April is National Poetry Month in Canada, a time set aside to celebrate poets and their craft through events, and to expand awareness of poetry’s vital role in Canadian culture.
Enjoy this selection of poetry from award-winning Nova Scotia authors!
Live From the Afrikan Resistance! by El Jones
El Jones is Halifax’s 2013-2015 Poet Laureate, a resident spoken word artist who advocates for literacy and reflects our community through heartfelt, passionate poetry about her experience as an African-Canadian woman.
“The first collection of spoken word poetry by Halifax’s fifth Poet Laureate, El Jones. These poems speak of community and struggle. They are grounded in the political culture of African Nova Scotia and inherit the styles and substances of hip-hop, dub and calypso’s political commentary. They engage historical themes and figures and analyze contemporary issues—racism, environmental racism, poverty and violence—as well as confront the realities of life as a Black woman. The voice is urgent, uncompromising and passionate in its advocacy and demands. One of Canada’s most controversial spoken word artists, El Jones writes to educate, to move communities to action and to demonstrate the possibilities of resistance and empowerment. Gathered from seven years of performances, these poems represent the tradition of the prophetic voice in Black Nova Scotia.” —publisher
How to Be Alone by Tanya Davis, with illustrations by Andrea Dorfman
Written by Halifax’s 2011-2012 Poet Laureate, this book is an illustrated version of the poem “How to Be Alone,” which made a splash as a viral video with its wise tips for embracing life by being alone without being lonely.
“Since its debut on YouTube, Tanya Davis’s beautiful and perceptive poem ‘How to Be Alone,’ visually realized by artist and filmmaker Andrea Dorfman, has become an international sensation. In this edition of How to Be Alone, they have adapted the poem and its compelling illustrations for the page in a beautiful, meditative volume—a keepsake to treasure and to share. From a solitary walk in the woods to sitting unaccompanied on a city park bench to eating a meal and even dancing alone, How to Be Alone reveals the possibilities and joys waiting to be discovered when we engage in activities on our own. As she soothes the disquietude that accompanies the fear of aloneness, and celebrates the power of solitude to change how we see ourselves and the world, Tanya reveals how, removed from the noise and distractions of other lives, we can find acceptance and grace within. For those who have never been by themselves or those who embrace being on their own, How to Be Alone encourages us to recognize and embrace the possibilities of being alone—and reminds us of a universe of joy, peace, and discovery waiting to unfold.” —publisher
Masstown by Chad Norman
Chad Norman’s poems have appeared in magazines across the world, and he currently has 15 books of poetry, most recently Masstown, about a farming community in Colchester County. At the Halifax Central Library, he recently read from his work-in-progress Simona, which celebrates the Colchester County SPCA and the furry feline they allowed his family to rescue.
“Masstown is a small farming community in Colchester County, near the Cobequid Bay in Nova Scotia. Set in the past, this is a collection of poetry that accentuates the struggles of life on a family-run dairy farm for owners Bert and Gladys, grandparents of the author. Not only do Bert and Gladys run the farm, they’re also parents striving to find the balance between running a farm and raising a family.” —publisher
Traverse by George Elliott Clarke
Born in Windsor, Nova Scotia, George Elliott Clarke has spent much of his career writing about the black communities of Nova Scotia and is now Toronto’s Poet Laureate. This book was written in a one-day (!) poetry marathon when he traveled back to Halifax.
“From Toronto’s poet laureate (2012–15) comes a new book that is a tour de force in confessional verse. This autobiographical sequence in 980 lines contains 70 stanzas of “skeletal sonnets” composed, astonishingly, in one day and one evening. Traverse is a web of intersecting, crisscrossing impulses, a great burst of imaginative energy and aesthetic reflection that celebrates a 30-year period of Clarke’s writing poetry.” —publisher
Cottonopolis by Rachel Lebowitz
Rachel Lebowitz has lived on the east and west coasts of Canada and has now settled in Halifax, where she supports literacy in the libraries. This well-researched poem combines genres to depict the complex history of the cotton industry.
“Cottonopolis is a sequence of prose and found poems about the Industrial Revolution, in particular the links between the cotton industry in Lancashire, slavery in the Americas and the colonization of India. From the Irish slums of Manchester to the forts of the Slave Coast to the ruins of Dhaka, India; from Civil War battlefields to Lancashire factory floors, from slave ship sailors to machine-breakers to child labourers, these poems tell the stories of the industrial age.” —publisher
And I Alone Escaped To Tell You by Sylvia D. Hamilton
Sylvia D. Hamilton is an author, artist, and documentary filmmaker whose work focuses on the history of African Nova Scotians and women through in-depth firsthand research and storytelling. As part of the celebration of African Heritage Month, she read from this moving collection of poetry at the Halifax Central Library in February.
“The settlement of African peoples in Nova Scotia is a richly layered story encompassing many waves of settlement and diverse circumstances—from captives to ‘freedom runners’ who sailed north from the United States with hopes of establishing a new life. The poems in And I Alone Escaped to Tell You endeavour to give these historical events a human voice, blending documentary material, memory, experience and imagination to evoke the lives of these early Black Nova Scotians and of the generations that followed. This collection is a moving meditation on the place of African-descended people in the Canadian story and on the threads connecting all of us to the African diaspora.” —publisher