The Many Gendered Other Reading List

A Reading List Created by the Feminist Caucus

In this troubled time, we are all looking for brilliant, beautiful and insightful poetry. The Feminist Caucus has put together a reading list along the theme of Many Gendered Other. As writers, we all acutely feel “other” in some way, and have been lifted out of our sense of “otherness” or given strength and courage by a literary role model.   

The theme for this reading list was inspired by rob mclennan and the many editors and contributors at many gendered mothers. For more insightful and inspirational recommendations and insight on writing, please visit the many gendered mothers blog.  

This reading list was curated by Ayesha Chatterjee, Chair of the Feminist Caucus.  

Find out more about the Feminist Caucus


Reading Recommendations 

NDN Coping Mechanisms by Billy-Ray Belcourt 

Published by House of Anansi Press  

Recommended by Claudia Coutu Radmore  

“Belcourt uses metaphor better than anyone else currently writing, and the resulting poems reach straight as an arrow to the intended hearts and intelligence of his readers.”  


Holy Wild by Gwen Benaway 

Recommended by Poet Blaine Marchand  

Published by Book*hug Press  

“I was not prepared for this collection, which was the first of hers I read. It took me by surprise, filled me with wonder and gave me understanding of what it is to be Indigenous and trans. It was so honest; the language and imagery so startling, unexpected and beautiful. It led me to look for on-line videos of her reading so I could continue to be amazed by her poetry. It left a mark on me and challenges me to look at my own writing as I begin new poems.” 

Holy Wild by Gwen Benaway 


The Bees (& all collected works) by Carol Ann Duffy

Published by Pan MacMillan

Recommended by Poet Sonia Di Placido

“Carol Ann Duffy became the first Woman Poet Laureate of the UK for the decade between 2009 and 2019. She is an renowned British feminist poet with brilliant works and a strong poignant voice that’s both sharp and lyrical.”

Quarry by Tanis Franco 

Published by University of Calgary Press 

Recommended by Amanda Earl 

From Amanda Earl’s Review for the Lampert Award: “In Quarry, Tanis Franco writes of the body in transition as holding place. They ask to what extent the body is aware of its intentions. A quarry is abandoned, and almost slated for housing development, and a bay is used as a dumping ground where rare blue bottles and old horse bones are unearthed. Franco writes of permanence, hazards and depths. Through sustained imagery drawn from nature and humanity, Franco draws parallels between abandoned and changing landscapes and the body, its scars and the possibility of healing. In Quarry Franco searches for connection in queer spaces, depicts touch as resistance, and movingly articulates vulnerability and fear of normalcy. Franco offers a navigation of the queer and transgender body through nothingness and materiality with images of air and smoke, fire, light, ice, and stone. Quarry causes the reader to think about identity and its connection to the body and to other bodies, to the land and to history. Hope is the slowest emotion, but it is tireless.”  

“Waiting and Finding” from The Dance Most of All by Jack Gilbert 

Published by Alfred A. Knopf 

Recommended by poet Elana Wolff 

“Many of Jack Gilbert’s poems have provoked and informed my writing. This poem in particular (one can spend hours with just one poem) speaks to me as a writer from the periphery, a listener for minor music and multiple resonances. It reminds me that “waiting” can mean “being without,” that “being without” can be a way and place for growing gratitude.”  

Selected Poems/Thom Gunn by Thom Gunn 

Published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux 

Recommended by Eric Folsom 

Thom Gunn was a British-born poet who spent most of his adult life in San Francisco, having moved there in 1954 to be with his lover Mike Kitay.  As a gay man and a crosser of boundaries, he explored love and liminality using extraordinary technical skill and great sensitivity.  Poems like The Hug, The Man with Night Sweats, and Touch outlined bravely explored aspects of gay experience.  In his poem Touch, he silently questioned the sleeping embrace of his lover by wondering, “am I your mother…”  in the “dark/ wide realm where we/walk with everyone.” 

I have been repeatedly charmed and inspired by such openness to the vast, dark mysteries of love, expressed with a unique aesthetic precision and genuine wildness.  (He was also dangerously good looking, at least when he visited Queen’s in 1976.)”  

