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Poetry

Our recommendations for Poetry collections.

This list is far from exhaustive, and we suggest visiting your nearest McNally Robinson bookstore to browse our selection of Poetry in person.


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Flyway

- by Sarah Ens

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This Meditation on the impact of human and ecological trauma explores the cost of survival for three generations of women living between empires. Writing from within the disappearing tallgrass prairie, Sarah Ens follows connections between the Russian Mennonite diaspora and the disrupted migratory patterns of grassland birds. Drawing on family history, eco-poetics, and the rich tradition of the Canadian long poem, Flyway migrates along pathways of geography and the heart to grapple with complexities of home.

Allodynia

- by Nisa Malli

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Rooted in the indescribability and disembodiment of pain, Nisa Malli's Allodynia looks outward to space and the future of humankind, as well as inward to the body. In "Pain Log", a suite of body-horror poems, she explores illness as a haunting or possession: "At home, my stitches / undid themselves, fevers pet me // like a dog, my eyes opened / backwards. Sleep ghosted me // more than usual." In "Ships's Log," a near-future speculative suite of poems, Malli turns to themes of alienness, artificial intelligence, and the impossibility of translation; danger, intimacy, and war; as well as the worlds we choose to build together. Allodynia is a highly anticipated poetic debut that more than fulfills the promise of its author's bpNichol award winning chapbook Remitting.

Standing in a River of Time

- by Jonina Kirton

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Standing in a River of Time merges poetry and lyrical memoir on a journey exposing the intergenerational effects of colonization on a Métis family. Kirton does not shy away from hard realities, meeting them head on, but always treating them with respect and the love stemming from a lifetime of spiritual healing and decades of sobriety. This collection unravels painful memories and a mixed-blood woman's journey towards wholeness. The Ancestors whisper to Kirton throughout, asking her to heal, to bring them home, so that within these stories of redemption and loss the dead walk with us, their presence felt as the story unfurls in unexpected ways. Kirton does not offer false hope, nor does she push us towards answers we are not yet ready for. Instead, she gestures towards the many healing modalities she has explored as she discovers that the path to reconciliation is not only a long and winding road, but also that it begins with those closest to us.

Miskwagoode

- by ANNHARTE

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Taken from the Anishinaabe for "woman wearing red," Miskwagoode is an unsettling portrayal of unreconciled Indigenous experience under colonialism, past and present. Miskwagoode, the woman in the red dress, is Annharte, and she is Annharte's mother, who disappeared when the poet was a girl. Miskwagoode is Annharte's new book about her mother loss, her "mothermiss", about all the women "buried in common enough / cross-generational graves". Marked with her characteristic sharp eye and humour, and hard earned wisdom about the "ominous progress ahead", Annharte's fifth collection encompasses the poet's experiences as an Anishinaabe Elder, "witness not survivor", writing of the weight of a present and persisting colonialism. In her sly, cheeky riffs on life behind the "buckskin curtain" at the margins of settler society, Annharte tells us about granny circles, the horny old guys, and getting your hair done. But these poems about rez life and the community and belonging it offers are set against the background radiation of the poverty and the sicknesses, despair, violence, sexism, and sexual abuse, the legacies of unequal relations. Miskwagoode concludes with "Wabang," a suite of short poems comprising Annharte's own thumbnail transcontinental Indigenous mythology.

Quiet Night Think

- by Gillian Sze

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"Quiet Night Think is a stunning work." -- Madeleine Thien, author of Do Not Say We Have Nothing "One function of the poet at any time is to discover by his own thought and feeling what seems to him to be poetry at that time," writes Wallace Stevens. In Quiet Night Think, award-winning poet Gillian Sze expresses her own definition. During the remarkable period of early parenthood, Sze's new maternal role urges her to contemplate her own origins, both familial and artistic. Comprised of six personal essays, poems, and a concluding long poem, Quiet Night Think takes its title from a direct translation of an eighth-century Chinese poem by Li Bai, the subject of the opening essay. Sze's memory of reading Li Bai's poem as a child marks the beginning of an unshakable encounter with poetry. What follows is an intimate anatomization of her particular entanglement with languages and cultures. In her most generically diverse book yet, Sze moves between poetry and prose, mother and writer, the lyrical and the autobiographical, all the while inviting readers to meditate with her on questions of emergence and transformation: What are you trying to be? Where does a word break off? What calls to us throughout the night?

