Featuring trusted series editor Christopher Doda and acclaimed guest editor Joseph Kertes, this eighth installment of Canada’s annual volume of essays showcases diverse nonfiction writing from across the country. Culled from leading Canadian magazines and journals, Best Canadian Essays 2016 contains award-winning and award-nominated nonfiction articles that are topical and engaging and have their finger on the pulse of our contemporary psyches.
Contributors: Carleigh Baker, Graeme Bayliss, Desmond Cole, Krista Foss, Don Gillmor, Wayne A. Hunt, Michelle Kaeser, Richard Kelly Kemick, Susan Olding, Richard Poplak, Michael Rowe, Kenneth Sherman, Antanas Sileika, Fred Stenson, Leona Theis, Elana Wolff.
Christopher Doda is a poet, editor and critic living in Toronto. He is the author of two books of poetry, Among Ruins and Aesthetics Lesson. His award-winning nonfiction has appeared in journals across Canada and he was on the editorial board of Exile Editions for over ten years.
Joseph Kertes’ first novel, Winter Tulips, won the Stephen Leacock Award for Humour. His third novel, Gratitude, won a Canadian Jewish Book Award and the U.S. National Jewish Book Award for Fiction. His most recent novel is The Afterlife of Stars.
Guest edited by Helen Humphreys, this ninth edition of Canada’s vibrant yearly anthology features the fifty finest Canadian poems published during 2015. The Best Canadian Poetry series, which thrives under the stewardship of acclaimed series editor, Molly Peacock, and assistant series editor, Anita Lahey, ushers readers into the heart of the diverse Canadian poetry scene. A must-read for anyone with a stake or interest in contemporary Canadian literature.
“Humphreys’ selections are a balanced mix of yearning and optimism, and she skillfully brings the solo works together in a collection as complex and satisfying as a symphony.” —Publishers Weekly
“For nine years, this series has been presenting the best of Canada’s published poems in an annual anthology, under the guidance of series editor and poet Molly Peacock… Best Canadian Poetry in English 2016 contains 50 bits of eternity, arranged alphabetically by author from James Arthur to Tara-Michelle Ziniuk.”—Merilyn Simonds, Kingston Whig-Standard
“From love and loss to the political, from formal to informal verse, the Best Canadian Poetry series offers an annual sampling of voices and experiences—a little slice of Canadiana that may be appreciated beyond borders as well.” —Lori A. May, Examiner.com
“The wide range of writers, forms and themes represented here make it a great jumping-off point for readers who might be interested in Canadian poetry but are unsure about where to start.”—Emma Healey, Globe and Mail
Helen Humphreys is the award-winning author of four books of poetry, seven novels, and three works of creative non-fiction. Her most recent works are The Evening Chorus (HarperCollins, 2015) and The River (ECW Press, 2015). She lives in Kingston, Ontario, where she is also the city’s Poet Laureate.
Anita Lahey is a poet, journalist, reviewer, and essayist. She is the author of The Mystery Shopping Cart: Essays on Poetry and Culture (Palimpsest Press, 2013) and of two Véhicule Press poetry collections: Out to Dry in Cape Breton (2006) and Spinning Side Kick (2011). The former was shortlisted for the Trillium Book Award for Poetry and the Ottawa Book Award.
Molly Peacock is a widely anthologized poet who writes biography, memoir, and fiction. Her newest work is Alphabetique: 26 Characteristic Fictions, with illustrations by Kara Kosaka. She is also the author of The Paper Garden: Mrs. Delany Begins Her Life’s Work at 72, both from McClelland and Stewart. Her forthcoming book of poetry is The Analyst, poems about psychoanalysis, poetry and painting, from W.W. Norton and Biblioasis. She is the subject of Jason Guriel’s monograph, Molly Peacock: A Critical Introduction.
