Held every year on March 21, World Poetry Day celebrates one of humanity’s most treasured forms of cultural and creative expression. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) first adopted the dedicated day in 1999 with the aim of supporting linguistic diversity.
In honour of World Poetry Day, some of OCAD U’s top creative writers have shared the poems that continue to inspire their own writing.
Associate Professor Catherine Black is the Chair of OCAD U’s Creative Writing program, which she helped to develop. Her writing practice includes prose poetry and other hybrid forms such as lyric essays and experimental fiction. Professor Black’s work interrogates the construction of memory, the intersections of imagination and reality, motherhood and artistic practice, and the dissociative aspects of grief, trauma and addiction. In 2019, her book of prose, Bewilderness was published by Guernica Editions.
alphabet (1981) by Inger Christensen
A lament, a warning, an ode to the planet, alphabet is a long, sectioned poem underpinned by the Fibonacci sequence, also known as the Golden Ratio. The text emerges slowly as an elegy, a veiled forewarning of nuclear threat and climate catastrophe, but it unfurls as a nearly ecstatic chronicling of the beauty of the natural world. The scope of this poem is astonishing. It flits from macro to micro in a single stanza or a single line and speaks so directly to this moment in time.
Lecturer in the Faculty of Arts & Science Ian Keteku is a poet, musician and journalist. Born in Calgary and raised by parents from Ghana, Keteku’s work follows the lineage of ancient African storytellers by paying homage to the past by revisiting lessons from previous generations. Keteku is a devout practitioner of Afrofuturism, a philosophy that projects the Black experience into a celestial, technological future.
Bless the Daughter Raised by a Voice in Her Head: Poems (2022) by Warsan Shire
Warsan Shire is a celebrated Somali-British poet who is known for her collaboration with singer-songwriter Beyoncé on the album, Lemonade and the musical film Black Is King. Shire’s latest book of poetry Bless the Daughter Raised by a Voice in Her Head foregrounds themes of migration, womanhood, trauma and resilience. The poetry collection is inspired by the writer’s life as well as popular culture and news headlines.
Interim Vice-President, Research & Innovation and Dean of Graduate Studies, Dr. Ashok Mathur is a South Asian (Indo-Canadian) cultural organizer, writer and visual artist. Dr. Mathur is the author of a volume of poetic prose titled, Loveruage; a dance in three parts (1994), a long poem titled The First White Black Man (2017) as well as three novels. A long-time advocate of critical race theory as it pertains to the postsecondary institution, he works continuously to address radical forms of equity and Indigenous knowledge in his creative and professional practices.
Black Markets, White Boyfriends, and Other Acts of Elision (1991) by Ian Iqbal Rashid
The Heat Yesterday (1995) by Ian Iqbal Rashid
Ian Iqbal Rashid is an eclectic writer who works in poetry as well as television. His poetry books, Black Markets, White Boyfriends, and Other Acts of Elision and The Heat Yesterday, are both wonderful examples of lives lived in the contexts of racialization and sexual identity, mediated by realities of class and urban living. Most recently, he has been critically acclaimed for his role on the writing team for the HBO serial Sort Of, demonstrating his versatility and range of writing. Rashid began his career in Toronto as an arts journalist, critic, curator and events programmer, particularly focused on South Asian diasporic, Muslim and LGBTQ2S+ cultural work.
Rashid will be featured in an event this spring presented by SiteLines, a partnership between the Faculty of Art and the Office of Research & Innovation at OCAD University and the Canada Council for the Arts. The initiative promotes and supports the creative work of BIPOC artists and writers.
Phoebe Wang is a Writing and Learning Consultant for English Language Learners for OCAD University’s Writing & Learning Centre. She is also a first-generation Chinese-Canadian writer who is currently the Writer in Residence at the University of New Brunswick. Her debut collection of poetry, Admission Requirements (2017) was shortlisted for the Gerald Lampert Memorial Award, the Pat Lowther Memorial Award and nominated for the Trillium Book Award. Her most recent poetry collection Waking Occupations will be released later this month by Penguin Random House Canada.
How She Read: Poems (2019) by Chantal Gibson
Chantal Gibson’s debut book of poetry, How She Read is a collection of textured and innovative writing that Wang recommends to any reader who feels limited or outraged by the violence rendered upon racialized bodies. Drawing from grade-school vocabulary spellers, literature, history, art and popular culture, this publications shows the insidious longevity of imperialist ideas and the ways in which they are embedded in everyday things including storybooks, coloured pencils, paintings and postage stamps. Gibson, who is based in Vancouver, is also a practicing visual artist. Her poetry brings in acts of mark-making and redaction. How She Read shows how acts of critique and resistance can be so creatively abundant.