In a Time of Distance

- by Alexander M. Smith

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From the beloved author of the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series comes a beautiful and transporting volume of poems brimming with warmth and humanity.

What matters most in life? For Alexander McCall Smith, it is friendship, love, and travel-- the themes found throughout his work that have made him a cherished writer the world over. This first collection of McCall Smith's poems reflects on these topics with all his characteristic wit and charm.
    In this delightful work, McCall Smith takes us on a captivating journey from Africa to Greece, London, Canada, Mumbai, and back home to Scotland, celebrating people, places, animals, and books. There are moments of sweeping insight and soaring feeling, and moments that will have you laughing along as they subtly shift your worldview. This inimitable writer shares his distinctively astute and good-natured observations on life, love, and beauty, reminding us of the deep satisfaction that can be found when we open ourselves up to the world with our whole heart, and watch as it takes on a kinder and gentler shape.

Through Disassembled Houses of Perfect Stones

- by David Y. Williamson

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The weight of history lies on the spine of memory. That heft and delicate balance are palpable in these rich poems that echo with grief, longing, and observed beauty. From the silence and complexity of the northern wilderness to the vast prairie landscapes stretching across the province, Through Disassembled Houses of Perfect Stones explores self, ancestry, and community through poems which dwell on the page with a satisfying density of imagery. Combining careful observation with sensitive reflection, this work examines the poet's memory and experience as a father, son, husband, and descendent of European settlers married into an Indigenous family living in Northern Manitoba.

Time Is a Mother

- by Ocean Vuong

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An instant New York Times bestseller!

The highly anticipated collection of poems from the award-winning writer Ocean Vuong


How else do we return to ourselves but to fold
The page so it points to the good part
 
In this deeply intimate second poetry collection, Ocean Vuong searches for life among the aftershocks of his mother's death, embodying the paradox of sitting within grief while being determined to survive beyond it. Shifting through memory, and in concert with the themes of his novel On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous, Vuong contends with personal loss, the meaning of family, and the cost of being the product of an American war in America. At once vivid, brave, and propulsive, Vuong's poems circle fragmented lives to find both restoration as well as the epicenter of the break.
 
The author of the critically acclaimed poetry collection Night Sky With Exit Wounds, winner of the 2016 Whiting Award, the 2017 T. S. Eliot Prize, and a 2019 MacArthur fellow, Vuong writes directly to our humanity without losing sight of the current moment. These poems represent a more innovative and daring experimentation with language and form, illuminating how the themes we perennially live in and question are truly inexhaustible. Bold and prescient, and a testament to tenderness in the face of violence, Time Is a Mother is a return and a forging forth all at once.

Catastrophe Theories

- by Rowley Mari-lou

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The poems in Catastrophe Theories reflect an increasingly unstable, surreal, and catastrophic world. Written over the past decade, the poems in Mari-Lou Rowley's oracular work capture the zeitgeist of the moment. A world where human folly and frailty compete with corpocracy and technological determinism against the stubborn magnificence of the natural world. Yet, these poems are neither prescriptive nor hopeless. Exploring the lives and concepts of mathematicians such as Euclid, Hypatia, Alan Turing, and René Thom, along with dream imagery and her love of science and nature, Rowley toys with perception, fractures reality into kaleidoscopic visions, then brings the reader back to small, everyday moments of truth or joy. As her speaker says, "Rejoice or regret. You decide."

Synaptic

- by Alison Calder

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An award-winning poet attempts to map the brain's neural connections, raising fundamental questions about identity and interiority.

This intricate, yearning work from award-winning poet Alison Calder asks us to think about the way we perceive and the ways in which we seek to know ourselves and others.
 
