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2018 has been packed with excitement at Vallum!

We launched Vallum: Contemporary Poetry issues 15:1 “Memory and Loss” and 15:2 “The Chase.” We also published Zach Pearl’s chapbook Ladybird Bug Boy, a meditation on the process of identity-making , and Thurston Moore & John Kinsella’s chapbook The Weave, which sketches the scenes of a world in decay, leaving us to ask: is it too late to save ourselves? Read more about the chapbooks here.

Evan J won our 2018 Award for Poetry with “BLOOR-YONGE.” The second place winner was brad bradley for his poem “Lake Activity,” and an honourable mention was awarded to Robert Colman’s “Middle Distance.”

Other highlights include a chapbook workshop in partnership with the Quebec Writers’ Federation, and the Toronto launch of Ladybird Bug Boy and The Weave at Loop Gallery. We organized or attended 25 literary events, fairs, and conferences in Montreal, Toronto, and Ottawa, and hosted outreach workshops with new facilitators and partners.

To end off the year, we asked past contributors to share what they read in 2018 as well as what is on their lists going forward.

Here’s what some of the writers in Issue 15:1 said (and stay tuned to hear from 15:2 poets):


Evan J. Hoskins

Evan Hoskins

What was your favourite poetry book published this year? 
Delet This by MLA Chernoff

What was your best poetry discovery this year?
Discovery of the year? How bout of the day. I found this untitled poem in our northern hospital this morning:

Today, tomorrow, yesterday
Taking our Suboxone

Getting on with life
This time we’ll do it right

What’s on your reading list for 2019?
House of Names by Colm Tóibín; Minnow Trap by Brian Horeck; Spinoza by Gilles Deleuze; Holy Wild by Gwen Beneway; The Gas Heart by Tristan Tzara.

Evan J is from Treaty 1 territory and currently lives beside Kabechenong / Teiaiagon / the Humber River. If you’ve read Evan’s work, he implores you to read at least two other non-white writers. Evan is an assistant at Brick Magazine and runs Slackline Creative Arts Series in Toronto.


Pamela Porter

Pamela-Porter-web

What was your favourite poetry book published this year? 
God of Shadows by Lorna Crozier. Those poems leave me speechless. I can only read one or two at a time. I actually feel “as if the top of my head were taken off.” This truly is poetry.

What was your best poetry discovery this year?
Canisia Lubrin. I’m still trying to get a copy of her book.

What’s on your reading list for 2019?
Inri by Raul Zurita. Also, Portraits Without Frames by Lev Ozerov. What some poets have endured just to write poems. They remind us how holy and necessary is this art which we practice.

Pamela Porter’s work has won more than a dozen awards, including the Governor General’s Award and the Vallum Award for Poetry.  Her ninth volume of verse, Defending Darkness, was released in 2016 by Ronsdale Press.  Pamela lives near Sidney, BC with her family and a menagerie of rescued horses, dogs, and cats. Read her poem “Aubade” in Issue 15:1.


Yuan Changming

Changming Yuan

What was your favourite poetry book published this year? 
I do not have any favourite poetry book published this year.

What was your best poetry discovery this year?
Though in the English-speaking world I may prove to be the most widely published contemporary poetry author from China thus far, almost no editor in my country of origin has showed any interest in my poems either written in or self-translated into Chinese since my teenage years. However, in early November this year, Dr Liu Weijian, a nationally leading scholar (of Chinese classics) and highly renowned poet and novelist from Beijing University found my poetry (in Chinese) ‘deep, outstanding, brief and serene’. From his comments, I discovered, much to my comfort, that my poetry is ‘acceptable’ to an experienced mainland Chinese reader after all.

What’s on your reading list for 2019?
Definitely, poetry by Robyn Sarah, Lorna Crozier and Billy Collins, among many others.

