|Best Canadian Poetry 2019|
It was a great honour to be the guest editor for this edition, and while the vast majority of the reading, and the final selections, did fall upon my shoulders, I was pleased to learn that the making of Best Canadian Poetries (BCPs) is very much a collaborative act.
Series Editor Anita Lahey and Advisory Editor Amanda Jernigan played essential roles in guiding me through the process, and in helping me narrow down an initial list of 170+ poems (from a total of 2,133 read) down to the fifty that made the anthology and the fifty listed in the back of the book as "Notable Poems of 2018" (more on those two lists in a minute). I've rarely experienced a gut check like having Anita or Amanda pause at a poem and say "Why's this one on the list?" After a moment's fluster an answer would either come to me or wouldn't - either way, the decision I needed to make was immediately apparent.
Anita, Amanda and I were greatly assisted by three editors-at-large: Michael Fraser, Laboni Islam, and Fiona Tinwei Lam, who were tasked not with reading everything but with noting poems that jumped out at them in their normal course of reading the country's literary magazines. Those poems received a little extra attention from all of us, and a number of their suggestions ended up in the book.
Keeping all of us on task was BCP Managing Editor Heather Wood, and the wonderful new team at Biblioasis (which, this year, took over the BCP series from Tightrope Books) led by publisher Dan Wells and copy editor Emily Donaldson. And blessing it all from afar, series founder Molly Peacock.
So my point is, yeesh, THANK YOU to everyone who made this possible, and who will continue to make new editions of BCP possible for years to come, while I'm off somewhere doing god-knows-what (but definitely not reading 2,133 poems in a handful of months). As I say in the book's introduction:
To be devoted to poetry requires a devotion to the people who write it and read it, and to the stories they have to tell. Though it may be largely invisible, this string of devotions—authors, editors, publishers, readers, parents, children, spouses, friends, neighbours, strangers—holds together the poems that make up this anthology.This is especially true for the people mentioned above. And also, of course, for the contributors. That list for 2019 is:
BCP 2019 Contributors
Colleen Baran, Gary Barwin, Billy-Ray Belcourt, Ali Blythe, Marilyn Bowering, Julie Bruck, Sara Cassidy, Sue Chenette, Chelsea Coupal, Kayla Czaga, Sadiqa de Meijer, Adebe DeRango-Adem, Chris Evans, Beth Follett, Stevie Howell, Danielle Hubbard, Dallas Hunt, Catherine Hunter, Sonnet L’Abbé, Ben Ladouceur, Tess Liem, D.A. Lockhart, Jessie Loyer, Annick MacAskill, Domenica Martinello, Laura Matwichuk, Katie McGarry, Jimmy McInnes, A.F. Moritz, Alexandra Oliver, Alycia Pirmohamed, Marion Quednau, Claudia Coutu Radmore, Shazia Hafiz Ramji, Shaun Robinson, Yusuf Saadi, Rebecca Salazar, Ellie Sawatzky, David Seymour, Kevin Spenst, Mallory Tater, Souvankham Thammavongsa, Russell Thornton, Daniel Scott Tysdal, William Vallières, Katherena Vermette, Douglas Walbourne-Gough, Cara Waterfall, Gillian Wigmore, and Ian Williams.
Oh, I love these poets' poems so much. I can't wait for you to read them (or read them again).
I'm also very happy to share the list of "Notable Poems," the silver medalists in this strange Olympian struggle. My first brush with the BCP series was when a poem of mine was "Noted" in the 2011 edition. I flipped a copy open in a bookstore and was floored. The Other Side of Ourselves had come out earlier that year and in the final edits I'd removed the "Noted" poem from the manuscript! So I felt ridiculous and afloat all at once. I was only beginning to learn the vagaries of literary awards and lists of "Bests": how little one should let these things get to them (be they excluded or included), and how impossible it is to fully manage that.
Funnily enough, Priscila herself is on the 2019 "Notable" list. She published a powerful, very funny suite of poems in ottawater not long before she died in September 2018. I agonized over including one of her poems in the anthology, and I wish I could invite her up on stage at one of the BCP 2019 launches to read it. I like to believe she would have teased me mercilessly (as I would have rightly deserved).
