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.

In Part Two of our Year in Review, here’s what some of the writers published in Vallum Issue 14:2 had to say (if you missed Part One of our Year in Review, you can catch up here):

Rae Armantrout


What was your favourite poetry book published this year?
It’s always hard to choose just one, but  I’m going to say that my favorite poetry book published this year was Kate Greenstreet’s The End of Something. 

What was your best poetry discovery this year?
My poetry discovery was either Harmony Holiday’s poems in the October issue of Poetry magazine or, maybe Brandon Brown’s 2013 book Top Forty.

What’s on your reading list for 2018?
 I don’t really have a reading list for 2018.

Some of Rae Armantrout’s recent books are Entanglements (a chapbook of poems in conversation with physics), Partly: New and Selected Poems, Itself, Money Shot, and Versed, all from Wesleyan University Press. In 2010 Versed won the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award. She recently retired from UC San Diego. Read her poem “False Starts,” as well as a conversation between Rae Armantrout and Lepota L. Cosmo, in Issue 14:2

Julie Mannell

julie mannell

What was your favourite poetry book published this year?
Voodoo Hypothesis by Canisia Lubrin.

What was your best poetry discovery this year?
That “life” is an anagram for “file”. This is a great discovery of poetry in bureaucratic lexicons: I hear poems coming from the student loan agents: “We have placed your life on hold” or “You must go online to restart your life” or “I’m sorry, I cannot find your life or any record that you ever had a life with us.”

What’s on your reading list for 2018?
Walter Benjamin, revisiting Hannah Arendt—I mostly like to play it by ear but I have an idea that I’m going to get back into critical theory and philosophy. I am also trying to find science textbooks. Anatomy is bizarre. You always know what body parts do but not how they feel: what does a person’s pancreas smell like for example.

Julie Mannell is an author of poetry, prose, and essays. She is currently completing her MFA in Creative Writing at the University of Guelph. Mannell is the recipient of the Con- stance Rooke/HarperCollins Scholarship, the Mona Adilman Poetry Prize, and the Lionel Shapiro Award for Creative Writing. She splits her time between Montreal and Toronto. Read Julie’s review of Catriona Wright’s Table Manners in Issue 14:2

David Eso

david eso.jpg

What was your favourite poetry book published this year?
The Collected Poems of Alden Nowlan from Goose Lane Editions appeared this fall, thirty-four years after the poet’s early death. The 650-page book sprawls: from childhood nightmares to wisdom and farce. Nowlan twists his deep historic and local sensibilities around an intoxicating imagination that his newspaperman’s grammar, magically, manages to contain.

What was your best poetry discovery this year?
I had a day to myself in Montreal and stumbled upon Monastiraki, on St. Laurent, a gallery and shop for found poetry, zines, visual texts, etc. It’s at once a prototypical literary curio shopfront and totally unique. Billy Mavreas gave me a grand tour of the store’s holdings, found just the right book for me, and slipped me some art on the way out. And he stocks Vallum too! Testament to fine tastes.

What’s on your reading list for 2018?
I will burrow through some deep theory texts next year: related to GeoHumanities, via a new journal with that title; Text World Theory, where structural linguistics underpin the fictional realm; and Indigenous Studies, seeking the means of reckoning and reparation that must precede reconciliation.

David Eso is a PhD candidate at the University of Victoria where he helps edit The Malahat Review while writing poems and articles. With Jeanette Lynes, he edited Where the Nights Are Twice as Long: Love Letters of Canadian Poets, published by Goose Lane Editions. Read David’s poem “I Realize You May Feel Compelled to Respond” in Issue 14:2

Mary Lee Bragg


What was your favourite poetry book published this year?
My favourite poetry book published this year is Susan Elmslie’s Museum of Kindness.  It includes a sequence about the shooting at Dawson College, where Elmslie was teaching.  Her poem about the first class after the shooting describes her asking the students if they are OK with discussing Tim O’Brien’s story “The Things They Carried”.  The students are fine, but when the teacher starts to talk, she pours her coffee down the front of her blouse.  That simple image tells us everything about the shock and terror of that incident.

What was your best poetry discovery this year?
My best poetry discovery wasn’t exactly a discovery – but my second time at an in-residence workshop with Lorna Crozier at Wintergreen Studios.  There were seventeen of us this year, and it would take too long to detail all I learned from being in a concentrated learning environment with sixteen people who were willing to share their vulnerabilities and discuss some of the scariest experiences of their lives.  Lorna’s approach to revising and editing is always stimulating and helpful.

What’s on your reading list for 2018?
On my reading list for next year is Carolyn Souaid’a novel Yasmeen Haddad Loves Joanasi Maqaittik.  I met Carolyn last summer at Sage Hill, and have read several good reviews of the book.  In my writing, I have also dealt with relations between white Canadians and First Nations and know how difficult it can be to navigate this terrain.  I’m confident Carolyn can do it with grace and intelligence.