Yuan Changming published monographs on translation before leaving China. With a Canadian PhD in English, Yuan currently edits Poetry Pacific with Allen Yuan and hosts Happy Yangsheng in Vancouver. Credits include ten Pushcart nominations, seven chapbooks, and publication in Best of the Best Canadian Poetry: Tenth Anniversary Edition, BestNewPoemsOnline, Threepenny Review, Vallum, and 1,389 others across 41 countries.  


Laurie D. Graham

Laurie D Graham

What was your favourite poetry book published this year? 
One book that comes to mind is Tim Lilburn’s The House of Charlemagne, published by Oskana Poetry & Poetics. This book acted as a source text for an improvised multi-disciplinary performance centred on Henry Jackson / Honoré Jaxson, Louis Riel’s secretary during the Northwest Resistance, through whom we see Riel’s vision of Métis nationhood on the prairies.

What was your best poetry discovery this year?
Joshua Whitehead’s Full Metal Indigiqueer blew my hair back as I read it and gazed upon it. It felt like the poetic equivalent of rock and roll.

What’s on your reading list for 2019?
Christine Stewart’s Treaty 6 Deixis sits at the top of my reading pile. As a fellow settler from Treaty 6 territory, I’m excited to learn from that book.

Laurie D. Graham hails from Treaty 6 territory and now lives on the Haldimand Tract. She is a poet, editor, the publisher of Brick Magazine, and a member of the advisory board for Oskana Poetry & Poetics. Her first book, Rove, was shortlisted for the Gerald Lampert Memorial Award, and her second book, Settler Education, was a finalist for the Trillium Book Award for Poetry. Read her poem “Roost” in Issue 15:1.


Julie Mannell

Julie MannellWhat was your favourite poetry book published this year? 
I Left Nothing Inside on Purpose by Stevie Howell and Obits by Tess Liem.

What was your best poetry discovery this year?
Juliane Okot Bitek.

What’s on your reading list for 2019?
I do what I want when I feel like it.

Julie Mannell is an author of poetry, prose, and essays. She is currently completing her MFA in Creative Writing at University of Guelph. Mannell is the recipient of the Constance Rooke/HarperCollins Scholarship, the Mona Adilman Poetry Prize, and the Lionel Shapiro Award for Excellency in Creative Writing. She splits her time between Montreal and Toronto. Read her review “Today Is a Good Day to Dream: A Review of Canisia Lubrin’s Voodoo Hypothesis in Issue 15:1.


Mark Grenon

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What was your favourite poetry book published this year? 
My favourite book this year was Jeff Latosik’s Dreampad. I’d been following Latosik’s blog “Only an Avenue,” an online project in which he’d been offering richly considered responses to less experienced writers, so when I came across Dreampad at the bookstore I thought I’d give it a chance. It’s a complex, rich read, and I’m glad I decided to do a review of the book to deepen my understanding of its poetics.

What was your best poetry discovery this year?
My best poetry discovery this year was Michael Nardone, whose The Ritualites will be available shortly through Book*hug, a poet and writer living in Montreal who had somehow escaped my attention. I’m struck by the activism and range of his avant garde poetics, from postmodernism, to Language poetry, to conceptual writing, and also by his critical writing, interviews, and transcriptive practices.

What’s on your reading list for 2019?
Regarding my reading next year, frankly, I have a bad habit of buying some books and not reading them deeply enough the first time around, so I’d like to re-read Erin Mouré’s Planetary Noise. Also, because one of the most remarkable books of Canadian poetry I’ve ever read is Dionne Brand’s Ossuaries, I’m planning to pick up her latest books, The Blue Book and Theory. And though I’ve been following Billy-Ray Belcourt online, I still haven’t read This Wound is a World in its entirety, so it’s high on my list as well.

Mark Grenon‘s poetry and reviews have appeared in the Antigonish Review, filling Station, and Matrix, among others. He has lived in the Czech Republic, Taiwan, and Chile, and currently lives in Montreal. Read his review of Molly Peacock’s The Analyst in Issue 14:2.


