Featured Reviews: 2020 Poetry Titles

Our 2020 poetry titles have received widespread praise. As we look ahead to Poetry Month in April and the launch of three more poetry collections, we celebrate Valerie Mason-John, Kat Cameron, E. Alex Pierce, and Angeline Schellenberg.

I AM STILL YOUR NEGRO, Valerie Mason-John

I Am Still Your Negro takes no prisoners. With sheer brilliance, Valerie Mason-John creates poems that burn Babylon and Rome; bring you to tears; make you shout hallelujah. Her voice is that of the lamenting mother, vengeful goddess, triumphant warrior, compassionate lover, a cool ruler with a pure heart. I am left with only one conclusion about this book: it is a tour de force.” Afua Cooper is Halifax’s Poet Laureate, a global Dub poet, and Black Studies professor at Dalhousie University

Included on CBC Books’s list of top Canadian poetry of the year in December 2020 as well as their reading list of 25 books by Black Canadian authors for Black History Month.

“[T]he wide range of Mason-John’s vision … traverses history, geography, and culture…. [Her poetry] is significant for its reappraisal of our collective past, which so often overlooks or writes over marginalized voices and experiences. [Mason-John is] explicit in calling out a hypocritical Canadian multiculturalism that pays lip service to inclusion while simultaneously entrenching systemic biases and processes that maintain a racist and exclusionary status quo.” Steven W. Beattie, Quill & Quire

“This poetry collection grabs you… Readers are confronted with the violence of the Black experience, from the haunting spectre of slavery to the current and ongoing terrorizing of the Black diaspora at the hands of the police. All of the messy, the painful, the enraging — what we’re conditioned to believe as shameful — is laid bare for the readers and brought to the fore. Many of these accounts traverse various places — whether in the U.K., the U.S., or Canada — and the bluntness and force of her words arrest you.” Junie Desil, Vancouver Sun

I Am Still Your Negro hauls us all up by the collar to face our shared complicity. A lot of damage has been inflicted through racism, sexism, greed. Mason-John opens some wounds in the hope of healing them.” Alice Major, author of Welcome to the Anthropocene


“[Cameron elucidates] aspects of living in Alberta: the boom-bust madnesses, the burns and floods, the Timmy Ho rednecks, the city scavengers and the sweet cricket fields…. Cameron’s poems simmer with a quiet ire amid their gentle songs.” Catherine Owen, Marrow Reviews

“The historical West was lawless and degenerate…. Kat Cameron is haunted by the experiences of those least among us, commoners of the Western prairies, especially women, and her searing work will not let us forget their grief.” Matt Sutherland, Foreword Magazine

“From prairie history to cultural considerations such as the Edmonton Oilers and Alberta bumper stickers, Cameron’s poems examine what occurs when life gets caught up against external forces, attempting to articulate the ghosts of what has been lost, and what may have been set aside, writing out a confluence of women from Alberta to Wyoming, through boom and bust, through hope and loss and sadness and grief. These are characters that fight to remain standing, something that, at times, is either all or more than they are capable of.” rob mclellan

“In Ghosts Still Linger, Kat Cameron blurs the boundaries between the past and the present. The blurring is lyrical, rich with ‘luminous echoes’ that make visible, like radar, the contours of grief and history. Her language—exquisite and elegiac—is another source of light: it reanimates the lives of Western icons like Annie Oakley, and it makes visible the endangered beauty of the Canadian prairies. This is a marvellous and memorable book.” Eduardo C. Corral, author of Guillotine


Pierce creates movements in the rhythm of the estuary of Sable River, where she grew up, opening, closing up, floating and drowning as consistently as moon directs the tides…. Hers is a poetry of attentiveness, reaching back through the years and into the future without sentimentality…” Joan Shillington, Freefall Magazine

“We are immersed in Pierce’s baptismal font of words, held deeply, only to emerge into a new air, made over, revived by a poetry of the rarest beauty. ‘The Creek’ surely is a masterpiece, a world poem created from the cross currents of the heart and the gold-brown waters of the Sable River.” Harry Thurston, author of Keeping Watch at the End of the World

FIELDS OF LIGHT AND STONE, Angeline Schellenberg

Schellenberg’s collection is a love letter to these four people [grandparents] whose lives were so completely intertwined with hers.” Kyla Neufeld, Prairie Books Now

“Schellenberg’s best poems don’t offer easy answers, and do a good job of letting the question lie.” Jonathan Ball, Winnipeg Free Press

“While most of the book’s poems are based on personal connections Schellenberg built with her grandparents over the years, she also explores topics of their ancestry, immigration, and courtship…. Some of the poems touch on the poignant theme of loss…” Brenda Sawatzky, Niverville Citizen

Fields of Light and Stone excavates the relationships between Schellenberg’s Mennonite grandparents….The book moves among various styles and source materials as through sheaves of distinct documents…” Carl Watts, Canadian Literature

“I was immediately attracted to its contents because of the illustration on the jacket (Last Embrace by Miriam Rudolph)…. Between the covers are poems that sing of love and loss…. Schellenberg’s playful use of words is evident throughout…. This book will resonate with those writing memoirs or translating old letters and will perhaps inspire others to do so. Not that long ago, I sat with the boxes of correspondence my parents had left behind after they passed away. Many of the thoughts Schellenberg expresses in her creative, poetic style went through my mind at that time and they linger still. She has left a tribute to her grandparents that will stand the test of time.” Elfrieda Neufeld Schroeder, Mennonite History

“In Fields of Light and Stone, Angeline Schellenberg turns to old love letters, datebooks, sermon notes, archived genealogies, and her own memory in a quest to understand her biological and spiritual heritage. Her search uncovers a treasure trove of courage and betrayal, love and loss. Through the alchemy of honed poetic skills and unflinching insight, her findings are transformed into evocative and personal poems that honour beloved grandparents and will echo long in the minds and memory of her readers.” Sarah Klassen

“Angeline Schellenberg performs acts of remembrance that are all the more poetic for being scrupulously plainspoken, like their subjects. As I read these lyrical, earthbound gestures, Denise Levertov’s lines about her own ancestors, who ‘prayed with the bench and the floor’ kept coming back to me. Fields of Light and Stone is a series of love letters to the dead that makes its own eloquence out of ‘what was at hand,’ musical like a western meadowlark, ordinary like a well-worn burlap sack—an elegy to cherish.” Don McKay