BCP 2016 poets:
James Arthur • Joelle Barron • Hugo Beauchemin-Lachapelle (translated by Alexander Rock) • andrea bennett • Sheri Benning • Tim Bowling • Julie Bruck • Suzanne Buffam • Dani Couture • Lynn Crosbie • Kayla Czaga • Dorothy Field • Kim Fu • Michelle Good • Laurie D. Graham • Jane Eaton Hamilton • Steven Heighton • Jason Heroux • Gerald Hill • Amber Homeniuk • Maureen Hynes • Sally Ito • Amanda Jernigan • Kate Kennedy • M. Travis Lane • Jeff Latosik • Evelyn Lau • Randy Lundy • Sneha Madhavan-Reese • Lee Maracle • Stephen Maude • Cassidy McFadzean • David McGimpsey • Steve McOrmond • A.F. Moritz • Hoa Nguyen • Elise Partridge • Matt Rader • Rachel Rose • Armand Garnet Ruffo • Douglas Burnet Smith • Kilby Smith-McGregor • Karen Solie • John Steffler • Kate Sutherland • Sylvia Symons • John Terpstra • Souvankham Thammavongsa • Nick Thran • Tara-Michelle Ziniuk
cabana the big is a ribald, dystopian, post-apocalyptic tale of a new world order set up by businessman harold galloway, as documented by narrator Slim Reggie Canuck, galloway’s chosen chronicler. The novel’s protagonist, henry morgan, is a former physician who now rides with the big eight (galloway’s version of The Magnificent Seven). Presiding over the big eight is the phallic minotaur-in-a-Stetson, cabana the big. Slim Reggie Canuck’s hilarious, graphic narration makes cabana the big a cautionary allegory about the end of the Twenty-first Century.
“Slim Reggie Canuck is one of the most original and memorable creations in the annals of Canadian letters. He is one funny storyteller with a serious message about where our power-obsessed world is heading.”—Terry Fallis, author of The Best Laid Plans and No Relation
“cabana the big is commedia dell armageddon, theatre of the absurd, a B-plus movie directed by The Coens or Mel Brooks, make that Tarantino. Henry Morgan(stern) drops his capitals, while Carla and ma rosemary, insider bargirls at the abyss saloon, serve up intrigues and End-Days cardiac events, all reported by Slim Reggie with black humor, misogyny and misanthrope, marital breakdown and juicy pop references. Only poets get to be this funny!” —Linda Rogers, author of The Empress Letters
Photo: Becca Gilgan
Ron Charach is a Toronto psychiatrist and the author of nine collections of poetry, most recently Selected Portraits (2007) and Forgetting the Holocaust (2011). His poems and essays have appeared in most Canadian literary and medical/psychiatric journals.
Finalist for the 2017 Trillium Book Award!
Shortlisted for The 2017 Vine Award Award for Canadian Jewish Literature in the Fiction category!
In For All the Men (and Some of the Women) I’ve Known, Danila Botha explores the nuances and complexity of relationships, from love to betrayal. In these eighteen unforgettable stories, Botha creates characters so authentic, readers are convinced that they know them personally. As in her debut collection, Got No Secrets, Botha excels at blending literary techniques with popular zeitgeist. With her trademark honest and singular voice, Botha exposes the desire for human connection above all things. The collection is hopeful, fearless, and utterly relatable.