Mary Lee Bragg lives in Ottawa. Her poetry and short fiction have been published in Ascent, Grain, the Windsor Review, Queen’s Quarterly and ezines in Canada and the US. She has published a novel (Shooting Angels, 2004) and two chapbooks of poetry (How Women Work, 2010, and Winter Music, 2013). Read her poem “Ranked in Order” in Issue 14:2

Elisa Gabbert


What was your best poetry discovery this year?
My best poetry discovery of the year was this poem by Chessy Normile, originally published in Jubilat.

Elisa Gabbert is a poet and essayist and the author of three collections: L’Heure Bleue, or the Judy Poems, The Self Unstable, and The French Exit. Her work has appeared in The New Yorker, Boston Review, Pacific Standard, Guernica, the Harvard Review, and elsewhere. She lives in Denver. Read Elisa’s poem “I Want to Write a Book Called War Dreams” in Issue 14:2

John Kinsella

john kinsella

What was your favourite poetry book published this year?
I have three! Lionel Fogarty Selected Poems 1980-2017 (re.press, Melbourne, for the Aboriginal Humanities Project), Square Inch Hours: Poems by Sherod Santos (WW Norton, New York, 2017), and Fay Zwicky’s Collected Poems (edited by Lucy Dougan and Tim Dolan, University of Western Australia Press, 2017). All brilliant and essential books.

What was your best poetry discovery this year? 
At present I am working on a new edition of the Australian ‘symbolist’ poet C. J. Brennan’s (1870-1932) poetry, and everything ‘new’ I encounter (that is, that I haven’t come across before) in this process is fascinating to me.

What’s on your reading list for 2018? 
I have many, but I will be starting with Jennifer Maiden’s Appalachian Fall: Poems About Poverty in Power (Quemar Press, late 2017) — I have my copy, but won’t get to it till the New Year, as well as In Darkest Capital: Collected Poems by Drew Milne (Carcanet).

John Kinsella’s most recent books include the poetry volume Firebreaks (WW Norton, 2016) and the critical work Polysituatedness (Manchester University Press, 2017). He is a Fellow of Churchill College, Cambridge University, and Professor of Literature and Sustainability, Curtin University. Read two of his poems in Issue 14:2. 

David Bradford

david bradford

What was your favourite poetry book published this year?
Tie between Nikki Wallschlaeger’s Crawlspace and Renee Gladman’s Calamities.

What was your best poetry discovery this year?
Allison Titus in general and her The True Book of Animal Homes in particular.

What’s on your reading list for 2018?
Black and Blur by Fred Moten, M. NourbeSe Philip’s Blank, Renee Gladman’s Ravicka novels, and Robin Richardson’s new collection!

David Bradford is the author of Nell Zink Is Damn Free (Blank Cheque Press, 2017) and Call Out (Knife|Fork|Book, 2017). His work has appeared in Lemon Hound, Group Huddle, Prairie Fire and Toronto Lit Up’s The Unpublished City. He splits his time between Montréal and Toronto. Read his poem “Cute Bear” in Issue 14:2

John Vieira


What was your favourite poetry book published this year?
katz katz. Made up mostly of several drawings and two woodcuts, this book contains only two poems, nonetheless, the book as a whole transmits for me real poetry in the term’s most fundamental sense.

What was your best poetry discovery this year?
The chapbook by Glenn O’Brien, Ruins With a View. O’Brien passed away unexpectedly this year and, while not known specifically as a poet, published Ruins this year, and so to help honor the poet in him I want to read it.

What’s on your reading list for 2018?
I also have it on my list to more fully get into the poetry, etc. made available in the ditch archive webpage on David UU (pronounced David W), and two book-length poems, the first by James Laughlin, Remembering William Carlos Williams, and the second, Kenneth Rexroth’s The Dragon and the Unicorn.

John Vieira is a poet and essayist whose writing has appeared in little magazines and other publications (including Agni and Rolling Stone) in the US and in over a dozen other countries. He is the author of 16 books published by small and micro presses. He works in television news. Read his poem “Dawn” in Issue 14:2. 

Simon Brown


What was your favourite poetry book published this year?
I would have to give several answers: Firstly, Whereas, by Layli Long Soldier (Graywolf), an incredible book that embodies why “opaque” maybe should mean “see-through”. More locally, Rag Cosmology by Erin Robinsong (BookThug) and Quelque chose continue d’être planté là, by Maude Pilon (Le lézard amoureux) are fantastic books that respectively engage with nature and territory in very interesting ways.

What was your best poetry discovery this year?
So many things, I’m not sure if I could pinpoint just one. In French, Matthieu Messagier, an older poet I’d never before fully explored who writes through his severe physically disability to push conventional definitions of syntax and language. In English, I very much enjoyed Danielle LaFrance’s Friendly + Fire (Talonbooks, 2016), a book that mixes the political and intimate in really interesting ways.

What’s on your reading list for 2018?
Haven’t thought about it much yet, but I’m definitely looking forward to reading through the recently published Planetary Noise (Wesleyan), an overview of Erín Moure’s several decades of exploration and questioning of language – hoping to both rediscover and fill in the gaps.

