A Book of Poetry: Picks for the 2022 TPL Reading Challenge

March 22, 2022 | Jennifer B

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TPL Reading Challenge 2022

I'm really glad that poetry is a featured category in this year's TPL Reading Challenge. I've been a fan my whole life and during the pandemic, I've found myself seeking out poetry more than ever. Don't let yourself be intimidated! There are so many different types of poems and poets out there. Poetry is for everyone.


Bless the daughter

Bless the Daughter Raised By a Voice in her Head: Poems by Warsan Shire

I highly recommend checking out this electric, brilliant collection from Warsan Shire. Shire is a Somali British writer born in Nairobi who served as London's first Young Poet Laureate from 2013-14. Shire has collaborated with Beyoncé and written the short film Brave Girl Rising. Her poem "Home" is essential reading. 


Alligator Pie

Alligator Pie by Dennis Lee, illustrations by Frank Newfeld

I also want to recommend my forever favourite poet, Dennis Lee. If you haven't revisited this Canadian classic in a while, now is the time! Listen to Lee read the title poem, among others, at the Children's Poetry Archive.  


Staff recommendations

Here are some recommendations from TPL staff for this category.

Deaf republic

Deaf Republic by Ilya Kaminsky

This parable in poems opens when a soldier from an invading army kills a deaf boy in the town square. All the townspeople go deaf, refusing to hear the occupying authorities, communicating only with each other by sign language. The poetry in this book is lyrical and powerful - deafness, resistance, survival - presented like a play and punctuated with sign language illustrations. Poet Ilya Kaminsky, who is hard of hearing, grew up in the former Soviet city of Odessa, now Ukraine. He moved to the United States as a refugee with his family when he was a teenager.

Lately, I've been thinking a lot about the book's opening poem: "We Lived Happily During the War."

You can read an online excerpt, presented with animated illustrations and narration by the author, in this multimedia feature from The New Yorker.

—Winona, Senior Services Specialist


Duct-taped roses

Duct-Taped Roses by Billeh Nickerson

Billeh Nickerson is one of the more refreshing and innovative voices in Canadian poetry. This sublime text examines the personal, the community and the just out of reach in a tactful and insightful way. This is the kind of book that I just want to hug after reading it.

—Cameron, Senior Branch Head


Postscripts from a burning city

Postscripts from a City Burning by Sam Cheuk

Sam Cheuk now lives in Vancouver, but was a long-time Toronto resident. In 2019, he returned home to Hong Kong for a visit and to see his mother. That visit had a profound effect upon him, as is reflected in this work. This compelling and enriching collection of poems reflects the conflicting and sometimes overwhelming emotions of the author as he witnessed his home city undergo yet another life-changing crisis.

—Joel, Clerk-Caretaker


Washes prays

Washes, Prays by Noor Naga

This is beautiful and just the right amount of challenging in both language and content. I just started, so I may have more to say in a week or two. Noor also lived in Toronto for a time!

—Charlotte, Librarian


How to be drawn

How to Be Drawn by Terrance Hayes

I've been enjoying the poetry of Terrance Hayes, particularly this collection. Hayes is an African-American poet and visual artist who uses a variety of styles and voices to talk about identity, and how we are seen--with particular resonance around how African-Americans are seen and "drawn." Very energetic, funny, troubling, and dynamic poems.

—Joel, Librarian



Dearly by Margaret Atwood

Released in 2020, this is Atwood's first collection of poetry in over ten years - and is exceptionally suited to the strange and trying times we find ourselves in. Blending very real reflections on life and loss in our present time with the natural world and even the mythical, Atwood's poetry transitions the reader seamlessly between melancholy, wry humour, and a deep humanity rooted in our connection to this earth and each other. All put forth with the unflinching, sharp wit we have come to expect from her, she demonstrates that among humans and animals alike decay and death can invite new beginnings in both expected and unexpected ways.

—Heather, Public Service Assistant


The crown ain't worth much

The Crown Ain't Worth Much by Hanif Willis-Abdurraqib

Even though many of his poems appeared as a block of text with no discernable line breaks, there was beautiful flow throughout each of the poems. Even the titles, long enough to be full sentences pull you right into each piece. The writing is accessible, drawing on popular culture to talk about race, trauma and nostalgia.

—Marta, Librarian


Feels wayz

Feel Ways: A Scarborough Anthology edited by Adrian De Leon, Téa Mutonji, & Natasha Ramoutar

A great collection of poetry crafted by local poets both established and up and coming. This collection provides an opportunity to understand a diverse and often misunderstood area of the city directly from its people.

—Des'Ree, Librarian



Rouge: Poems by Adrian De Leon

Really, I can't say it any better than the description on our website but I heard Adrian perform one of these poems in person and it was powerful, emulating the sound of the TTC subway it was inspired by in rhythm and tone.

—Katherine, Library Assistant


More Staff Recommendations


Additional Poetry Resources from TPL 


Young voices magazine 2021

Young Voices Magazine

Young Voices magazine is full of writing and art created and selected by Toronto youth age 12-19. It includes art, photography, comics, stories, poems and writing. Young Voices has been published annually for over fifty years and is available online and in print. The deadline for the 2022 edition of the Young Voices magazine is March 27, 2022. Please send us your work!


Toronto poetry map

Toronto Poetry Map

The Toronto Poetry Map originated in a collaboration between the library and the city's fourth Poet Laureate, George Elliott Clarke. It provides a unique way to explore Toronto through poems associated with the city’s neighbourhoods, intersections and landmarks.


French Recommendations

If you like to read in French, check out the list of recommended books for "la poésie" - there's a mix of books, ebooks and digital audiobooks to try!


Recommendations from the Facebook Group

These are just some of the suggestions from our Facebook TPL Reading Challenge 2022 discussion group. You can read all of the responses in the original post even if you don't have a Facebook account. Thank you to everyone for your excellent recommendations!


Any and all poetry by:


In April, during National Poetry Month, we'll be discussing "a book of poetry" and "a book about solitude" during our TPL Reading Challenge Online Discussion. All are very welcome to join us! Register now or tune in on April 20 at 7:00 pm

If you have further recommendations for "a book of poetry", please share in the comments below! 


Edited March 22: added French Recommendations