“In The Library” from Collected Poems of Elizabeth Brewster Vol.1 by Elizabeth Brewster 

Published by Oberon Press 

Recommended by poet Ingrid Ruthig  

This poem will resonate with readers who have come to books and to poetry in hope of finding glimpses of themselves. Brewster captures the moment an individual, surrounded by the freight of a culture’s history, acknowledges its strictures and representational limits. The speaker confronts the contradictions and identifies, or does not (“you are not I”), then endeavours to claim their own identity (“I am”, “I am not”) within the continuum, just as each of us must address the who and how of self/other. As “the elastic moment stretches” and expands, we might understand how to transform the world around us and find/make our place. I first read “In the Library” via the Poetry Foundation, and return to it for the marvellous echoes, possibility, and hope in those last three lines. It’s now a bedrock poem in the selected volume of Elizabeth Brewster’s poems I’ve been editing for Porcupine’s Quill’s Essential Poets series, slated for release in 2021

The Olga Poems by Denise Levertov 

Published by Twayne  

Recommended by Katerina Vaughan Fretwell 

“Levertov wrote these poems to her sister dying of cancer and the round O sounds and gorgeous stones under water imagery resonate with the theme which are so timely today!”  


The Unquiet Bed by Dorothy Livesay 
Published by Ryerson Press 

Recommended by Poet Blaine Marchand

“We often respond to poetry when it confirms or opens up our own inclinations. This book and its title poem continues her exploration of erotic love told in everyday speech, as was evident in even her first collection, The Green Pitcher. I first met Dorothy Livesay in 1977 when she was writer-in-residence at Ottawa University. We encountered each other many times through the subsequent years. Although she died in 1996, I can still hear her strong and defiant voice after all these years reciting the final stanza: “”the woman I am/is not what you see/move over love.make room for me”

Would a Surface Circling Vulture by Akka Mahadevi (Speaking of Siva 1967 Translated by A.K. Ramanujan)

Published by Penguin Classics

Recommended by poet Suparna Ghosh

“Akka (elder sister in Kannada language in Southern India) Mahadevi was a 12th century Bhakti poet, as all the poets of this genre were known. These poets expressed their devotion to a Hindu god through their ascetic lifestyle and their writing. What was remarkable about Akka Mahadevi was that, while it was accepted for a male poet to abdicate all worldly goods and attire, it was unheard of in a woman. Mahadevi relinquished all her clothing, with her hair her only cover, contrary to accepted norms. A woman who chooses her own path, not dictated by norms, inspires me, no matter what the century.”


#METOO by Valerie Mason-John 

Published by University of Alberta Press (I Am Still Your Negro An Homage to James Baldwin) 

Recommended by Cheryl Kehoe

“This poem is so articulate about the me too movement. It gives the history and does not write out the black woman who began it)”  

We Like Feelings. We Are Serious. by Julie McIsaac 

Published by Wolsak & Wynn  

Recommended by Amanda Earl 

“a bad ass rebellious feminist manifesto and send off of contemporary life, inventive forms, satire. I loved this book.”  

Je Nathanaël by Nathanaël 

Published by Book*Hug Press 

Recommended by Amanda Earl 

“Hybrid poems of the body, an exploration of silence and desire. Sentences controlled by breath and heart beats. There’s an intensity to this work that has me reading it again and again.”  

What are Big Girls Made Of? by Marge Piercy 

Republished by Metonym Press  

Recommended by Renée M. Sgroi

“Reading Marge Piercy’s work opened a door for me to write with roughness. To move from a woman built of “belly and breasts, elbows and liver and toe” to a woman who “is manufactured like a sports sedan./ She is retooled, refitted and redesigned/ every decade.” I found the language of her poetry so everyday, so commonplace (and therefore, appealing), and yet her poems are written in such a way that the reader is jarred awake,  jolted by the jagged edges of Piercy’s tone and perspective. It made me feel that I, too, could write and that there was a space for what I had to say.”  

Likely Stories (poems) by Pamela Porter 

Published by Rosedale Press  

Recommended by: Anonymous  

“a collection about misfits and forgotten geniuses who have been largely forgotten by history”  

“Questions of Travel” from The Complete Poems 1927-1979 by Elizabeth Bishop 

Recommended by Kate Rogers 

Elizabeth Bishop’s poems in “Questions of Travel”  (one section in The Complete Poems) speak to me as a woman who until recently, lived outside my home country for more than two decades, who has often travelled alone and become acutely aware of the “othering” which migrants can experience when they move to a new culture. (As a college level ESL teacher I have observed “othering” happening to my students and experienced “othering” as a migrant myself.) 