Simon Brown is a rural Quebec- based translator and interdisciplinary poet. His French and English texts have been presented in many forms and contexts: conceptual pieces, performances, chapbooks and poetry collections. His poems have been published in Canadian and European periodicals such as The Coming Envelope, Watts, Mœbius, and Cousins de personne. Read his translation work with Emmi Lebuffe in Issue 14:2

Antony Di Nardo


What was your favourite poetry book published this year?
I’m a year behind in my readings, still finding pleasure in books published way back in 2016, such as Jana Prikryl’s masterful The After Party and Matt Radar’s marvelous meanderings in Desecrations. Now I’m getting ready to meet the new year with the Collected Poems of Alden Nowlan (edited by Brain Bartlett) and Drakkar Noir by Jeramy Dodds at the top of my list.

What was your best poetry discovery this year?
It wasn’t so much a single collection or any one poet, but the bookstores of London where you can find row upon row, shelf upon shelf, depth beyond depth devoted to the broken line. The London Review Bookshop at Bury Place, a Rosetta Stone’s throw from The British Museum, as they say, takes a particularly serious view of poetry as a bookseller’s commodity. I got a kink in my neck and bends in my knees reading titles on the vertical, there were so many to go through! Unfortunately, when it came to recent publications by Canadian poets there were few: I saw a copy of Anne Michael’s latest, Rupi Kaur’s lyrical posies (stacked like pyramids in one bookstore), and something by Karen Solie. However, there were plenty of Brits and Americans nestled one next to the other and after a week in the city and a different bookstore every day, I came home with a carry-on nearly stuffed with books.

What’s on your reading list for 2018?
Come those days of wintry, blustery winds off Lake Ontario I’ll be reading poetry picked from the shelves of mighty London town, poems by Paterson, Polley and Porter, among others, while editing the manuscript of my own upcoming book, Keep Frozen, to be published by Ronsdale Press in October 2018. Cheers!

Antony Di Nardo is the author of three collections of poetry. His latest, Roaming Charges, was published by Brick Books in 2015. His work appears widely in journals across Canada and internationally. He divides his time between Sutton, Quebec and Cobourg, Ontario. Read his poem “Food Court” in Issue 14:2

Jenny Wong


What was your favourite poetry book published this year?
Drakkar Noir by Jeramy Dodds.  He came to the University of Calgary as the Canadian Writer-In-Residence and I’ve been following his work ever since.

What was your best poetry discovery this year?
feria: a poempark by Oana Avasilichioaei.  This was one that kept catching my eye and I finally picked it up this year.  How can anyone not love a poempark!

What’s on your reading list for 2018?
The remaining pile of books that I’ve bought and collected in 2017 but still haven’t read yet!

When not attempting to put her computer science degree to good use, Jenny Wong can be found travelling the world with her husband or stuck in her loft coaxing out her next story with hot tea and strong language. Her work can be glimpsed in The Quilliad and 3Elements Review. Read her poem “Submission Guide for Journalists” in Issue 14:2

Mary Jo Bang

maryjoWhat was your favourite poetry book published this year? What was your best poetry discovery this year?
I have four favorite books this year. All four are by women with inimitable voices who bring to bear the complexity of poetic utterance to subjects that feel urgent and timeless.

1)  Lynn Melnick’s Landscape with Sex and Violence (YesYes Books) is a brilliant and unswerving confrontation with the complex dynamics of patriarchal sexual dominance (yes, Virginia, what was true in the 60’s is still true: ‘the personal is political’).
2)  Allison Benis White’s Please Bury Me in This (Four Way Books) is a stunning and haunting meditation on death and the turmoil death leaves in its wake.
3)  Karla Kelsey’s Of Sphere (Essay Press, selected by Carla Harryman for the 2016 Essay Prize), uses a hybrid lyric-essay form to closely examine a woman in the midst of the complicated task of making sense of the end of a relationship.
4)  Kate Greenstreet’s The End of Something (Ahsahta Press) is a mesmerizing rumination on flux and trust, wisdom and the divided self.


Each of the above felt like a discovery. To quote Keats (“On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer”)—reading each of these, “felt I like some watcher of the skies/When a new planet swims into his ken.” (By ‘his ken,’ I feel certain Keats meant ‘his or her’ ken.

What’s on your reading list for 2018?
There are two books at the top of my reading list for 2018: Threat Come Close (Four Way Books, March 2018) by Aaron Coleman and Indecency (Coffee House Press, May 2018) by Justin Phillip Reed. I’ve read both of these books in manuscript form, so know for a fact that each is an amazing collection. Stylistically adventurous, both address the subjects of masculinity, sexuality, violence, race and risk. They are both essential reading.

Mary Jo Bang is the author of eight books of poems and a translation
of Dante’s Inferno, with illustrations by Henrik Drescher. Her most recent book (Graywolf Press 2017) is A Doll For Throwing. She teaches in the creative writing program at Washington University in St. Louis.

VallumCov14-2_C4-1You can read all the poets featured in this edition of our Year in Review in Vallum Issue 14:2.

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