2017 was a busy year for Vallum!

We launched Vallum: Contemporary Poetry issues 14:1 and 14:2, and published two new chapbooks: Mind of Spring by Jami Macarty, winner of the 2017 Vallum Chapbook Award, and entre-Ban by Bhanu Kapil, a collection of notes taken by Bhanu Kapil during the writing of her 2015 book, Ban en Banlieue. Read about our new chapbooks here.

Ali Blythe won the 2017 Award for Poetry with “Waking in the Preceding,” while Brian Henderson received second place with “The Incommensurate.” Honourable mentions went to Judy Little for “Ur Signs” and Roberta Senechal for “After Eden.”

We also hosted two pop-up shops, at Le Cagibi and the Concordia Co-op Bookstore, attended press fairs in Toronto, Calgary, Ottawa, and Montreal, and hosted outreach workshops with new facilitators and organizers.

To commemorate Vallum’s busy and successful year, we asked this year’s contributors to share their thoughts on the books they read in 2017 and what’s in store for the year ahead.

Here’s what some of the writers published in Vallum Issue 14:1 said (stay tuned to hear from Vallum 14:2 poets, our chapbook authors, and 2017 contest winners):

Sonnet L’Abbé

dr-s-labbeWhat was your favourite poetry book published this year?
An Honest Woman
, by Jónína Kirton.

What was your best poetry discovery this year?
Délani Valin, “No Buffalos”

What’s on your reading list for 2018?
Kith by Divya Victor; Call Out by David Bradford; Full Metal Indigiqueer, Joshua Whitehead; Retreats by Karen Solie.

Sonnet L’Abbé is a professor at Vancouver Island University. Her chapbook, Anima Canadensis, came out with Junction Books in 2016, and won the bpNichol Chapbook Award in 2017. L’Abbé’s upcoming collection, Sonnet’s Shakespeare,  will be published by McClelland and Stewart in 2018. Read “XVL,” from her forthcoming collection, in Issue 14:1

Klara Du Plessis


What was your favourite poetry book published this year?
Titles are evading me—I know I read many exquisite poetry collections and now I can’t remember any!

One of my favourites is Erin Robinsong’s Rag Cosmology (BookThug), which I read while camping in Northern Quebec during the summer. There is an openness, integrity, playfulness, and ecological relevance to these, somewhat long-form, poems. Erin’s language has a way of dismantling itself and regrouping organically, which I admire and enjoy.

What was your best poetry discovery this year?
Captured somewhere proclaiming that I’m dedicating my life to poetry, I also remembered again, this year, that poetry necessitates variegating life, nurturing, instead of neglecting, an array of personal interests—attending contemporary dance performances and art exhibitions, getting a pedicure, taking time to care for yourself, taking care of others—the list could be endless, with each enumeration eventually holding the potential to spawn poetry.

What’s on your reading list for 2018?
I’m excited for Tess Liem’s debut from Coach House Books, and Shannon Maguire’s new Zip’s File: A Romance of Silence from BookThug. Admittedly, I haven’t researched the forthcoming lists of books to be published in 2018 yet, but I spent some time recently curating a list of titles for myself to explore in the coming months. A few of these include: Renee Gladman’s Calamities, Cecilia Vicuña’s Spit Temple (which is an anthology of transcriptions from performance projects), Etel Adnan’s Night, Gregoire Pam Dick’s Metaphysical Licks, Koleka Putuma’s Collective Amnesia (I want to read more South African literature generally). I’d like to continue reading and supporting friends, whether in published form or not; chapbooks will definitely float onto my list, especially with new endeavours such as Rahila’s Ghost Press and Knife Fork Book’s imprint.

Klara du Plessis is a poet and critic residing in Montreal. Her chapbook Wax Lyrical (Anstruther Press, 2015) was shortlisted for the bpNichol Chapbook Award, and her debut collection Ekke is forthcoming (Palimpsest Press, 2018). She curates the monthly, Montreal-based Resonance Reading Series. Read her review of Alex Manley’s We are All Just Animals and Plants and Steven Heighton’s The Waking Comes Late in Issue 14:1

Bill Neumire


What was your favourite poetry book published this year?
I particularly enjoyed In the Language of My Captor by Shane McCrae

What was your best poetry discovery this year?
This isn’t a book, but I’m going to cheat a little and say that Paris Review’s new podcast series is my best poetry discovery of the year. They really put out a finely polished product that makes my commute much more enjoyable.

What’s on your reading list for 2018?
Laura Kasischke’s New and Selected Poems is one I’m really looking forward to this year.

