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Oh, Canada! Two Posts on the Canadian Poetry Revolution
There hasn’t been so much challenging work around – so much that is playful, amusing, dazzling or simply exasperating – for as long as I can remember. Some of this has to do with a new generation of tough-minded editors, some of it has to do with the fading of a certain kind of weepy folksiness, and a lot of it has to do with the Internet. Quite simply, it is easier to read and share poems now, and people are actually doing it.
…I ran a poetry reading series in Toronto in the early 90s, so I can compare eras with some accuracy. I remember a great deal of regionalist-nationalist stuff, a lot of nature and a conversational tone. Al Purdy was its patriarch. That kind of thing is now firmly out, and a new breed of stern, impatient editors is reshaping our taste to something more highbrow and international.
In the National Post, poet Matthew Tierney announces his fear of being superseded by an exciting new generation of poets:
Fear is maybe too strong a word. It’s not as if I’m ducking snipers and snare traps. Instead call it awe, then, at their confidence. Because the poets hovering around thirty years of age in Canada are working some fierce mojo.
What do I mean? Well to start, they’re writing first books that could be second books, and second books that could be third. The quality of the debuts alone in the last two years makes my head spin. I’m going to name names and get myself in trouble for missing someone: Gabe Foreman and Linda Besner, Helen Guri, Kate Hall, Leigh Kotsilidis, Jenny Sampirisi, Darren Bifford, Jeff Latosik, Mat Henderson, Michael Lista, Leigh Nash. Not to mention those on their second book, Nick Thran, Erin Knight, David Hickey, Dani Couture and Jake Mooney, all punching above their weight.
It’s not merely that these books are good but how they’re good. Books that don’t hedge their bets, that seem unconcerned with conforming to reader expectations. Books from poets, it seems, who committed themselves early, read widely, and got down to it.