Whether you’re a poetry buff or a newbie, we’ve rounded up six of our favourite Canadian poets we’re sure you’ll fall in love with.
Dunk Tank by Kayla Czaga
First on our list is Kitimat native and Gerald Lampert Award recipient Kayla Czaga. In her newest collection, Dunk Tank, Kayla explores the complex adventures of her own coming of age, including meeting boys in online chatrooms, secret handshakes, and the backseat of a Honda Civic. Czaga writes with all the playfulness of adolescence and the maturity of a person revisiting it with the gift of self-awareness. Her world is rich with imagery and hilarity, and while you may not have grown up in Kitimat yourself—or written dinosaur erotica for the nerd bar you work at—Czaga tells a story so real you could almost believe you did.
I Have to Live by Aisha Sasha John
Aisha Sasha John is a poet, a dancer, and a choreographer. Known for her stripped back, rhythmic style, her collection is the perfect read for someone who doesn’t want to wade through complex metaphor and flowery language. In her recent collection, I Have to Live, John’s poems are snapshots of emotion and contemplation. Exploring everything from tacos and sex to our relationship with money and personhood, John doesn’t shy away from the gritty, and we love her all the more for it.
Whylah Falls by George Elliot Clarke
George Elliot Clarke is a poet, playwright, and former poet Laureate for the City of Toronto and the Canadian Parliament. He is most recognized for speaking to the history of Black Canadian communities in Nova Scotia. In his collection Whylah Falls, Clarke explores the mythical town of Whylah Falls and its community of Africadian characters. By combining free verse poems, newspaper excerpts and sermons in a blues-like rhythm, Clarke masters narrative storytelling across poetic forms and cultural lines.
full-metal indigiqueer by Joshua Whitehead
An Oji-Cree and Two-Spirit storyteller, Joshua Whitehead is the author of the sparkling novel Johnny Appleseed and the poetry collection full-metal indigiqueer, which centers around an indigiqueer trickster character named Zoa. Following oral traditions, Zoa projects themselves onto products of pop-culture—such as Lana Del Rey, Grindr, and Peter Pan—as well as canonical literature by Shakespeare, John Milton, and Charles Dickens, and in doing so, re-members indigiqueer/ Two-Spirit identity, creating and claiming a more complex origin story and existence than Zoa may ever be granted by mainstream culture.
It Begins With The Body by Hana Shafi
The creator of popular inclusive and body-positive illustrations on Instagram, Hana Shafi (@frizzkidart) is best known for cultivating safe internet spaces for those whose bodies and identities are not often seen in popular media. In her first poetry collection, It Begins With The Body, Shafi explores the life of a young woman yearning to find self-acceptance and identity. Similarly to her illustrations (which accompany her poems), her poetry is candid, exploring themes of love, faith, identity, and personal relationships. Shafi perfectly captures the messy, graceless journey of growing up.
The Poetry of Gwendolyn MacEwen: Volume 1 by Gwendolyn MacEwen
Regarded as one of Canada’s best poets, Gwendolyn MacEwen published over twenty books in her lifetime, including poetry, fiction, non-fiction, and children’s literature. She is a twice recipient of the Governor General’s Award for her 1969 collection The Shadow-Maker, and for Afterworlds in 1987. Best known for her fascination with magic and historical figures such as ancient Egypt’s Akhenaton and T.E. Lawrence, MacEwen’s poetry conjures a magic that can’t be overlooked.
Our gift to you, babe: Six Canadian poets you’re sure to fall in love with. If you have your own suggestion for this list, or thoughts on one of the poets above, please share them with us in the comments section. We love talking reads with you!
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