Aisha Walker

Aisha Walker

What was your favourite poetry book published this year? 
Though not strictly a work of poetry, What Do Stones Smell Like in the Forest? by Chloë Lum & Yannick Desranleau contains some of the best prose poetry I have read in a while. This publication accompanied the exhibition What Do Stones Smell Like in the Forest?, presented at the FOFA Gallery from April 23 to May 25, 2018.

What was your best poetry discovery this year?
For Your Own Good by Leah Horlick. Best rediscovery: A Tomb for Anatole by Stéphane Mallarmé, translated with an introduction by Paul Auster.

What’s on your reading list for 2019?
Susceptible by Geneviève Castrée, Woman and Nature: The Roaring Inside Her by Susan Griffin, Infinite Gradation by Anne Michaels.

Aisha Walker lives and writes in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in the Winnipeg Free Press for National Poetry Month 2017, Room, and Contemporary Verse 2 (CV2), among others. Read her poem “11th Letter Musings” in Issue 15:1.


Nathan Mader

Nathan-Mader

What was your favourite poetry book published this year? 
There are so many 2018 poetry books I can’t wait to read by 2020, including ones by people near and dear! If I have to choose just one favourite published this year that I’ve been blessed to have sent to me in Japan, I’ll say my friend Randy Lundy’s Blackbird Song (University of Regina Press). Whether lyric stanzas or prose poems, Lundy’s intimate, singular voice leads the reader into personal and metaphysical meditations infused with the Cree, Buddhist, and Eastern-Western poetic traditions in which he locates himself. Somehow Lundy manages to be both refreshingly grounded while operating on a higher plane:

American redstart, Swainson’s thrush, brown thrasher.
Still, in the mythological night, transfiguration has come.
Fire and bread and, if we are lucky, a small measure of love.

What was your best poetry discovery this year?
My favourite completely-new-to-me poet of 2018 has been Tarfia Faizullah. I’m still processing her Registers of Illuminated Villages (Graywolf, 2018). It’s got everything that makes poems powerful: multi-dimensional (political, spiritual, ethical, personal) questions and insights, unflinching engagements with individual and collective trauma, energetic soundscapes, and exacting articulations of the unknowable:

…Does she know
her friends Lauren and Cameron played

house after she died, set a place for her
at a play dinner table? As though she
might stop by for a few bites of air
from empty plates with spoons empty
of her short seven years on this planet…

What’s on your reading list for 2019?
While I’m sure there’s some great soon-to-be-published books I’m completely in the dark about, I know I’m looking forward to reading Cassidy McFadzean’s Drolleries, Ariana Reines’s A Sand Book, and Frederick Seidel’s Peaches Goes It Alone in 2019. Otherwise, besides the masters that I read all the time, I think I’m only going to read prose about wild animals next year. The human world has become too human for me.

Nathan Mader lives in Regina Saskatchewan. His poems have appeared in Grain, The Fiddlehead, Vallum, The Puritan, PRISM international, and the anthology I Found It at the Movies (Guernica, 2014). He has been a finalist for the Walrus Poetry Prize. Read his poem “William H. Mumler, Spirit Photographer (1832-1884)” in Issue 15:1.


Greg Santos

Greg_Santos

What was your favourite poetry book published this year? 
This is a tough one to answer. It’s like asking me what my favourite book is: I have so many depending on my mood! That being said, I have a few favourites from 2018. In no particular order, I would highly recommend The Displaced Children of Displaced Children by Faisal Mohyuddin (Eyewear Publishing) featuring moving poems on heritage and immigration, The Barbarous Century by Leah Umansky (Eyewear) which touches on feminism in the 21st century and also includes some badass Mad Men and Game of Thrones inspired poems, and Ekke by Klara du Plessis (Palimpsest), which explores language in such a playful and fascinating way.

What was your best poetry discovery this year?
I was delighted to be a guest reader at the launch for Tanis Franco’s debut poetry book, Quarry (University of Calgary) at Montreal’s Drawn & Quarterly Bookstore this past summer. Franco’s writing explores queerness, the body, and often in relation to location. At the time, I was not familiar with their writing, but Quarry was my favourite new poetry discovery of 2018.

