, Grace Lau’s debut poetry collection.
Overview: “The poems in The Language We Were Never Taught to Speak explore the many identities, both visible and invisible, that a body contains. With influences from pop culture, the Bible, tech, and Hong-Kongese history, these pieces reflect and reveal how the stories of immigrants in Canada hold both universal truths and singular distinctions. From boybands that show the way to become “the kind of girl a girl could love” to “rich flavours that are just a few generations of poverty away,” they invite the reader to meditate on spirituality, food, and the shapes love takes.” (Guernica Editions)
About the Author: Grace Lau (she/her), is a Hong Kong–born, queer Chinese- Canadian writer. Her work has been published in Ricepaper, Arc Poetry, Vagabond City Lit, and TRACK//FOUR. Grace has an English Literature & Psychology double major. She started writing poetry in 2017. From Ivan Coyote, author of Rebent Sinner: “Grace Lau’s poetry will saunter into a room inside of your heart, take a seat in the front row, and stay there for weeks.”
Coming this September, Eli Tareq El Bechelany-Lynch’s poetry collection, The Good Arabs, will be published with Metonymy Press.
Overview: “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.” (Metonymy Press)
About the Author: Eli Tareq El Bechelany-Lynch (they/them), is a queer Arab poet living in Tio’tia:ke, unceded Kanien’kehá:ka territory (Montreal). Their work has appeared in The Best Canadian Poetry 2018 anthology, GUTS, the Shade Journal, Arc Poetry Magazine, Room Magazine, and elsewhere. They were longlisted for the CBC poetry prize in 2019. Their first book, knotbody, confronts the ways capitalism, fatphobia, ableism, transness, and racializations affect people with chronic pain, illness, and disability. Knot Body explores what it means to discover the limits of your body, and contends with what those limitations bring up in the world we live in. Their work is an intimate combination of poetry, essay and letters at the forefront of contemporary poetry.
Looking for more poetry from the LGBTQI2S+ community in Canada? Check out Thirteen: New Collected Poems from LGBTQI2S Writers in Canada (LCP Chapbook Series, 2019) edited by Ali Blythe!