Joy, nostalgia, grief, wonder—good poetry effortlessly evokes mood and atmosphere, taking us elsewhere while guiding us inward. This National Poetry Month, we bring you our In the Mood for Poetry series. Every Friday we will share mood-themed reading lists so you can indulge your highs and lows along with some of our favourite poets.
To kick things off: some good old-fashioned joy! These collections traverse states of elation and love. With humour, they roam across parenthood, relationships, and visions of futurity. They stumble—as only poetry can—through life’s clutter, with a sense of play and possibility, and revel in the sheer delight of being.
Plenitude by Daniel Sarah Karasik
“Karasik’s Plenitude is indeed a plenitude—of beauty, pleasure, joy, rebellion,” writes Bahar Orang, author of Where Things Touch. In Plenitude, a non-binary faun wishes their body had a variety of sex organs, interchangeable daily. A prison abolitionist scrutinizes Rothko paintings on the carceral state’s boardroom walls. The insurrectionary tactics of mass social movements spread, like a secret handshake, from Chile to Hong Kong to Toronto. Plenitude cartwheels towards a world that might be: a world without cops or bosses, without prisons, without oppressive regulation of gender and desire. It is a song for the excluded and forgotten and those who struggle alongside them.
Umbilical Cord by Hasan Namir
Lambda Literary and Stonewall Book Award-winner Hasan Namir shares a joyful collection about parenting, fatherhood, and hope. These warm, free-verse poems document the journey that he and his husband took to have a child. Between love letters to their young son, Namir shares insight into his love story with his husband, the complexities of the IVF surrogacy process, and the first year as a family of three. “Hasan Namir’s Umbilical Cord is an exceptionally beautiful love poem that lays bare the joy and complexity of family life,” writes Jordan Scott, author of Night & Ox.
This Radiant Life by Chantal Neveu, Translated by Erín Moure
This Governor General’s Literary award-winning long poem draws from the lexicons of science, art, revolution, and corporeal movement to forge intense and extended rhythms that invoke the elements and spaces making up our world. “Oscillating between various subatomic particles, spaces, and word matter that make life life—i.e. the stuff and messiness of being, the macro and the micro, the chemistry, biology, geology, language of experience/experiment—This Radiant Life entreats us to slow down, attend to, and cherish the elemental. In so doing, we will have access to an inexhaustible force for resistance and resilience; we will be able to truly see and be seen by others,” writes award-winning poet and translator Oana Avasilichioaei.
the pet radish, shrunken by Pearl Pirie
Winner of the 2016 Archibald Lampman Award, the pet radish, shrunken deals in the poetics of sound, language, and play. In true Pirie style, this fresh, quirky, and clear-seeing collection speaks in a range of forms and voices: From a military convoy of turtles, to a Kafkaesque conversation with a housefly, to the dissection of a fruit machine, Pirie offers oulipo found speech as it integrates and disintegrates, plays with and tumbles through language. “With humour, play, and brass, Pirie revels in the daily ruckus of domesticity, verbatim conversations, and the language that must somehow hold a whole existence,” writes Jenny Sampirisi, author of Croak.
Precious Energy by Shannon Bramer
Precious Energy, the fourth collection of poetry from poet and playwright Shannon Bramer, is a uniquely playful collection of vibrantly sad, peculiar, and often funny poems about domestic life, motherhood, and the baffled child that remains within us all even as we grow up and into whatever person we keep trying to become. “With this collection Bramer has redeemed modern poetry,” writes Andrew Kaufman, author of All My Friends are Superheroes, “Precious Energy is a must for anyone who has ever had their clothes drenched in a child’s vomit, seen their cell phone as the enemy, momentarily failed to recognize their lover or wondered what the point of all this is.”
Enter the Raccoon by Beatriz Hausner
Enter the Raccoon documents a love affair between a woman and a raccoon. They are a couple that loves without preconceptions, whose being together eschews all limits until their beliefs in the self are put to the test. Their story unfolds each time one surrenders to the other in a sometimes melancholic and cruel, other times joyful, even ecstatic embrace. “This is a book you will wish you could dream. Its cumulative prose lines extend through the essay, the anecdote, the fable, into the realm of fancy, fantasy, and fornicating (transpecies) wish fulfillment. It arrives at poetry and dives through that soft mirror to reveal the ancient machine working the illusion in the kingdom of happiness,” writes Gregory Betts.
THOU by Aisha Sasha John
Aisha Sasha John has a crush on time. She did it. She did time. It was gross and funny and it was hard and it was good. The result is/was—THOU.
THOU, John’s critically acclaimed powerful collection of two long, narrative poems, explores the social space that exists between the self and others. Using the language that connects these two states of being, THOU investigates the idea of “you”—what it is and what it means to say “you,” the stories we make of our own multiple “yous,” and by extension, the “you” an author can make of her own book. “THOU is a choreography of irresolute bodies, the insistent shifting of their positions. Aisha Sasha John is a poet of centrifugal energy, of reverberant intimacy,” writes Michael Nardone, author of The Ritualites.