“Everyone in this book is alive. Painfully, nervously, ardently. This collection, (like Chekhov by way of Kathy Acker but utterly original), is truthful and dreamy, tough and tremulous; sad and aching, seductively, with hope.—Lynn Crosbie, author of Where Did You Sleep Last Night
“With an ear for poetry and a knack for tragedy, Danila Botha is an expert on yearning. These stories are for anyone who has ever loved and lost, but not let go.”—Shaughnessy Bishop-Stall, author of Ghosted
“For All the Men (and Some of the Women) I’ve Known is unlike anything I have ever read before. Unflinchingly honest in its examination of love in all its joyful, messy, agonizing, spectacularly beautiful glory, these stories seem to vibrate on their own emotional frequency. Danila Botha writes with a heartbreaking rawness and intensity that will continue to haunt you long after you’ve turned the final page.”—Amy Jones, author of We’re All In This Together
“I discovered [author Danila Botha] while I was reading books for the Danuta Gleed Literary Award specifically her delightful first story collection, Got No Secrets. These two stories are brand new, stories written in a gutsy, head-on, colloquial style about love, sex and mis-connection among the urban 20-somethings she knows so well. Her characters are all compulsively themselves, driven, probably always, to make a mess of things, but vulnerable, full of desire, and often touchingly witty.”—Douglas Glover, author of Elle
“A searing and beautifully forthright collection about the angst, chaos, tragedy and hope in the quest for love. A series of unique, riveting and perfect portrayals that pulls no punches. Reading these stories made me smile and made me want to smash things.”—Lisa de Nikolits, author of Between the Cracks She Fell
“For All the Men has Botha delivering smart prose that seamlessly balances humour, disappointment, and dysfunction… Botha is an incredibly fresh voice in Canadian literature, and this remarkably visceral and unforgettable collection feels like it’s only setting the stage for much more to come.”—Liz Worth, Quill & Quire
“I devoured this collection, and I hope Ms. Botha continues to hone her craft producing more stories with that healthy touch of realism that she has come to be recognised for.” —Miramichi Reader
“Each of these stories are real and honest, open and gut-wrenching, and Botha makes them jump out from the page into your mind. The characters are unforgettable. This book will stay with you for a long time, as you ponder your own understanding of love long after you have shut the last page.”—Laurie Burns, Atlantic Books Today
“Botha’s characters freely indulge in sex and drugs and copious amounts of alcohol in their quest to find succour or peace, though it becomes readily apparent that what they are most intent on discovering… is some sort of authentic connection with another human being… The author is undeniably familiar with modern urban ennui, and the stories in her collection have an admirable directness and grit.”— Steven W. Beattie, Globe and Mail
“A series of orchestral variations whose loops and iterations are made vital by the steady introduction of new elements… stories full of people who disappoint, or are disappointed, yet they rarely end on a note of despair, which in today’s Tinder-enabled relationship landscape seems almost like an act of subversion… She [Botha] has a fine talent…”—Emily Donaldson, Toronto Star
“Botha’s collection thoughtfully, tragically, and insightfully captures the peculiarities of modern relationships in the time of texting, online dating, and an unnerving urban detachment we’ve come to recognize as a normal thing.”—The Literary Lollipop
Photo: Ayelet Tsabari
Danila Botha is a fiction writer based in Toronto. Born in Johannesburg, South Africa, she has lived in Israel, and in Nova Scotia. Her first collection of short stories, Got No Secrets, was praised by the Globe and Mail, the Chronicle Herald and the Cape Town Times. It was also named one of Britannica’s Books of the Year (Canadian short stories), and was published in South Africa in 2011. Her first novel, Too Much on the Inside, was shortlisted for the 2016 Relit Award and won a Book Excellence Award for Contemporary Novel. Her sophomore collection of short stories, For All the Men (and Some of the Women) I’ve Known, was published in 2016 to rave reviews. It was also recently named a finalist for the 2017 Trillium Book Awards. She is currently working on her second novel and on a new collection of short stories. Read more on her website: www.danilabotha.com
Join us at the Halifax Central Library on Sunday, July 17 at 2pm for the second annual “Meet Me in… Writers on Rights’” human rights poetry event. Hosted by Tightrope Publisher Jim Nason and Canadian Parliamentary Poet Laureate, George Elliott Clarke, the event will feature readings related to human rights issues by acclaimed poets from some of Canada’s top independent publishers: Alice Burdick, Mark Callanan, Mary Dalton, Sheree Fitch, Michael Fraser, Carole Glasser Langille, Jennifer Houle, El Jones, Emily Pohl-Weary.
Winner of a 2017 Ippy Awards Regional Bronze Medal for Fiction!
Kelley Aitken’s compelling short fiction collection is united by a sense of place, the Canadian Shield. Her nine short stories traverse an area between land and water; near and far, between the uncontrollable and the veneer of civility. They reflect, Janus-headed, on Nature and human nature. Canadian Shield addresses that anxious paradox between our yearning for the wild and our need for security—a profound dilemma of our time.
