July 12, 2020

23° C, Overcast

Full Forecast

Close this


Advertise With Us

Vivid verse: Top 10 poetry picks mine meaningful themes

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 27/12/2014 (2024 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Poetry makes a great holiday gift -- it shows off the intelligence, taste and erudition of the gifter, while displaying faith in the intelligence, taste and erudition of the giftee.

Moreover, buying a poetry book counts as an act of charity. Pony up some dough and keep those poets and their publishers off the streets! Buy them all as a starter pack for your personal poetry library!

The long list of poetry books I read each year is dwarfed only by two longer book lists: the poetry books I don't read, and the poetry books I don't finish reading. As a result, all of the standard disclaimers that I don't read every book, etc., apply to the list below, which is ordered alphabetically by title.


1. Cinema of the Present (Coach House, 112 pages, $18) by Lisa Robertson. A montage of philosophical questions, filmic images and meditative statements, from which "a bunch of uncanniness emerges."

2. Guantanamo (Les Figues, 158 pages, $17) by Frank Smith, translated by Vanessa Place. Appropriated language from the prison camp's verbal trials, reshaped into a poetic novel where "We are the interrogator, we are the interrogated. / We ask a question, we answer the question asked."

3. he'll (Pedlar, 96 pages, $20) by Nathan Dueck. A fragmentary story set in Rat River that plays with Plaut'dietsch. Poetic proof that "You haven't had a night / '...'til you've had a Mennonite."

4. Janey's Arcadia (Coach House, 136 pages, $18) by Rachel Zolf. Focusing on Manitoba, Zolf blends ignorant online comments about aboriginals with historical source texts about aboriginals misread by OCR technology, to produce brutal, violent metaphors for cultural misreading, so that, "With a minimum of means we / get a maximum of expression."

5. Kern (Les Figues, 92 pages, $17) by Derek Beaulieu. Visual poems crafted using dry-transfer lettering, to resemble "logos and slogans for ... impossible businesses."

6. M x T (Coach House, 96 pages, $18) by Sina Queyras. Elegies and meditations on grief and memory, that sparkle with wit and verve. "If you did not arrive to this city by canoe you can f off."

7. No, Wait. Yep. Definitely Still Hate Myself. (Ugly Duckling, 80 pages, $16) by Robert Fitterman. A collage of emotionally charged found text, where a single voice emerges in a litany of self-loathing. "My hobbies include: being sad and lonely / all the time and my interests / Consist of people I can't have."

8. Downverse (Talonbooks, 118 pages, $17) by Nikki Reimer. Crashing different voices against one another to uncover the terrifying absurdity of capitalist culture, a world where "we are focusing more on education when responding to chicken complaints."

9. The Poetic Edda (Coach House, 280 pages, $24) translated by Jeramy Dodds. Tales of the Norse gods and heroes, told in energetic, lively lines. Loki's witty banter has never been more fun: "That's enough, Njord, check yourself. / I can't keep silent a moment more. / You sired your son with your sister, / though that doesn't seem unexpected."

10. Thrum (Talonbooks, 116 pages, $17) by Natalie Simpson. The fractured bone shards of the poems we might expect, which revel in our failures to communicate. "How are my wife and I supposed to understand Elvish?"


An honourable mention goes to Ryan Fitzpatrick's outstanding Fortified Castles (Talonbooks, 98 pages, $17). I loved it so much that I edited it for the publisher, thus disqualifying it from this list.

Favourite Fitzpatrick line: "I hope that these half-vampire Juno wannabes / remember to be someone else in their life."


Winnipeg English professor Jonathan Ball (@jonathanballcom) lives online at www.JonathanBall.com, where he writes about writing the wrong way.


Advertise With Us

Your support has enabled us to provide free access to stories about COVID-19 because we believe everyone deserves trusted and critical information during the pandemic.

Our readership has contributed additional funding to give Free Press online subscriptions to those that can’t afford one in these extraordinary times — giving new readers the opportunity to see beyond the headlines and connect with other stories about their community.

To those who have made donations, thank you.

To those able to give and share our journalism with others, please Pay it Forward.

The Free Press has shared COVID-19 stories free of charge because we believe everyone deserves access to trusted and critical information during the pandemic.

While we stand by this decision, it has undoubtedly affected our bottom line.

After nearly 150 years of reporting on our city, we don’t want to stop any time soon. With your support, we’ll be able to forge ahead with our journalistic mission.

If you believe in an independent, transparent, and democratic press, please consider subscribing today.

We understand that some readers cannot afford a subscription during these difficult times and invite them to apply for a free digital subscription through our Pay it Forward program.


Updated on Saturday, December 27, 2014 at 9:02 AM CST: Formatting.

The Free Press will close this commenting platform at noon on July 14.

We want to thank those who have shared their views over the years as part of this reader engagement initiative.

In the coming weeks, the Free Press will announce new opportunities for readers to share their thoughts and to engage with our staff and each other.

You can comment on most stories on The Winnipeg Free Press website. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or digital subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

Have Your Say

Comments are open to The Winnipeg Free Press print or digital subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to The Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

By submitting your comment, you agree to abide by our Community Standards and Moderation Policy. These guidelines were revised effective February 27, 2019. Have a question about our comment forum? Check our frequently asked questions.


Advertise With Us