Bishop’s internal debate in the poems in “Questions of Travel” was sparked by the diversity she encountered and appears to be linked with a struggle to connect with a new culture–its traditions, values and rituals. She raises questions about the observations people make while travelling, but often doesn’t answer them. I like that she doesn’t reach for facile answers in her travel poems because all cultures are multi-layered and neither quick nor simple for outsiders to understand. 

The poems in “Questions of Travel” can interrogate Bishop’s yearning to travel and can be ironic and self-critical. Bishop describes being overwhelmed by new stimuli when she considers “too many waterfalls” and “the crowded streams hurrying too rapidly down”.  

Bishop dedicated “Questions of Travel” to the love of her life, Brazilian landscape-designer Lota Soares. She moved to Brazil to be with her. Their relationship spanned 1951 to 1967. I can imagine that being a gay woman during that era could have been isolating and led to being “othered”.    

Elizabeth Bishop’s “Questions of Travel” has influenced my own poetry. One example is my poem, “In Borneo”, published in the Nature issue of Halifax-based “Understorey Magazine” in December 2019. Bishop’s Nova Scotia roots are relevant to the inclusion of my poem in the magazine, along with the questions I raise in the poem about climate change, but do not answer. Here is a link to the poem: 

Regarding Bishop’s The Complete Poems in general, I love Bishop’s economy of language, powers of observation and her vivid imagery. 

A Samurai’s Pink House by Sonia Saikaley 

Published by Inanna Publications 

Recommended by Susan Ioannou 

“Sonia Saikaley’s brilliant poetry collection journeys through time and Japanese culture. But under the deceptively tranquil surface, private suffering is personified in the passion and eventual subjugation of female samurai in the 17th century and the wanderings of master haiku poet Basho, the secret homosexual longings of a kabuki performer, a geisha’s loneliness, and the homesickness of a transplanted modern day teacher. Writing with a deft and delicate touch, throughout Saikaley skilfully balances the beautiful and the sad. Reading these seemingly quiet, yet so poignant depictions is like tasting exquisite confections with a surprise tang of bitters at the centre”

Also recommended by Renée M. Sgroi 

“Sonia Saikaley’s brilliant poetry collection journeys through time and Japanese culture. But under the deceptively tranquil surface, private suffering is personified in the passion and eventual subjugation of female samurai in the 17th century and the wanderings of master haiku poet Basho, the secret homosexual longings of a kabuki performer, a geisha’s loneliness, and the homesickness of a transplanted modern day teacher. Writing with a deft and delicate touch, throughout Saikaley skilfully balances the beautiful and the sad. Reading these seemingly quiet, yet so poignant depictions is like tasting exquisite confections with a surprise tang of bitters at the centre.”

Lyric Sexology Volume 1 by Trish Salah 

Republished by Metonym Press  

Recommended by Amanda Earl 

“Lyric Sexology Vol. 1 by Trish Salah belongs on my list of revolutionary books and cherished poetry. I am struck by Salah’s versatility of style, sense of play, intelligence and engagement with feminism, gender and decolonialism. These are poems of resistance. There are essay poems and ghazals, lush accumulations, spare lines, a variety of language levels, and images that give me poem shiver. My copy of the book is covered in dog-ears and stars. 

I’m hoping that trans people find camaraderie, comfort and recognition in these poems. And I hope that there is a volume two.” 



Recommended by George Elliott Clarke 

“VS is VERSUS all Her/His/Their ISMS of Dismissal”  

Deepwater Vee by Melanie Siebert 

Published by McClelland & Stewart  

Recommended by Cornelia Hoogland 

“Grandmother” is the title of four of Melanie’s poems in Deepwater Vee.  Dedicated to Cornelia Siebert (1929-1999), here’s a line or two: ‘She goes to coffee with the wind-worn…In her purse she’s stashed pill bottles filled with the seven hundred varieties of corn, seeds of the bird’s eye-view, the forgotten languages, the if-only…She’s full-up everafter gliding on empty.” Melanie’s moody, bric-a-brac, wildly energetic language gives us a many-species grandmother, and yes, very Other. Deepwater Vee never leaves my bedside table. I need it.”  