“Loss and longing, love, betrayal, and hard-won heart, the souls in these stories are mirrored in the Canadian wild. This is travel over tough terrain—river, rock, and the inner landscapes of people who search—these stories will stay with you for a long time.”—Kim Echlin, author of Under the Visible Life and The Disappeared
“Aitken writes dense, layered stories that play with temporality and use the natural world as a mirror for the psyches of her characters… Aitken’s stories are dark, but tremendously insightful and empathetic. This is a smart, haunting collection.”—Alexander De Pompa, Broken Pencil
“Aitken’s exquisite prose takes us on a profound journey from camp to bush to canoe in a deeply moving reflection on our relationships with ourselves and our surroundings.”—Goodreads
Photo by Zenia Buzanko
Kelley Aitken is a writer, artist, and teacher. Her book Love in a Warm Climate (The Porcupine’s Quill, 1998) was nominated for the Commonwealth Prize, Best First Book. Kelley has lived in the Philippines, Ecuador, and various parts of Canada. Born in British Columbia, Kelley makes her home in Toronto where she teaches drawing at the Art Gallery of Ontario.
Opening with an aubade for the labyrinthian corners of Bombay’s largest slum, Tourist is a collection that is unafraid of shadows, and aims to unearth the unseen. Set across time and landscape—modern day Michigan, 1970’s Cambodia, WWI England, the kaleidoscopic mindscape of an Alzheimer patient—these poems draw us into lives that, initially, seem foreign, yet provoke our solidarity in the face of disorientation—a boy facing his first bankruptcy, an elephant facing destruction at the hands of poachers. The book culminates in ‘Beethoven Walks’, an elegiac war cry from a man who wades in and out of darkness like a modern day Odysseus, and the churning resilience that sets him free.
“Wakefulness is poet Lara Bozabalian’s traveling companion in her new collection, Tourist. Her lines are long with an inviting tendency to wander. Her similes are startling, her descriptions dressed to kill.”—Barry Dempster, author of The Burning Alphabet and Disturbing the Buddha
“With its lush imagery and eye for resonant detail, its rhythm born from Lara’s rich history in spoken word and performance, Tourist will more than satisfy your literary wanderlust.”—Carolyn Smart, author of Hooked and Careen
“Bozabalian’s travels, both geographical and imaginative, make for compelling reading. A refreshingly assured and original book.”—Alexandra Oliver, author of Meeting the Tormentors in Safeway and Let the Empire Down
“Lara Bozabalian is a poet with a deft understanding of emotional and physical distance. Wherever she places her readers in time or place, she is reliably available as an earnest, expansive guide. Tourist is full of curious, public-hearted poems.”—Jacob McArthur Mooney, author of Folk and Don’t Be Interesting
“Channelling Escher the artist/architect and his intricate alleyway… expresses hidden emotions… by means of a kaleidoscope.” Anne Burke, poets.ca
“There is something about Lara’s writing that is magical to me.”—goodreads.com
Photo by Alysia Dobie
Lara Bozabalian is an award-winning writer, and author of the bestselling collection of poetry, The Cartographer’s Skin. In both 2014 and 2015, Lara was named Toronto’s Best Poet in the Now Magazine Best of Toronto Poll. She has featured at TEDxIB and lectured, workshopped, and performed her work at several Canadian universities.
In The Animal Game’s nine short stories, Kirsteen MacLeod takes us on a zigzag global journey in search of meaning. Haunting and frequently hilarious, this is a wayward meditation on travel and home, reality and illusion, and seeking one’s place in the world. Written with compassion and insight, the collection’s intersecting stories explore inner landscapes and countries of the heart – Brazil, Toronto, Bahamas, India. Readers are transported and return transformed, joining the book’s characters as they walk, and often stumble, down the uncertain path we all travel to find our true, essential selves.