What’s on your reading list for 2019?
I recently picked up a bunch of poetry books from Montreal’s Salon du Livre and from the AELAQ’s Holiday Pop-Up Book Fair. The new books that I bought but have not read yet are Obits by Tess Liem, The Night Chorus by Harold Hoefle, hotwheel by Aja Moore, My Ariel by Sina Queyras, and The Size of a Bird by Clementine Morgan. Some books that I’m looking forward to reading that are not poetry include Hum by Natalia Hero, Split Tooth by Tanya Tagaq, Zolitude by Paige Cooper, Notes on a Nervous Planet by Matt Haig, and Coyote Songs by Gabino Iglesias.

Greg Santos is the author of Rabbit Punch! and The Emperor’s Sofa. He regularly works with at-risk communities and teaches at the Thomas More Institute. He is the poetry editor of carte blanche and lives in Montreal. His new pamphlet, Blackbirds, is forthcoming with Eyewear Publishing, London, UK in Spring 2018.


Kevin Irie

Kevin Irie

What was your favourite poetry book published this year? 
Holy Wild by Gwen Benaway. Benaway’s experiences across gender, race, and sex also bridge disparate poetic forms: the confessional, the political, the narrative, the lyrical, transcending them all. Convincing but not coercing, candid yet vulnerable, Benaway uses craft – note her spacing, her perfect line breaks – to carry the reader along so effortlessly that one is totally swept up and along in her trans journey—and grateful for the ride.

What was your best poetry discovery this year?
Correspondent by Dominique Bernier-Cormier. Bernier-Cormier uses the prose poem to go beyond reportage when writing about the sunken Russian sub, Kursk; the assassination of Ahmad Shah Massoud; the hostage crisis in a Moscow theatre. How he reconciles, imaginatively connects, and humanely conveys such suffering and disaster without being exploitative is the high risk he takes for the stunning and empathetic poems he creates.

What’s on your reading list for 2019?
Here is my reading list, in no particular order, all 8 of them Canadian.

Any year with a new poetry book by Tim Bowling is a good one, so here’s to 2019 and The Dark Set: New Tenderman Poems, great news compounded by the fact that he is bringing back the title subject of a previous book.

Do you know about the parallel poem, the split sonnet, the double sonnet?  heft by Doyali Islam will no doubt enlighten the reader about these literary inventions of hers, gathered in her multiple award-winning poems, a prize package in print. And it’s not just about form: her subjects are personal and poignant.

Cluster by Souvankham Thammavongsa is due out this spring. Any new book by Thammavongsa seems an exciting rarity, a poet who distills experience with a quiet but illuminating sense of authority—and honour.

Magnetic Equator is by Kaie Kellough, sound synthesizer poet par excellence. Have you seen his online river poems slated for this book? Have you read his novel, Accordéon, a marvellous missive to a mythic and multitudinous Montreal? Be prepared for anything. Kellough can revitalize language with a freshness, felicity and dexterity that energizes every single letter of the English alphabet.

Parts of The Caiplie Caves by Karen Solie have appeared in various publications, incisively witty and wise poems about Scotland, hermits, caves and war. To read them together in one book is all –and more—than one can ask.

Twitch Force by Michael Redhill is his first poetry book in years. The success of his novels almost makes one forget the accomplishment of his poetry. It will be intriguing to see where poetry leads him now.

This is Where I Get Off by Jeff Kirby is also due in spring, a poet whose wit comes with a wink or wild laughter. If Frank O’Hara was more ebullient, he’d be Kirby, poetry with a personality yet always personable.

Stilt Jack by John Thompson is being re-issued for the first time since its 1978 publication. The source of so many other books, ghazal after ghazal, down through the generations. This is where it all started.

Kevin Irie has published previously in Vallum, as well as in the States, England and Australia. His book, Viewing Tom Thomson, A Minority Report (Frontenac House, 2012) was a finalist for both the Toronto Book Award and the Acorn-Plantos People’s Poetry Award. He lives in Toronto. Read his poem “Current” in Issue 15:1.


