Life in Canada

10 Best Canadian Poetry Collections by the Most Influential Poets in Canada



Poetry has evolved beyond those corny rhymes that had to be written in iambic pentameter in order for you to pass your English class. Though now it seems more like a rite of passage, today’s poets focus more on the words, the emotions and the message they want to share.

Thanks to platforms like Instagram and Tumblr, people have been able to communicate how they really feel in short and concise little poems. In this era of poetry’s ever-growing popularity, Canada is blessed to be home to some of the most influential poets and their collections. 

1. Love Her Wild; Atticus

  • Awards and Recognition: New York Times Best Selling Author
  • GoodReads Rating: 4.02 / 5
  • Other Publications: 
    • The Dark Between Stars
    • The Truth About Magic
    • Audiobooks read by the author
      • Love Her Wild
      • The Dark Between the Stars
      • The Truth About Magic
    • Naked on Cashmere (podcast)

Love Her Wild is Atticus’s debut book of poems which is divided into three sections, each focusing on a specific theme: Love, Her and Wild. The poet wanted to highlight in his book the themes of Love, of the simple moments in life, as well as being wild and free as one’s self. Soon after releasing his first book, he published another two collections. Atticus has built an international brand and continues to influence the best in people. 

About Atticus

Atticus is a poet originally from British Columbia who has made a name for himself by remaining completely anonymous. Wearing a mask for each of his public appearances, he wants to make sure that he can always say what he means, rather than say what it is that he thinks he should mean. Currently living in California, Atticus continues to build an empire of followers who turn to him for inspiration and for comfort. 

Starting his own product line, poetry and inspirational podcast, as well as partnering up with winc, inkbox and other businesses, Atticus has branched out into the world in the hopes of sharing his words with those who might need them. His popularity has grown so much in so little time that Atticus is now the poet whose quotes and poems are tattooed the most. 

2. the sun and her flowers; Rupi Kaur

  • Awards and Recognition: New York Times Best Selling Author
  • GoodReads Rating: 4.17 / 5
  • Other Publications: 

the sun and her flowers, is the second poetry book from renowned Ontario poet Rupi Kaur. This collection celebrates love in all of its forms by thinking back on past relationships and enjoying present ones. Sharing her own personal stories allows her readers to connect with her as well as her words. With a little more love and understanding, people from all walks of life resonate with the wisdom of this young poet. 

About Rupi Kaur

Rupi Kaur is both a poet and illustrator. Using art in a variety of forms to express herself, Kaur also dabbles in photography as an additional means of artistic inspiration and expression. Since her poetry has been translated into more than 30 languages and has sold more than a million copies, she works hard to make sure that her passion and messages are understood.

In all of her work, Kaur tries to convey the themes of revolution, healing, loss, migration, love, and femininity. 

With a strong following on Instagram and Facebook, Kaur continues to keep her audience engaged on and off the page. 

3. 77 Fragments of a Familiar Ruin; Thomas King

  • Awards and Recognition: Order of Canada, Governor General’s Award in 2014 
  • GoodReads Rating:  4.28 / 5
  • Other Publication: 
    • Truth & Bright Water
    • The Back of the Turtle
    • Green Grass, Running Water
    • The Inconvenient Indian

Pooling from his usual source of inspiration, 77 Fragments of Familiar Ruin is a compilation of poems that explore society, mythology, politics and current events. In a juxtaposition of the themes throughout the collection, the readers can easily follow the threads and find common ground between them.

The 77 poems serve as a reminder to all of those in North America, of what has happened, and what can still be done. By mixing both reality and mythology, King inspires hope in his readers and incites them to action.

About Thomas King

Living in Ontario, Thomas King is a premier Native public figure who has both lived in Canada and in the United States. Channelling his focus in North America, King was also the first Aboriginal person to give a Massey Lecture. 

With 2 non-fiction books, 6 novels and 2 collections of short stories, King has received multiple awards for his writing. Finally expanding into poetry, King remains true to himself and to the messages he wants to share with others. 

