Book Awards 2023: What does JOY mean to you?

We asked the finalists of the 2023 Book Awards, What does Joy mean to you?

See what the poets had to say! The theme of National Poetry Month 2023 is JOY! We hope that you find the joy in poetry this month.

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Read the 2023 Shortlists

Read the 2023 Longlists

Walking through the world with awe towards the everyday

Manahil Bandukwala
MONUMENT by Manahil Bandukwala (Brick Books) – Gerald Lampert Memorial Award Shortlist

Lots of things! Trying a new recipe and absolutely crushing it, feeling calm in my body, taking a big deep breath, laughing a big big laugh, being around my family, riding a bike down a hill, standing under the trees in the quiet, hearing an amazing song, reading a book on a blanket in the sun, picking a cucumber I grew off the vine, writing something just the way I imagined it, a good nap.

Conyer Clayton
But the sun, and the ships, and the fish, and the waves by Conyer Clayton (Anvil Press) – Pat Lowther Memorial Award Longlist

In my opinion, JOY has always has a somatic aspect. Happiness is cognitive. It turns into joy when it vibrates or bubbles up, or otherwise encompasses your whole body. It’s an experience rather than emotion.

Canadace de Taeye
Pronounced/Workable by Canadace de Taeye (Mansfield Press) – Gerald Lampert Memorial Award Longlist

Joy is realizing you are more than what’s happened to you. That you are also potentiality, possibility, futurity. A shifting of consciousness; a will to transform, or at least reconsider the contours of what a thing is and can be. I find the greatest joy in the act of writing itself, when I report on the world as it appears to me, taking into account not only what is but what else might be. What beauty I might be missing. Striving towards those beautiful parts.

Adebe DeRango-Adem
Vox Humana by Adebe DeRango-Adem (Book*hug Press) – Raymond Souster Award Shortlist

Joy is watching my children blossom into the people they’re becoming, it’s jamming to Sister Rose and the Cornelius Brothers’ “Since I Found My Baby”, it’s reconnecting with friends, it’s learning to play a song, it’s being waylaid by a line of poetry so sublime, the air crackles with your amazement.

Michael Fraser
The Day-Breakers by Michael Fraser (Biblioasis) – Raymond Souster Award Longlist

Joy to me means feeling safe and loved. I think my duty is to spread this joy to those who cannot find such safety in an often hostile world. If I provide a brief respite for them within my words, then that is pretty rad.

Skylar Kay
Transcribing Moonlight by Skylar Kay (Frontenac House) – Gerald Lampert Memorial Award Shortlist

I don’t think joy is ever really a consistent thing– it comes and goes as it pleases. That said, to me, joy means being present in whatever moment you’re in and squeezing it for all its potential. It’s about being aware that your happiness is sometimes fleeting, but it is still real, and beautiful all the same.

Fareh Malik
Streams that Lead Somewhere by Fareh Malik (Mawenzi House) – Gerald Lampert Memorial Award Longlist

JOY means being lucky enough to spend hours and days reading and writing; JOY means taking on the responsibility to ensure that good fortune spreads to others; JOY means feeling a duty to open up new spaces, new ideas, new stories, new goals, new publishing opportunities to new writers and, always, to new readers. JOY means grabbing at the pleasures (and snares!) of language, and loving what it can do on or off the page.

Nicole Markotić
After Beowulf by Nicole Markotić (Coach House Books) – Raymond Souster Award Longlist

Joy rests in my capacity for wonder and spontaneous laughter in the everyday. And I love joy in others.

Cecily Nicholson
HARROWINGS by Cecily Nicholson (TalonBooks) – Pat Lowther Memorial Award Shortlist

Joy was a word first used by the medieval troubadour poets. To them joy was the opposite of death, and the same as song. I concur.

Lisa Robertson
Boat by Lisa Robertson (Coach House Books) – Pat Lowther Memorial Award Shortlist

So many things. These three come immediately to mind: A child immersed in a book. Seeing someone after a long time of missing. Deep-fried ice cream.

Gillian Sze
Quiet Night Think by Gillian Sze (ECW Press) – Pat Lowther Memorial Award Shortlist

Joy is your favourite music while watching the sunset. With yourself or someone you love. It is sustenance for the long road. The energy that makes all our longheld dreams possible.

Steffi Tad-y
From the Shoreline by Steffi Tad-y (Gordon Hill Press) – Pat Lowther Memorial Award Longlist

Joy, to me, means those moments of being wholly present. Poetry is a way of capturing what happens when we manage to be present in our own lives.

Sarah Yi-Mei Tsiang
Grappling Hook by Sarah Yi-Mei Tsiang (Palimpsest Press) – Raymond Souster Award Shortlist

Writing The End Is in the Middle taught me to better celebrate and embrace mad joy. I live this as joy in survival, joy in the simplest connections and perceptions, and joy in vision. Considering the instrumentalization and monetization of our lives, and the way our institutions and networks work to nurture our misery and rage, joy and mad joy present a radical response. I’d go so far as to borrow a quote from my friends at MAD and say that “joy,” like “mad,” is a four letter word.

Daniel Scott Tysdal
The End Is in the Middle by Daniel Scott Tysdal (Goose Lane) – Raymond Souster Award Longlist

Joy lives in the big and small connections co-created with all of my relatives: whether they happen to be people, trees, dogs.

Délani Valin
Shapeshifters by Délani Valin (Nightwood Editions) – Gerald Lampert Memorial Award Shortlist

Joy means everything to me! It’ss the little things. A good cup of coffee, a nice walk, a lovely day. It’s also the big things: the moments we can’t describe, the sense of contentment that really (really!) everything is going to be alright. Everything is worthwhile.

Sanna Wani
My Grief, the Sun by Sanna Wani (House of Anansi) – Gerald Lampert Memorial Award Shortlist