Phoebe Wang

Phoebe Wang

What was your favourite poetry book published this year? 
Laura Ritland’s East and West is a book I had been anticipating for years, given her delicate handing of craft combined with an ethical perspective on the polarizing features of our society. I have already reread it a few times, and plan on doing so again. Also high on the list is the Tracy K. Smith’s Wade in the Water, new chapbooks by Lauren Turner and Anne-Marie Turza, Dani Couture’s Listen Before Transmit and Shazia Hafiz Ramji’s Port of Being.

What was your best poetry discovery this year?
Thanks to fellow poet Michael Prior, I discovered Emily Jungmin Yoon’s A Cruelty Special to Our Species and its unrelenting uncovering of the stories of Korean ‘comfort women’, carved out with language as piercing as shrapnel.

What’s on your reading list for 2019?
I’m most looking forward to catching up with 2018 releases such as Dionne Brand’s Theory and Gwen Benaway’s Holy Wild, and I’m thinking of building a bunker in order to block out the world for when new titles arrive from Domenica Martinello, Kayla Czaga, Doyali Islam, Souvankham Thammavongsa and Karen Solie.

Phoebe Wang’s debut collection of poetry, Admission Requirements, appeared with McClelland and Stewart in Spring 2017. Currently she is a poet-in-residence with the national organization Poetry in Voice, and works at OCADU’s Writing and Learning Centre where she and coordinates Mighty Pen, a writing circle for BIPOC students. Read her poem “The Balance of the World is Tested” in Issue 15:1.


Marcela Huerta

Marcela Huerta

What was your favourite poetry book published this year? 
Obits does it all for me. Melancholy but imbued with fierceness, observational while never risking emotional detachment, everything is possible when it is in Tess Liem’s voice. Obits knows that to even attempt to memorialize the missing is a revolutionary act. How could this not be my favourite poetry book of the year?

What was your best poetry discovery this year?
While at the FIPR in Argentina this September, I was blessed with the presence of New Zealand Māori poet Tayi Tibble (Te Whānau-ā-Apanui/Ngāti Porou). Her debut collection of poetry, Poūkahangatus, is as effortlessly powerful as it is brightly sexy, a smiling devil emoji of a book that tackles mythology, legacy, and colonialism with depth and humour. It also has one of the best poem titles of the year: “A Sugar Daddy is Essentially an Arts Patron.” I need as many people as possible to buy this book, on the island of New Zealand or off.

What’s on your reading list for 2019?
I like to balance my reading palette with a bit of classic-I’ve-somehow-held-off-on-till-now and a bit of brand-spanking-new titles. So it’s going to be a dip into We Cast a Shadow by Maurice Carlos Ruffin with a follow-up of Monument by Labi Siffre. Then a taste of What’s in a Name by Ana Luísa Amaral (Translated by Margaret Jull Costa) with Love Poems by Nikki Giovanni to chase it down. Will I be full by then? Never.

Marcela Huerta is the author of Tropico, a collection of poetry published by Metatron Press in 2017. She has worked at the Museum of Anthropology and Working Format as a Graphic Designer, and at Drawn & Quarterly as an Assistant Editor. She is the proud daughter of Chilean refugees. Find her online @marsmella.


Jennifer Cave

Jennifer Cave

What was your favourite poetry book published this year? 
My favorite poetry book published this year is “Line”, by Robert Hilles.

What’s on your reading list for 2019?
I am planning right now to read, The Drone Pilot’s Handbook, The Knowledge, the Skills, the Rules, by Adam Juniper. Also on my list is Bob Dylan: The Essential Interviews by Jonathan Cott.

Jennifer Cave lives in White Rock, British Columbia, writing and painting. She was born in Vancouver in 1966. Read her poem “Unbearable Paradise” in Issue 15:1.


Vallum 15_1 cover

You can read all the poets featured in this edition of our Year in Review in Vallum Issue 15:1.

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.

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