“Kirsteen MacLeod’s stories about belonging and the search for a spiritual home are poignant reminders of what it is to be human. Beautifully written. The Animal Game is a fantastic debut.”—Helen Humphreys, author of The Evening Chorus
Kirsteen MacLeod’s linked stories are compelling geographies of the spirit, both global and interior, drawing us ever closer to the transformative power that breathes beneath the surface of all things, especially ourselves. The Animal Game is a captivating debut.—Diane Schoemperlen, author of Our Lady of the Lost and Found and This Is Not My Life
“MacLeod’s writing is vivid and deft. Darkly humorous and then suddenly touching—characters caught out in a slant of glancing sunlight.”—Tim Wynne-Jones, author of The Emperor of Any Place
“MacLeod has a gift for writing realistic depictions of mental and emotional states… The Animal Game is a fine debut with clear, vivid writing and intensely realized characters.”—Alexander De Pompa, Broken Pencil
“Engaging debut collection… MacLeod, a Kingston writer, writes with insight and affection for her characters.”—Sarah Murdoch, Toronto Star
“Enlightening and beautifully written”—goodreads.com
Photo by Marco Reiter
Kirsteen MacLeod is a writer and yoga teacher who lives in Kingston, Ontario. The Animal Game is her debut collection of short fiction. Kirsteen was born in Glasgow, Scotland, lived in Toronto and Brazil, and has worked as a magazine writer, communicator, and editor for 30 years.
Michael Fraser is a Toronto high school teacher, poet, and writer. He has been published in various national and international journals and anthologies, including The Best Canadian Poetry in English, 2013. His manuscript, The Serenity of Stone, won the 2007 Canadian Aid Literary Award Contest and was published in 2008 by Bookland Press. He won the 2016 CBC Poetry Prize and was also the winner of FreeFall‘s 2014 and 2015 poetry contests, Michael is the creator and former director of the Plasticine Poetry Series.
The Best Canadian Poetry in English, 2016 for “Best Canadian Poetry” contributors only: $10.50 per copy (more than 50% off the retail price of $21.95 – plus shipping and tax). Please order by December 10.
Join Tightrope Books for a special evening celebrating stellar nonfiction writing featuring the launch of Best Canadian Essays 2015 (edited by Christopher Doda & David Layton). Readings by BCE 2015 contributors and Tightrope nonfiction authors. Lineup includes Tanya Bellehumeur-Allatt, Jessamyn Hope, Greg Hudson, John Lorinc, Sinead Mulhern, Samantha Bernstein, Julie Devaney, Karleen Pendleton Jimenez.
Join Tightrope Books for the launch of Glen Downie’s new poetry collection Democratic Beauties. With readings by the author plus guests Michael Fraser and Elizabeth Ukrainetz. Door prizes, snacks & more!
Tuesday, November 17, 7pm, Victory Cafe, 581 Markham Street, Toronto.
Glen Downie was born in Winnipeg, worked in cancer care for many years in Vancouver, and now lives in Toronto. In 1999, he served as Writer-in-Residence at Dalhousie University’s Medical Humanities Program. He has published several collections of poetry including Loyalty Management, which won the 2008 Toronto Book Award. His most recent books are Monkey Soap and Left for Right.
Michael Fraser is a high school teacher, poet, and writer. He lives in Toronto, ON. He has been published in various national and international anthologies and journals. He won the 2005 Toronto Star Poem About Toronto contest. His manuscript, The Serenity of Stone, won the 2007 Canadian Aid Literary Award Contest and was published in 2008 by Bookland Press. His poem, “For Blanche,” won the 2009 Poemata “poem of the year” contest. He is the creator and former director of the Plasticine Poetry Series. His second poetry collection, To Greet Yourself Arriving, will be published in spring 2016.
Jeffrey Round is an award-winning writer, director, and playwright. He is the author of A Cage of Bones, The Honey Locust, The P-town Murders and the Lambda Award-winning Lake on the Mountain. Tightrope Books published his first collection of poetry, In the Museum of Leonardo da Vinci in 2014. He founded a multimedia theater company, Best Boys Productions, and his full-length stage play, Zebra, won the Gay and Lesbian Appeal’s “Right to Privacy Award” and was nominated for a Pink Trillium for Best Play. He founded the Church-Wellesley Review, Canada’s first print journal for LGBT creative writing. He lives in Toronto.