In Synaptic, each section explores key themes in science, neurology, and perception. The first, Connectomics, riffs on scientific language to work with and against that language's intentions. Attempting to map the brain's neural connections, it raises fundamental questions about interiority and the self. The lyric considerations in these poems are juxtaposed against the scientific-like footnotes which, in turn, invoke questions undermining authority and power. The second section, Other Disasters, explores ways of seeing or and being seen, from considerations of folklore to modern art to daily life. 
 
The speakers in these poems are searching for knowledge. Everyone is looking for a miracle.
 

Bless the Daughter Raised by a Voice in Her Head

- by Warsan Shire

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Poems of migration, womanhood, trauma, and resilience from the celebrated collaborator on Beyoncé's Lemonade and Black Is King, award-winning Somali British poet Warsan Shire.
 
"The beautifully crafted poems in this collection are fiercely tender gifts."--Roxane Gay, author of Bad Feminist and Hunger


Mama, I made it/out of your home/alive, raised by the/voices in my head.

With her first full-length poetry collection, Warsan Shire introduces us to a young girl, who, in the absence of a nurturing guide, makes her own stumbling way towards womanhood.
 
Drawing from her own life, as well as pop culture and news headlines, Shire finds vivid, unique details in the experiences of refugees and immigrants, mothers and daughters, Black women, and teenage girls. In Shire's hands, lives spring into fullness. This is noisy life: full of music and weeping and surahs and sirens and birds. This is fragrant life: full of blood and perfume and shisha smoke and jasmine and incense. This is polychrome life: full of henna and moonlight and lipstick and turmeric and kohl.
 
The long-awaited collection from one of our most exciting contemporary poets, this book is a blessing, an incantatory celebration of resilience and survival. Each reader will come away changed.

Home Body

- by Rupi Kaur

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A revised hardcover edition of the #1 New York Times bestseller home body by rupi kaur, author of the #1 New York Times bestsellers milk and honey and the sun and her flowers. Rupi's long-awaited hardcover edition debuts exclusive poems and is beautifully clothbound and foil stamped.

rupi kaur constantly embraces growth, and in home body, she walks readers through a reflective and intimate journey visiting the past, the present, and the potential of the self. home body is a collection of raw, honest conversations with oneself - reminding readers to fill up on love, acceptance, community, family, and embrace change. illustrated by the author, themes of nature and nurture, light and dark, rest here.

i dive into the well of my body
and end up in another world
everything i need
already exists in me
there's no need
to look anywhere else

--home

H of H Playbook

- by Anne Carson

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H of H Playbook is an explosion of thought, in drawings and language, about a Greek tragedy called Herakles by the 5th-century BC poet Euripides. In myth Herakles is an embodiment of manly violence who returns home after years of making war on enemies and monsters (his famous "Labors of Herakles") to find he cannot adapt himself to a life of peacetime domesticity. He goes berserk and murders his whole family. Suicide is his next idea. Amazingly, this does not happen. Due to the intervention of his friend Theseus, Herakles comes to believe he is not, after all, indelibly stained by his own crimes, nor is his life without value. It remains for the reader to judge this redemptive outcome.
      "I think there is no such thing as an innocent landscape," said Anselm Kiefer, painter of forests grown tall on bones.

Death Becomes Us

- by Kristen Wittman

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Beginning with halcyon days cast in soft light and cool dew, onward through veiled years of diagnosis and environmental damage, Death Becomes Us captures, with masterful grace and restraint, the intensity of absence and the importance of grief. Within the darkest moments of personal and ecological loss, Kristen Wittman's second collection fashions a garden of love poems from memories of soft kisses and falling towers, a broken Eden where pain nurtures tender, blooming petals, and the ceaseless heartbeat of Mother Nature pulses underfoot, bringing forth every new dawn.

Gibbous Moon

- by Dennis Cooley

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A gibbous moon arrives in shadow and light. First at waxing then at waning, two moons in one cycle just shy of full. Poet Dennis Cooley's eloquent words merge with photographer/composer Michael Matthews' decadent abstract photographs. These two celebrated artists draw connections and parallels to each other's masterful art forms, tying the two together seamlessly. The antecedent and subsequent illuminate the night sky with their dance; the shadows and the light taking turns at showing us the way through the darkness.

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