4. Depression and Other Magic Tricks; Sabrina Benaim

  • Awards and Recognition: Over 5,000,000 views for her performance poetry
  • GoodReads Rating:  3.80 / 5
  • Other Publications: 
    • N/A

Depression and Other Magic Tricks is the young spoken word poet’s first collection. Benaim brings to light the reality of living with mental health issues. She showcases love and family, struggles and triumph, as well as the need to celebrate daily life and the act of living. 

In a call to action to others and to herself, Depression and Other Magic Tricks is the honest account of someone who is learning to recognize the signs of their mental health issues and to learn how to cope with them, regardless of how easy or difficult it can be from one day to the next.

About Sabrina Benaim

Sabrina Benaim is a performance poetry star and has acquired recognition for her presence on Youtube and Button Poetry TV. 

Famous for her poem Explaining my Depression to my Mother, this Ontario millennial continues to live her life honestly. She writes her heart out and allows her fans to join her on her daily journey thanks to her active Instagram account, and other social media pages. 

5. Book of Longing; Leonard Cohen

  • Awards and Recognition: Prince of Asturias Award 
  • GoodReads Rating: 4.03 / 5
  • Other Publication: 
    • Book of Mercy
    • Beautiful Losers
    • Stranger Music
    • The Favourite Game

Book of Longing is the newest addition to Cohen’s repertoire since 1984. Continuing the work and the themes he had explored in Book of Mercy, Book of Longing focuses on the erotic, the playful and the provocative. 

Drawing from his time spent in a monastery, Cohen conveys his emotions with timeless phrasing, and sometimes even a little dark humour.  

About Leonard Cohen

Leonard Cohen is well known throughout the world as a gifted songwriter. Finding his first love in poetry, he drifted towards songwriting as another way to express his inspiration. Building a life for himself in Montreal, his influence can still be felt today as artists immortalize and pay tribute to his legacy with their own artistic styles.

Controversial at times, Cohen had an unmistakable knack for finding the words his audience often didn’t know they needed to hear. 

6. Autobiography of red; Anne Carson

  • Awards and Recognition: Lannan Literary Award, Pushcart Prize, and the Griffin Poetry Prize
  • GoodReads Rating:  4.32 / 5
  • Other Publication: 
    • An Oresteia
    • The Beauty of the Husband
    • Nox
    • Red Doc
    • Float

In this novel-length poem, an Autobiography of Red depicts the re-creation of the Tenth Labor of Herakles in ancient Greek mythology. By presenting this heartwarming love story in the context of mythology, it allows the reader to come to the same realization as that of the main character. 

With themes of love, sexual longing, desire and despair, it’s easy for readers to latch onto Carson’s work, regardless of the length that might seem daunting at first. 

An Autobiography of Red is a “moving portrait of an artist coming to terms with the fantastic accident of who he is”. (GoodReads)

About Anne Carson

Anne Carson is not only a writer and poet but, is also a remarkable translator of classics. Her works are not only entertaining but have also enhanced the respective fields in which they belong.

Born in Ontario, she pursued her education and her work where she felt at home. Acquiring numerous awards in addition to those she acquired for her poetry, Carson remains a notable force in the literary community.

7. Mind Platter; Najwa Zebian

  • Awards and Recognition: TED Talk speaker
  • GoodReads Rating:  4.09 / 5
  • Other Publications: 
    • The Nectar of Pain
    • Spark of Phoenix
    • Stories of the Soul (podcast)

Mind Platter is the first of 3 poetry books from this Lebanese-Canadian poet. 

Drawing from her own experiences, Zebian explores the themes of love, friendship, hurt, inspiration, respect, wholeheartedness, motivation, integrity and honesty through her collected poems. In order to start and complete her own personal growth, Zebian has used her words as a way of healing she hopes her audience might use as well. 

About Najwa Zebian

As an educator, speaker, activist and author, Zebian uses her words in any way possible to inspire others towards growth, change and healing. She found a passion for words as a young girl in the hopes of finding a place she could call home. She would later come to find that it would be somewhere where both the heart and soul can finally be at peace. 

She continues to collaborate with companies such as Google, RBC, Kohl’s and Cirque du Soleil in order to widen the impact she may have.