Patti Smith Collected Lyrics 1970-2015 by Patti Smith 

Published by Ecco; Revised, Updated, Expanded edition (Oct. 27 2015) 

Recommended by  Vanessa Shields 

Patti Smith is a creative force. Her words, communicated on the page or on the stage, in thundering voice or melodic song, reach deep into my soul. I go to Patti for wisdom, for inspiration, for creative punches, for social justice motivation, for poetry. Her lyrics are outstanding and are, essentially, poems put to music as her humble beginnings were in fact as poet. She has so many books published, so many albums – there is enough of her language and art to wrap me up no matter what my soul needs. She is a mother, wife, daughter, friend…and brilliant writer. I can relate to her on many levels, but mostly, she takes my breath away even when I feel I have very little left…she invigorates me creatively and reminds me that being ‘me’ is essential.”  

All That Desire by Betsy Struthers 

Published by Black Moss Press 

Recommended by Margaret Code 

“It is a wonderfully sensitively written collection. It inspires my own poetry and urge to write.”  

A Gathered Distance by Mark Tredinnick 

Published by Birdfish Books 

Recommended by Poet Blaine Marchand  

Some times other can imply from elsewhere. I had the privilege of hearing Australian poet Mark Tredinnick read from this book in Ottawa this past February as part of the TREE Poetry Reading series. I bought a copy and poured over it. Mark has a unique and compelling use of language and imagery. It is like listening to a conversation, one that speaks quietly of the important matters of the heart and family. He uses line spaces that add to the visual aspect of the poems on the page. In recent months, he has been posting a reading each day on his Facebook page and I am amazed at how when he begins a poem from A Gathered Distance, the lines come back to me yet still hold surprise. I listen to them again and again and hope my new poems can take heed of Mark’s skill and command.” 

Full-Metal Indigiqueer: Poems by Joshua Whitehead 

Published by Talonbooks 

Recommended by Amanda Earl 

“These poems make me ache with love and sadness. They are genius fuck yous to the literary canon, to colonialization. They are Zoa’s neon heart and timelessness, memories as open wounds.”  

“Mopping Up,” in The Dowager Empress by Adele Wiseman 

Published by Inanna 

Recommended by Elizabeth Greene

Adele Wiseman was very conscious of being other and of others as other–and she succinctly shows the necessity of including “alternate voices”. This poem and “History Lesson” affirm to me the importance of digging in my toes and being no one but who I am.”  

Cloud Seeding Agent by Yin Xiaoyuan (殷晓媛) 

Published by Pinyon Publishing, US, 2020

Recommended by Diana Manole 

It has been an amazing experience to read poems by a Beijing-based Chinese poet, who writes in Chinese and self-translates her work into English. She reveals the poetic dimensions of quantum mechanics, alternating current, and science in general. She has also founded in 2007 the Encyclopedic Poetry School, an avant-garde, experimental literary group, and initiated the Hermaphroditic Writing Movement, which has called Chinese poets to fight against gender stereotypes: „We never write with the idea that I am a male or female writer. I am just a writer, can be young or old, beautiful or ugly, male or female.” 

Songs for Relinquishing the Earth by Jan Zwicky 

Published by Brick Books  

Recommended by Lesley Strutt 

“Jan’s early philosophy books have played like music in the back of my mind for many years. Her poetry, when I discovered it, was like a gently-offered cup of tea welcoming me into her world, if I chose to join her. I aspire to write like her, but never shall achieve her rich minimalism.”


From the Feminist Caucus: We’ve included the following recommendation since it’s an inimitably St. Vincent Millay poem about April

Spring’ & ‘Kin to Sorrow’… by Edna St. Vincent Millay 

Recommended by kjmunro

“I recommend the poet – simply excellent! I don’t write sonnets, & she lived a long time ago – a different time – & none of this matters…”  


From the Feminist Caucus: We’ve included the following recommendation as well, because, although it isn’t about the “other,” as such directly, it’s all about hope and comfort. Which we can do with in abundance at the moment.

Lay Down Your Weary Tune by Bob Dylan 

Originally written and recorded for the album The Times They Are a-Changin’ 

Recommended by poet Honey Novick 

“When I feel overwhelmed or anxious, I sing these words.  They are hopeful.  Dylan’s words show insight into a moment, just as I’m experiencing these days, a moment in history.  His words look at the moment and then offer hope.”