When the always lovely Kerry Clare asked me to come up with a list of poetry books by Canadian women in honour of International Women's Day for 49th Shelf, I was thrilled. I love poetry by Canadian women! So I went to my shelf and pulled off about twenty titles, started to leaf through them and began to panic.
I panicked because I knew I wasn't allowed to have a list that long and I had to find a way to bring the number down to a manageable eight to ten.
I panicked because I had many books written by friends in that stack, knew I couldn't include them all, and worried over hurt feelings.
I panicked because I saw all the other poetry books on my shelf that I hadn't read yet.
I panicked because I thought of all the other poetry books that I don't even own that I haven't read yet, though I know I should.
I panicked because I thought I'm not nearly well-read enough to come up with a list that holds any authority.
And then I told myself to shut up, buck up, and get it done.
So instead of coming up with a list of poetry books by Canadian women that I proclaim to be the best or most important or about ________ (insert subject here), I decided to come up with a list of books that I keep returning to. I reread most of them again while writing the list (though not Elizabeth Bachinsky's God of Missed Connections--my copy went missing during the rehearsals for Initiation Trilogy. I need to get a new copy!) and while I was going through them, there were a few times when I would freeze on a poem. I could see how specific poems influenced Glossolalia and newer unpublished work.
I'll tell you a secret, dear reader. I'm a little nervous that these poets will pick up my book, read the poem(s) that their work influenced, be outraged, and call me a thief. I believe the connections are subtle and they were definitely unintentional, just great poetry doing what it often does: inspire and influence.
Not every collection has a clear line to a specific poem and I am curious to whether others will see the influence or not. I'm not going to be any clearer than this as I'm already feeling a little vulnerable mentioning it in this somewhat public space.
If you are so inclined, go read the list here and then come back and tell me which books by Canadian women you keep returning to.