8. The Circle Game; Margaret Atwood

  • Awards and Recognition: Governor General’s Award for English Language Poetry or Drama, Winner of the E.J. Pratt Medal
  • GoodReads Rating:  3.84 / 5
  • Other Publication: 
    • Double Persephone
    • Morning in the Burned House
    • The Door

As her second collection of poetry, following Double Persephone, Atwood cemented her standing as a poet with The Circle Game. Using classical tropes and myths to map out her themes, Atwood continues to further dramatize her poetry. 

The Circle Game focuses heavily on contrasts, and how this opposition affects humans and nature. Relating art, life, literature and love, Atwood ensures that both writer and reader are constantly aware of the opposites. The contrast is meant not as a polarization, but rather of a duality. To have opposing presences not necessarily against each other, but rather balancing each other. 

The Circle game furthers the work that Atwood had started in Double Persephone and strengthens the points she has evoked with her words and her themes.

About Margaret Atwood

Internationally recognized, Margaret Atwood’s work has been published in more than 45 countries. Getting much attention from the TV adaptation of her book The Handmaid’s Tale, Atwood’s popularity did not start there. 

Having traveled all over the country, and the world, Atwood has drawn inspiration from her own life in order to write her books. Allowing herself no constraint in regards to what she can write, Atwood has published anything from poetry to graphic novels to children’s books to fiction literature. She has dazzled, shocked and moved audiences from all ages and walks of life, as even her most dystopian fiction rings true with a grain of possibility. 

At the young age of 81, Atwood continues to write and to contribute in whichever way she can to the literary community she has so clearly made her home.

9. Because; Joshua Mensch

  • Awards and Recognition: Shortlisted for the Governor General’s Award
  • GoodReads Rating: 4.45 / 5
  • Other Publications: 
    • N/A

Because is the first and only work of the poet. It is a lyric memoir that recounts the poet’s own experience of sexual abuse as a child. This book-length narrative poem divulges the tale of a trusted adult who takes advantage of those who were put in his care. 

Through the ever-changing memory of a child, Because becomes a compassionate account of this heart wrenching story. This interwoven narrative will capture the hearts of its readers, and provide comfort to those who relate. 

Both complex and powerful, Because remains a story that needs to be shared, and one that needs to be read. 

About Joshua Mensch

Joshua Mensch grew up on the East Coast of Canada in Nova Scotia. A multi-disciplinary artist, Mensch is a visual artist, as well as a poet and the editor of the B O D Y literary journal. 

He has also published other poems online through the following sites and journals: Poetry Daily, Plume, Brick and The Collagist. 

Mensch currently lives in Prague and continues his numerous artistic passions.

10. River Woman; Katherena Vermette

  • Awards and Recognition: Governor General’s Award
  • GoodReads Rating: 4.43 / 5
  • Other Publication: 
    • A Girl Called Echo
    • The Girl and the Wolf
    • The Break
    • North End Love Songs

River Woman is one of the many books from metis artist Katherena Vermette, but only her second collection of poetry. As a way of repairing trauma and reclaiming her own, Vermette chooses to focus on “love as postcolonial action.” With poems that transcend the fragility of time, each of her pieces is divided into one of four sections in order to better explore the themes that the poet offers her audience.

As her poetry returns to similar themes as her previous works, Vermette does not shy away from finding new ways of returning what has been lost. Both the writer and the reader learn to trust once more with the help of love.

About Katherena Vermette

From Treaty One territory in Manitoba, this poet, writer and artist has won countless awards for her work. She uses a variety of platforms in order to share her thoughts, teachings and messages with as many people as she can. She also co-wrote and co-directed the short documentary, this river (NFB), which added yet another award to her ever-growing collection. 

About the author

Kyla Heyming
K.P. Heyming is a bilingual Canadian writer with deep roots, a full heart, and a yearning to set her soul in ink and paper. Fiercely driven to ensnare all of life's little moments, she works tirelessly for her passion so that she may someday lead others to find their own meaning in her words. Follow her on social media @kpheyming for more of her writing. Read more

Was this article helpful?

Leave a comment