Elizabeth Ukrainetz writes prose and poetry. Her work has appeared in several anthologies and journals over the years, including The Malahat Review, Fiddlehead, and Grain. She’s published two books with Exile Editions, Baby, I Love You: Stories and Minor Assumptions. Tightrope Books released her second novel, The Theory of Light at Midnight, in 2015. Visit her website at eeukra.net
Join Tightrope Books at the Gladstone Hotel to celebrate the long-awaited publication of Marnie Woodrow’s second novel, Heyday, with readings by the author and guest reader Ron Schafrick, book signings, great music, door prizes and Tarot readings with the Tarot de Marseille from Tarot by Phoebe. Admission free.
Tuesday, September 15, 7pm, The Gladstone Hotel Melody Bar, 1214 Queen Street West, Toronto.
(Photo by Janette Piquette)
Marnie Woodrow is the acclaimed author of two short fiction collections, Why We Close Our Eyes When We Kiss, and In The Spice House, and a novel, Spelling Mississippi, a love story set in pre-Katrina New Orleans. Spelling Mississippi was short-listed for the amazon.ca First Novel Prize.
(Photo by Kurt Zubatiuk)
Phoebe Tsang is a violinist, wordsmith, yogi and cartomancer in love with the Tarot de Marseille. She grew up in England, in a household steeped in the Chinese divinatory arts. The author of a poetry collection Contents of a Mermaid’s Purse (Tightrope Books), she’s currently at work on a book of short fiction with assistance from the Canada Council for the Arts. Contact her for a Tarot reading at TarotbyPhoebe.com
Ron Schafrick was born and grew up in Welland, Ontario, and studied English and history at Carleton and Concordia before travelling to Korea where he taught English for nine years. Since returning to Canada his stories have appeared in a number of journals, both in Canada and abroad. His first collection of stories, Interpreters (Oberon Press, 2014) was generously supported by the Ontario Arts Council, the Toronto Arts Council, and the Canada Council for the Arts. His story, “Lovely Company,” is included in Best Gay Stories 2015.
How do we find our way back through the labyrinth, through the dark forest? With a thread, with a trail of breadcrumbs? Glen Downie traces a path back to the now dimly remembered pre-digital age using a ribbon—a typewriter ribbon. What was once a fishing line to the future now sits nestled in its decorated tin among other flea market finds, a remnant of an obsolete technology. In Democratic Beauties, a book of poetic and imaginative criticism with colour images, Downie sifts through the detritus of our rapidly changing consumer culture and decodes, for its surprisingly contemporary relevance, much that has already become perplexing and mysterious. In an uncommon blend of the lyric, the narrative and the visual, Downie invites consideration of what old tins, labels, and bits of found text tell us about women in the workforce, our relationship to technology, the values of Business Mind, and that which utility cannot long ignore—beauty.
Praise for Glen Downie’s Poetry
LOCAL NEWS (2011): Jangling with surreal vibrancy and suffused with a sinister edginess, many of these poems have a sting in the tail. … an insightful psychological intelligence runs through the book. … a fascinating collection—funny, dark, conflicted. —Miranda Pearson, Event
LEFT FOR RIGHT (2012): A “cabinet of mysteries” is … on display in Glen Downie’s Left for Right… Some of those mysteries are bizarre and surrealistic, while others are grounded in the familiar, seen in a fanciful light. … Downie’s lyric voice hits all the right notes in this accomplished, wide-ranging collection.—Barb Carey, Toronto Star
Glen Downie was born in Winnipeg, worked in cancer care for many years in Vancouver, and now lives in Toronto. In 1999, he served as Writer-in-Residence at Dalhousie University’s Medical Humanities Program. He has published several collections of poetry including Loyalty Management, which won the 2008 Toronto Book Award. His most recent books are Monkey Soap and Left for Right. glendownie.com