The best Canadian anthologies for social justice, women, and the environment

Why am I passionate about this?

I love gathering poets together to celebrate different causes. In fact, I hosted a weekly literary radio show, Gathering Voices, for seven years and published a book/cd collection, Gathering Voice. Since 1972, I have been publishing poetry as well as editing anthologies that collect differing voices, as an activist and poet/editor: gathering voices for women, nature, and social justice is my passion. Given the immensity of suffering in the war on Ukraine, I was galvanized to gather together poems in solidarity with Ukrainians. The anthology, co-edited with Richard-Yves Sitoski, was launched 3 months after the invasion began: a huge endeavor that included 48 activist poets.


I edited...

Poems in Response to Peril: An Anthology in Support of Ukraine

By Penn Kemp, Richard-Yves Sitoski,

Book cover of Poems in Response to Peril: An Anthology in Support of Ukraine

What is my book about?

Canadian poets Penn Kemp and Richard-Yves Sitoski have co-edited Poets in Response to Peril, this anthology that brings together 61 poems by 48 Canadian activist poets responding to such current crises. 

These passionate, often heartbreaking, poems invoke sunflowers and broken earth; intimacy and grief; falling bombs and the fragility of flesh; AK-47s and a bride’s bouquet. Gathering voices in the white heat of the moment, this anthology couldn’t be more timely or more necessary. The book continues with an ongoing YouTube playlist of videos submitted by poets expressing solidarity with those afflicted by war (YouTube > Poets in Response to Peril). Profits go toward PEN Ukraine.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Worth More Standing: Poets and Activists Pay Homage to Trees

Penn Kemp Why did I love this book?

I love this anthology for its activism, all too necessary now! Poets, both settler and Indigenous, pay tribute to trees through reflections on the past, connections to the present, and calls for the protection of our future. In Worth More Standing: Poets and Activists Pay Homage to Trees, celebrated poets and activists pay homage to the ghosts of lost forests and issue a rallying cry to protect remaining ancient giants and restore uncolonized spaces. Themes of connection, ecology, grief, and protection are explored through poems about trees and forests written by an impressive number of influential poets.

By Christine Lowther (editor),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Worth More Standing as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Poets, both settler and Indigenous, pay tribute to trees through reflections on the past, connections to the present, and calls for the protection of our future.

In Worth More Standing: Poets and Activists Pay Homage to Trees, celebrated poets and activists pay homage to the ghosts of lost forests and issue a rallying cry to protect remaining ancient giants and restore uncolonized spaces.

Themes of connection, ecology, grief, and protection are explored through poems about trees and forests written by an impressive number of influential poets, several of whom have attended the recent Fairy Creek blockades and still others who…


Book cover of Heartwood: Poems for the Love of Trees

Penn Kemp Why did I love this book?

Trees are being cleared at a faster rate than any time in history! How can we possibly reverse this? How can poetry raise awareness of the value of our forests, worth more standing? This anthology, in its breadth and scope, offers readers hope, and prompts us to action on behalf of our trees. The anthology features an important introduction by Diana Beresford-Kroeger, author of The Global Forest and renowned expert on trees.

This anthology continues my theme of activism through poetry to raise awareness about our threatened environment. With over 100 poems and contributions from poets all over the country, Heartwood is a tribute to and celebration of the timeless impact of nature on Canadian poetry. “We must turn to the poets to expand dreams. This is because trees are the parents to the child deep within us. Forests bear silent witness to the tides of time upon which we will be judged. Trees are a gift of the galaxies, their fabric a web of stardust. The web holds nothing, a void from nowhere. This is the playground of the poets, the great plane of creation. The entire music of the universe is held in the trees. It is amplified again, again, and again within the forest. To listen to this music is to meditate. Taken alone, this is sufficient reason to make all forests sacred. And us accountable.” - Diana Beresford-Kroeger, author of The Sweetness of a Simple Life and The Global Forest: 40 ways trees can save us.

By Lesley Strutt (editor),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Heartwood as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.


Book cover of Resistance: Righteous Rage in the Age of #Metoo

Penn Kemp Why did I love this book?

This anthology is as powerful as it is still necessary: beware. Some pieces may be triggering, but they raised my awareness and empathy. These collected poems from writers across the globe declare one common theme: resistance. By exploring sexual assault and violence in their work, each writer resists the patriarchal systems of power that continue to support a misogynist justice system that supports abusers. In doing so, they reclaim their power and their voice. Resistance underscores the validity of all women’s experiences, and the importance of dignifying such experiences in voice, however that may sound. Because once survivors speak out and disrupt their pain, there is no telling what else they can do.

