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Posted: Friday April 1, 2016
Five Book Recs for National Poetry Month 2016

Established in April 1998 by the League of Canadian Poets, National Poetry Month brings together schools, publishers, booksellers, literary organizations, libraries, and poets from across the country to celebrate poetry and its vital place in Canada’s culture. (On Twitter, use the hashtag #NPM16 to find tweets about it.)

Obviously, we recommend that you check out our entire poetry list, since Talon has been publishing poetry since the late 1960s. You are also invited to celebrate Poetry Month with us at our big spring launches in Vancouver and Calgary, where you’ll hear readings from new books by our four Spring 2016 poets.

But this year, the theme of National Poetry Month is the road. So we’ve pulled together a list of some of our most road-worthy poetry and poetic titles.

1. Davie Street Translations by Daniel Zomparelli

Davie Street Translations has a road in the title of the book, so.

To the street that is a village, Daniel Zomparelli conveys a liveliness and wit that rhetorically towel-flicks its way from the sardonic bathhouse banter of ancient Rome to the cinematic musical machismo of the poets of the San Francisco Renaissance, with each poem “translating” another chapter in his documentary of gay male culture in Vancouver. The Georgia Straight called this debut collection “arresting and hard to put down … utterly charming and disarming.”

Daniel Zomparelli is editor-in-chief of Poetry Is Dead magazine and recipient of the 2011 Pandora’s Collective Publishers of Magazines Award. His second book, a co-authored collection of satirical poetry, Rom Com, was published in 2015.

2. Get Me Out of Here by Sachiko Murakami

Today, so many of our journeys begin or end or get stalled in airports.

Poet Sachiko Murakami asked one question in an open call on the Internet to people in airports across the globe: why is it often so difficult to stay present in the moment? Friends and acquaintances in transit stopped to note in only one sentence their impressions of things, events, people, and feelings. The poems that result from this experiment in crowd-sourcing content search departures and arrivals for a handhold on the fleeting present. Working within and wriggling out of the formal constraint of fourteen lines, Get Me Out of Here explores what poems need to do to stay when the mind is begging to leave.

Read a poem from Get Me Out of Here.

3. dream / arteries by Phinder Dulai

How did we become such a world of travellers? How has the human history of migration ramped up to such a degree in just one century? And what have been some of the effects of that, culturally and socially?

Just over a century ago, the Japanese steamship Komagata Maru set sail for Canada with 376 Sikh, Muslim, and Hindu migrants travelling from Punjab, India. They were refused entry at Vancouver, even though all passengers were British subjects. The Komagata Maru sat moored in Vancouver’s harbour for two months while courts decided the passengers’ right to access – and while the city’s white citizens lined the pier taunting those onboard. Eventually, Canada’s racist exclusion laws were upheld and the ship was forced to return to India.

In dream / arteries, Phinder Dulai connects these 376 passengers with other New World settler migrants who travelled on the same ship throughout its thirty-six-year history. By drawing on ship records, nautical maps, passenger manifests, and the rich, detailed record of the _Komagata Maru, Dulai demonstrates how the 1914 incident encapsulates a broader narrative of migration throughout the New World.

Dulai’s hybrid poetics fuse historical fact with the fictive, and he draws out the poetic line to explore hope, possibility, and regeneration – journeys we can all get on board with.

4. The United States of Wind by Daniel Canty (translated by Oana Avasilichioaei)

Late 2010. From the end of fall to the beginning of winter, Daniel Canty becomes a wind seeker. Aboard the Blue Rider, a venerable midnight-blue Ford Ranger crested with a weathervane and a retractable windsock, he surrenders himself to the fluidity of air currents. The adventure leads him and artist driver Patrick Beaulieu from the plains of the Midwest up to Chicago, the Windy City, into the wind tunnel linking the Great Lakes, through the cities of lost industry of the Rust Belt, only to veer off into Amish pastoralia, and to the forests of Pennsylvania, Civil War land, where fracking is stirring up the ghosts of the first oil rush.

Alright, so it’s not technically poetry. But Canty’s writing is dreamy and lyrical, and this travelogue will take you away on the wind. Canty creates a gentle road book, a melancholy blue guide written in an airy, associative prose, where images coalesce and dissipate, carried away through the outer and inner American landscape.

Read the book’s opening passages in “Prologue to the Wind” on Meta-Talon.

5. Limbo Road by Ken Norris

And now for a more personal journey.

Just as for Dante, for whom the image of the beloved gave entrance to a complete imagination of the world, an “imago mundi,” the betrayal of a beloved can also shatter the poet’s vision, no matter how elaborately conceived. Such a betrayal can turn the world upside down, where what was loved is now hated, what was benign becomes threatening, what was dangerous is embraced, what was worshipped is murdered, what was past is future. The author is cast adrift, to wander the earth from Tahiti to Prague, from Morocco to Miami, “in limbo” in a newly unknown world.

Part divorce journal, part travel poem, part meditation on the rudderless denizens of the global village of which the author is merely one, Limbo Road chronicles the search for the new beloved, the one who will lead to the new “City of God.” That she appears only in glimpses is a credit to Ken Norris’s adept reading of the late twentieth century, and his disciplined mapping of its increasingly unknown territories. A beautifully sustained work of lyricism from a highly accomplished poet.

This Poetry Month, we wish you all the best in your every adventure and journey on the road!