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Digital Subscriptions > Quill & Quire > November 2019 > Resisting and hustling

Resisting and hustling

Two politically charged poetry anthologies focus on marginalized communities and question prevailing attitudes and stereotypes

POETRY ANTHOLOGIES

Resisting Canada: An Anthology of Poetry

Nyla Matuk, ed. Signal Poetry

Hustling Verse: An Anthology of Sex Workers’ Poetry

Amber Dawn and Justin Ducharme, eds. Arsenal Pulp Press

LAST SUMMER, Vancouver-based poet Rita Wong was arrested alongside other environmental activists for blocking access to the Trans Mountain pipeline worksite. She received a 28-day prison sentence this August and was released in early September, having served 18 days. Wong is one of 28 poets featured in Resisting Canada: An Anthology of Poetry, edited by Toronto-based poet Nyla Matuk. The poems challenge readers “to judge and resist a statecraft that refuses to acknowledge past and present wrongs.” To that end, the timing of Wong’s egregious imprisonment seems sadly fitting.

The book opens with a rigorously intersectional introduction by Matuk. Before outlining her curatorial approach, she discusses subjects like “the paternalistic politics of recognition/ multiculturalism,” the centrality of land to the poetics of resistance, and how the Canadian state’s continuing colonization of Turtle Island encourages by extension “the ethno-nationalist Western settler project in Palestine.” Citing Frantz Fanon and the First Nations political scientist Glen Coulthard, Matuk writes that “recognition conferred to the colonized ‘without struggle or conflict’ is not real freedom.” This is not an anthology of cheeky bon mots about the scoundrels in Parliament, nor is it too interested in relitigating the nationalist project of Canadian literature; rather, Resisting Canada questions the integrity of Canadian statehood.

The contributors include a mix of early career and established poets divided into two sections, with Indigenous poets in the first section and non-Indigenous poets in the second. Both sections are varied in their poetic approaches to resistance, and reading the poems out of order also produces fortuitous harmonies. For instance, a private conversation seems to be taking place between Lee Maracle’s “Talking to the Diaspora” and Karen Solie’s “Bitumen,” two longer poems whose attentions linger on the unquantifiable costs and casualties of the pursuit of growth and so-called progress.

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