To the poets on the "Notable" list (posted below and included in the back of the anthology), I hope you float a bit, as I did in 2011. And I hope you aren't too hard on me for making what is obviously the wrong decision. Where possible, I've provided links to the poems themselves. These poems may not have made the book, but the upside is that you can read them now for free (and, goodness, you should)!
BCP 2019 Notable List
Hugh Anderson “Splitting Wood” Grain 45.2
Chris Banks “The Book of the Dead for Dummies” Taddle Creek 42
Joelle Barron “Ghoul Goblin Ghost” Poetry Is Dead 17
Gwen Benaway “speak” West End Phoenix October 2018
Ronna Bloom “Happiness” Queen’s Quarterly Winter 2018
Tim Bowling “Sweet Sixteen” Queen’s Quarterly Winter 2018
Melanie Boyd “The Falls” Event 47.2
Maggie Burton “Wiping down the counters” Riddle Fence 30
Lucas Crawford “Potential Stops on Our Maritime Bus Tour” Prairie Fire Spring 2018
Molly Cross-Blanchard “First Time Smudge” CV2/Prairie Fire ndncountry Fall 2018
John Degen “To You, Who Gave Me Directions in Greenwich Village” Taddle Creek 41
Jonathan Dyck “On not learning to speak German” Prairie Fire Summer 2018
Victor Enns “Reading Mary Oliver” Prairie Fire Summer 2018
Connie Fife “Edmonton to Regina” CV2/Prairie Fire ndncountry Fall 2018
Adrienne Gruber “Push” The Maynard 11.1
Joy Gyamfi “Moonlight/Sunrise” The Capilano Review 3.34
Matthew Hollett “The Day After the Best Before” The Fiddlehead 275
Doyali Islam “Sites: Mill Road” PRISM Winter 2018
Cellan Jay “Mother” Grain 45.2
Heather L. Kelly “I Was Here” Vallum 15.1
Paula Kienapple-Summers “Onion Skins and Brushing Hair” Existere 37.2
Lynn Knight “The Remedy” The Dalhousie Review Summer 2018
Aaron Kreuter “Cousinage, A Meet Cute” Pithead Chapel 7.7
Jeff Latosik “Pack” The Walrus April 2018
Evelyn Lau “You Are Here” The Fiddlehead 275
Nancy Lee “No Place for a Heart” The Puritan 41
Alex Leslie “The Purity Detector” Arc Poetry Magazine Summer 2018
Julie Mannell “For the Sake of Transparency #UBCAccountable” The Fiddlehead 276
Dave Margoshes “Dictionary of Small” The New Quarterly 145
Steve McOrmond “The Epistemology of Balloons” New Poetry March 7, 2018
Alessandra Nacaratto “Homestead” Room 41.3
Zara Neukom “My Mother’s Body” Glass Buffalo Fall 2018
Rebecca Păpucaru “The Panic Room (Glue Ear at Forty-Five)” The New Quarterly 146
Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha “Parliaments on the Stoop” Room 41.3
Mia Poirier “les enfants des francophones” Room 42.2
Jason Purcell “I Go Over It Again” Glass Buffalo Winter 2018
Shannon Quinn “Lousy Guide to Awful Goodbyes” CV2 Winter 2018
kerry rawlinson “Savage Lands” Literary Review of Canada April 2018
Brent Raycroft “Ghost” Vallum 15.1
Robin Richardson “The Afterlife and All That” Riddle Fence 29
Lisa Richter “Theory of Loneliness” Minola Review 19
Jane Riordan “The Buoy Line” The Malahat Review 203
Adam Sol “Butcher” The Fiddlehead 276
Waaseyaa’sin Christine Sy “go-” CV2/Prairie Fire ndncountry Fall 2018
Anny Tang “birthright” The Malahat Review 203
Richard Teleky “6:20 am” The New Quarterly 146
Kim Trainor “Little Mountain” The Antigonish Review 194
Priscila Uppal “Poetry” ottawater 14
Sarah Wolfson “Apples” The Fiddlehead 274
Catriona Wright “Apprenticeship” The Fiddlehead 276
Please do pick up a copy of Best Canadian Poetry 2019, and if you're in Vancouver or Toronto, I'd love to see you at one of this weekend's launches!