By Victor Enns
A fresh anthology by the Mennonite Literary Society, 29 Mennonite Poets, is a welcome new frame for stand-out Canadian poetry. For years, Canadian poets have battled the challenges of a national literary climate that almost universally favours prose. In the world of Mennonite literature, this has meant that, while celebrated novelists like Miriam Toews and David Bergen steadily rise in fame and influence, their poet colleagues must fight hard for exposure. Many exceptional poets and poems languish for years in small, highly localized collections, newspapers and magazines. However, thanks to this broad-reaching and deeply tasteful new anthology, collected by the publishing team behind Rhubarb magazine, there is finally one single volume to which invested readers of Canadian, Mennonite or just plain poetry can turn. 29 Mennonite Poets brings together important, culture-shaping poets from across Canada and the U.S., gathering into a communion a formidable battery of themes and styles. Di Brandt, Sally Ito, Audrey Poetcker, David Waltner-Toews, Julia Spicher-Kasdorf and two dozen others invite readers to run the gauntlet from questions of church and faith, sex and gender politics, and identity and racism, through to family life, nature, history, peace, violence, love, grief and more. Whether reading in the classroom, from the pulpit or in the bedroom, 29 Mennonite Poets is an invaluable new resource. To order, visit bit.ly/29-mennonite-poets.
—Reviewed by Beth Downey Sawatzky