Bill Neumire’s first book, Estrus, was a semi-finalist for the 42 Miles Press Award, and his recent poems appear in the Harvard Review Online, Beloit Poetry Journal, and West Branch. Read his review of Rob Taylor’s The News in Issue 14:1

Jeffrey Mackie


What was your favourite poetry book published this year?
Catriona WrightTable Manners

What was your best poetry discovery this year?
Shannon Webb-Campbell

What’s on your reading list for 2018?
I really want to read Sue Elmslie’s Museum of Kindness as I have enjoyed her past work. I also want to read Daljit Nagra from the UK as I have heard great things about his work.

Jeffrey Mackie is a Montreal poet. He has been featured on Mountain Lake PBS and in the anthology The Poet’s Quest for God (Eyewear), UK, 2016. He also has a new pamphlet collection available called Memory and Cities (Sitting Duck Press, 2016). In addition, he hosts the popular Literary Report on CKUT radio. Read his poem “The Days” in Issue 14:1

Adam Lawrence

What was your favourite poetry book published this year?
Jeramy Dodds’s Drakkar Noir
-I had the pleasure of hearing Dodds recite some of the weird gems in this collection (I’ll never look at Santa Claus, amusement rides, or Canada in the same way).


What was your best poetry discovery this year?
Peter Trower, Haunted Hills & Hanging Valleys, 1969-2004
– An excellent collection that offers a vivid portrait of the logging life – in terse, grim, joyful language.

What’s on your reading list for 2018?
Leonard Cohen’s The Flame and Christian Bök’s The Xenotext

Adam Lawrence’s writing has appeared in Quills Canadian Poetry Magazine, Salon, JSTOR Daily, Vallum: Contemporary Poetry, and Feathertale.com. He’s taught writing and literature courses throughout eastern Canada, and is currently a freelance writer and editor in Montreal. Read his poem “Evolution” in Issue 14:1

Maureen Korp


What was your favourite poetry book published this year?
Blaine Marchand.  My Head, Filled with Pakistan (2016)

What was your best poetry discovery this year?
Rereading chunks of my big, old battered copy of The Collected Poems of W.B.Yeats (1940) as I worked my way through a spiffy, new biography of Yeats—Fiona Biggs, The Pocket Yeats (2017).

What’s on your reading list for 2018?
Whatever I have not yet read by Patrick Leigh Fermor.  His letters have just been published. Also, a fine collection of poems by three Palestinian poets:  I remember My Name: Poetry by Samah Sabawi Ramzy Baroud, Jehan Bseiso (2016).

Maureen Korp is a military brat, the daughter of an American soldier. She grew up in faraway places including Okinawa, Hokkaido, Oklahoma, Texas, and Germany. Home base today is Ottawa. She is a university lecturer and researcher. Her field is visionary earth-centered art. Read her poem “Oahu” in Issue 14:1

E. Canine McJabber—Winner, Vallum Award for Poetry 2016


What was your favourite poetry book published this year?
Reading Catriona Wright’s Table Manners while road-tripping was a terrible idea, but only because it gave me all the cravings that gas station food could only fail to satisfy. It’s all tender and toothy.

What was your best poetry discovery this year?
I’m super in love with the wealth of writing by queer, trans*, and Two-Spirit writers in Canada. Reading books by Kai Cheng Thom, Amber Dawn, Joshua Whitehead, and many others feels like coming home to a place I didn’t know I had the keys for.

What’s on your reading list for 2018?            
So far just my dogs’s horoscopes on the Astro Poets twitter page.

E. Canine McJabber has published poems in several journals and zines across Canada. A travelling salesperson by day, they live and write between Alberta, Ontario, and Quebec. Their travel entourage consists of their two pups, Bonnie and Clyde. Read their award-winning poem “To My Mother, Aloud” in Issue 14:1. 

James Mckee—2nd Place Winner, Vallum Award for Poetry 2016

james mckee twr

What was your favourite poetry book published this year?
I have two choices for this question: Patricia Smith’s Incendiary Art, aptly titled if ever a book were, and Ange Mlinko’s Distant Mandate, exquisite & memorable in all the right ways.

What was your best poetry discovery this year?
Like many readers, I suspect, I only became aware of Max Ritvo’s work after he left us. His was a real loss. Of our older poets, this year I read through the books of Derek Walcott, one of our true contemporary masters.

