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Nisha Patel: 5 Alberta Poetry Books That Inspire Me

Nisha Patel is the City of Edmonton’s eighth Poet Laureate and the 2019 Canadian Individual Slam Champion. She co-founded a national queer femme South Asian artist collective, Maza Arts, and Moon Jelly House, a publishing house centering the work of marginalized poets. 

Her debut poetry collection, Coconut, hit the Read Alberta bestseller list before it had even released from Alberta indie publisher NeWest Press this April. It features vitally political, feminist poems for young women of colour, with bold portrayals of confession, hurt, and healing. 

Nisha is launching Coconut AND celebrating her birthday at a can’t-miss Zoom event on Monday, May 17 at 7pm. She will be joined by Bertrand Bickersteth, author of The Response of Weeds (NeWest Press 2020). Tickets are available by EventBrite. Books are available from Glass Bookshop and Shelf Life Books

In honour of National Poetry Month, we asked Nisha for a list of five Alberta poetry books that inspire her work and why:

Cocunut book coverNisha Patel: Where do we find inspiration to write? As a poet, I journey through history as much as I entice my dreams of love and future out of my imagination. Teenagers, who reluctantly entertain me in their classrooms over video chat, ask me for my digits: how many poems do I write? How long are they? How often? The answers I have are ephemeral: I write in infinities. My poems are invocations and prayer, my connection to the universe’s will. I have more poems I have yet to write than poems I have written. And the only advice I can give is to read poetry like your art depends on it (it does). 

Some of the most influential writers in my life are folks I would call mentors and friends, while others are celebrated authors I hope to meet.  Through Jordan Abel’s poetic instruction in research-based creation I learned that my history is more than a single story— – and a poem is just an entryway to a world of empathy as much as it is a platform for confrontation and forgiveness. Bertrand Bickersteth writes in history and presence, and lineage, and water, all connections to the earth through the self that lives in community.  From the performance and musicality of Titilope Sonuga, celebrated Edmontonian and worldstar, I learnt that the personal voice persists across mediums and generations if you let it. And from yet others, I learnt that poetry stems in the deep belief that the world can indeed become a better place, if only we allow ourselves to dream of love as much as we fight for justice in our words. 

Author photo of Nisha Patel

Jordan Abel

In this upcoming collection of poetry, text, and visual media from Griffin-winning author Jordan Abel, the author weaves a story that walks in and out of how the present is a composite of the past and the future at once. Profoundly personal anecdotes are paired with exposed history, bone, and blood, that teach readers that to know oneself is a journey that never, truly, ends.


Jordan Abel (CA)

Published: May 18, 2021 by McClelland & Stewart
ISBN: 9780771007903

This is How We Disappear
Titilope Sonuga

Edmonton’s own Titilope Sonuga, a dreamer and spoken word poet lauded across the world for her multidisciplinary work, launches her latest book of love, reflection, and meditation in the name of missing girls, resilient women, and hopeful futures. Sonuga’s work is a gift to read, taking readers gently and then all at once on journeys of healing and song. Many of these poems play like music in their tenor, proving once again that poetry moves us beyond the page alone.

This Is How We Disappear book cover

This is How We Disappear

by Titilope Sonuga

Published: April 26, 2019 by Write Bloody North

ISBN: 9780992024536

The Response of Weeds
Bertrand Bickersteth 

In this award-nominated debut collection from Calgary’s Bertrand Bickersteth, readers are asked to journey on a river with a history as complicated and fluid as the waters he writes about. From the Peace to the prairies, Bickersteth speaks to the often-overlooked history of Black Canadians, as well as our understandings of relationality to the waters around us. We are all connected in this collection whether we are ready to confront that truth or not.

Response of Weeds, The: A Misplacement of Black Poetry on the Prairies

Bertrand Bickersteth (CA)

Published: Apr 01, 2020 by NeWest Press
ISBN: 9781988732794

Dallas Hunt 

In this new poetry collection from Treaty 8 poet and professor Dallas Hunt, the author tells the personal and often heavy story of his family and his history in language that highlights resilience, love, and grief. The reader is invited to bear witness with compassion, and to be moved as the author is movedto anger and more. These are stories that will linger and last.


Dallas Hunt (CA)

Published: Apr 24, 2021 by Nightwood Editions
ISBN: 9780889713925

NDN Coping Mechanisms: Notes From the Field
Billy-Ray Belcourt

I cannot leave Billy-Ray Belcourt out of a discussion of impactful authors from Alberta. This author has had a personal and professional influence on my writing, and NDN Coping Mechanisms is a book that is proud of where it comes from, unwilling to compromise on being gentle, evocative, and stark all at once. These stories are philosophical, reflecting on relationships to others and to place, as well as insightful in its humour and wit. It is an essential, a staple, to the future of poetics in Alberta.

NDN Coping Mechanisms: Notes from the Field

Billy-Ray Belcourt (CA)

Published: Sep 03, 2019 by House of Anansi Press Inc
ISBN: 9781487005771

Nisha Patel author photo credit: Dwayne Martineau. Image provided courtesy of the author.