By Sue Goyette (editor),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Resistance as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Writers across the globe speak out against sexual assault and abuse in this powerful new poetry anthology, edited by Sue Goyette. These collected poems from writers across the globe declare one common theme: resistance. By exploring sexual assault and violence in their work, each writer resists the patriarchal systems of power that continue to support a misogynist justice system that supports abusers. In doing so, they reclaim their power and their voice. Created as a response to the Jian Ghomeshi case, writers including Joan Crate, Ashley-Elizabeth Best, and Beth Goobie are, as editor Sue Goyette explains, a "multitude, resisting." The…


Book cover of Voicing Suicide

Penn Kemp Why did I love this book?

Voicing Suicide is a collection of poems about suicide and its impact on lives. When my stepdaughter killed herself, I desperately needed an anthology like this. Decades later, the poems here still resonate and console me. The book arises out of a conviction that poetry offers an opportunity to understand some of the difficult aspects of suicide by allowing us to give it voice; through memory, and elegy, through an honest declaration of the draw of death. In poetry, we can enter the spaces suicide shapes around loss and sorrow and give it voice. Poems can speak to the loss of a loved one, to considering suicide, to struggling to make sense of suicide and poems can offer the words of those who have suicided. Although intense and sometimes painful, the book is honest, in moments delicate and tender. It offers an important exploration of suicide by writers who have been close to suicide and speak of it without disguise. Voicing Suicide also provides a short guide to relevant resources.

By Daniel G. Scott,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Voicing Suicide as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Voicing Suicide is a collection of poems about suicide and its impact on lives. The book arises out of a conviction that poetry offers an opportunity to understand some of the difficult aspects of suicide by allowing us to give it voice; through memory, and elegy, through an honest declaration of the draw of death. In poetry, we can enter the spaces suicide shapes around loss and sorrow and give it voice. Poems can speak to the loss of a loved one, to considering suicide, to struggling to make sense of suicide and poems can offer the words of those…


Book cover of On the Storm/In the Struggle: Poets on Survival

Penn Kemp Why did I love this book?

This anthology attempts to answer ongoing questions about struggle in poems that engaged, challenged, and comforted me. What might survival sound or look like to us in our daily lives? Is it loud, refusing silence, demanding action? Or quiet, interior? What does surviving feel like in the body, this long into the pandemic? What techniques have helped us exist, continue to bear witness, learn to live with illness, grief, and pain? Is survival the continual interrogation of inequity and oppressive structures? What happens when we get tired of fighting?

Survival may very well be a composite of things; both a tending to one’s inner life and to the processing of life events, as well as the will to act, retrieve momentum. It is also a plurality/multiplicity of practices that serve to keep us well—as persons and with respect to our communities, the ongoing project of social justice/civil rights, which involves everyone. How could we think of survival as a community, even as we are forced to survive apart? How does a survival against differ from a surviving with? Is it possible to frame the imagination as a mechanism of survival—the will, for example, to imagine living in a world where we can all thrive and be who we are? Is surviving always a matter of “resilience” or resistance, or can it also be the ability to dream of a world of peace?

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A Diary in the Age of Water

By Nina Munteanu,

Book cover of A Diary in the Age of Water

Nina Munteanu Author Of Darwin's Paradox

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Writer Ecologist Mother Teacher Explorer

Nina's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

This climate fiction novel follows four generations of women and their battles against a global giant that controls and manipulates Earth’s water. Told mostly through a diary and drawing on scientific observation and personal reflection, Lynna’s story unfolds incrementally, like climate change itself. Her gritty memoir describes a near-future Toronto in the grips of severe water scarcity.

Single mother and limnologist Lynna witnesses disturbing events as she works for the powerful international utility CanadaCorp. Fearing for the welfare of her rebellious teenage daughter, Lynna sets in motion a series of events that tumble out of her control with calamitous consequence. The novel explores identity, relationship, and our concept of what is “normal”—as a nation and an individual—in a world that is rapidly and incomprehensibly changing.

A Diary in the Age of Water

By Nina Munteanu,

What is this book about?

Centuries from now, in a post-climate change dying boreal forest of what used to be northern Canada, Kyo, a young acolyte called to service in the Exodus, discovers a diary that may provide her with the answers to her yearning for Earth’s past—to the Age of Water, when the “Water Twins” destroyed humanity in hatred—events that have plagued her nightly in dreams. Looking for answers to this holocaust—and disturbed by her macabre longing for connection to the Water Twins—Kyo is led to the diary of a limnologist from the time just prior to the destruction. This gritty memoir describes a…


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Interested in social justice, Canadians, and suicide?

10,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about social justice, Canadians, and suicide.

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