What’s on your reading list for 2018?
I seem to be perpetually engaged in a losing battle to fill in the vast gaps in my reading, and next year will be no different: I plan to read for the first time (the shame!) Joseph Brodsky; to reread old favorites like Robert Pinsky, Elizabeth Bishop, and Robert Lowell; and to give another try to poets whom in the past I haven’t much liked, like John Ashbery and Ted Hughes (maybe this time. . . )

A New Yorker by birth (and likely by death), James McKee’s poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Acumen, The Raintown Review, Saranac Review, The South Carolina Review, THINK, The Worcester Review, The Rotary Dial, and elsewhere. Read his award-winning poem “To a Young Man Seen Wearing a Bow Tie” in Issue 14:1

Salvatore Difalco—Honorable Mention, Vallum Award for Poetry 2016


What was your favourite poetry book published this year?
Favourite poetry book published this year was a tie with Peter Gizzi’s  Archeophonics and John Ashbery’s dreamy translation of Rimbaud’s Illuminations.

What was your best poetry discovery this year?
Alien vs Predator, a book by Michael Robbins. The book is OK, but the poem “Alien vs Predator” is enviably groovy. I dig it.

What’s on your reading list for 2018?
Anything but Canadian poetry, I’m afraid.

Salvatore Difalco lives in Toronto. His work has appeared in print and online. Read his award-winning poem “Joy” in Issue 14:1

J. Mark Smith


What was your favourite poetry book published this year?
November (Bayeux Arts, 2017). The title refers to November, 1984 and the genocidal violence against Indian Sikhs that followed the assassination of Indira Gandhi.  Jaspreet Singh’s family narrowly escaped death in those pogroms, and many of the poems in this book are about the long aftermath of that time. Witty, poignant, multilingual, erudite poems by a writer who has fully absorbed the lessons of the modernist and the postcolonial traditions.

What was your best poetry discovery this year?
Ten Poems of Francis Ponge translated by Robert Bly & Ten Poems of Robert Bly inspired by Francis Ponge (Owl’s Head Press, 1990). I can’t quite shake the feeling I’m not supposed to like Robert Bly, but he is a great translator and poet. An incredibly beautiful little book that I came across for the first time this year. Also: Stories from the Road Allowance People (Gabriel Dumont Institute, 2010; revised ed.) Translated by Maria Campbell. Technically, these are oral tales, originally in Michif, rendered into a Metis dialect of English by Campbell. But they’ve been set down with such attention to verbal and sonic detail, to the rhythm of phrase and sentence, that I think of them as poems. I never knew about this book until a few months ago; it’s great.

What’s on your reading list for 2018?
I’ve been looking forward for a couple of years now — as it’s been delayed several times — to the publication of Architecture of Dispersed Life: Selected Poems by Pablo de Rokha; translated by Urayoán Noel (Shearsman Books, 2018.) This will be the first book-length translation into English of work by one of Chile’s greatest twentieth century poets.

J. Mark Smith‘s verse translations (from Chilean Spanish) of poems by Winétt de Rokha have appeared recently in Shearsman and The Fortnightly Review. His essay “The Richest Boy in the World” was published in Queen’s Quarterly 122: 1 (Spring 2015). He teaches in the English Department at MacEwan University. Read his poem “Prayers for C. Elegans and H. Sapiens” in Issue 14:1

Crystal Hurdle

Hurdle portrait 2016 Fall.jpg

What was your favourite poetry book published this year?
I loved AUGURIES by Clea Roberts.

What was your best poetry discovery this year?
​Have been excited to read verse novels for middle-grade readers and am keen on reading more.

What’s on your reading list for 2018?
Bring on fiction titles by Erdrich, Cusk, and Wolitzer, not to mention volume one of Sylvia Plath’s collected letters.  At over 1300 words, it may well be a book I’ll still be reading in 2019!

Crystal Hurdle teaches English and Creative Writing at Capilano University in North Vancouver, BC. In October 2007, she was Guest Poet at the International Sylvia Plath Symposium at the University of Oxford, reading from After Ted & Sylvia: Poems. Her work, poetry and prose, has been published in many journals, including Canadian Literature, The Literary Review of Canada, Event, Bogg, Fireweed, and The Dalhousie Review. Teacher’s Pets, a teen novel in verse, was published in 2014. Read her poem “Bog People” in Issue 14:1, and her poem “Veterinarian Dr. Bondo” in Issue 14:2

Cover PDF

You can read all the poets featured in this edition of our Year in Review in Vallum Issue 14:1.

Look out for more Year in Review responses from poets featured in Vallum coming later this month!

And be sure to check out our Poem of the Week blog for 52 of our favourite poems this year.