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These poems each have a set of guided questions, related videos that allow for deeper investigation, and suggested writing activities. We'll be adding more poems here soon!

Blank Sonnet

  1. What season of the year is the poem set in? How does that shape the mood of the poem?
  2. “Blank Sonnet” is part of a novel-in-verse set in the 1930s in rural Nova Scotia. What sensual details help you imagine this setting?
  3. George Elliott Clarke writes in his micro-interview: “But as a black kid growing up in Halifax, NS, it was the African-American poets — available in my local library and leftist bookstores — I took to quickest.” The two central colours represented in the poem are black and white. What...

Common Magic

  1. What kind of “magic” is happening in this poem?
  2. This poem has many vivid similes (a comparison using "like" or "as") and metaphors (a comparison that doesn't use "like" or "as"). Is there one that stands out to you? Why that one?
  3. The poet chose to use the second person in this poem. What effect does that have on your reading of the poem? How would your experience of the poem change if it were written in the third person?
  4. Who is the speaker in this poem? What do we know about them? Do you think they're...


  1. What is the mood of the speaker?
  2. What does the word echolalia mean? How might this relate to the poem?
  3. Repetition with variation is an important technique in music and poetry, but it is also a powerful tool in advertising. The speaker of the poem is very persuasive — are you persuaded?
  4. This poem is taken from Ian Williams’ book Personals, which plays with the form of personal ads. Do you think the voice of this poem is speaking from a position of vulnerability or strength?
  5. ...

From Red Doc

  1. What do we know about the two people having a conversation in this poem?
  2. What do we know about the person they are describing?
  3. How would you characterize the relationship of the two people talking? Close? Strained? Loving? Guarded?
  4. What tone do you feel in the poem? Does it change?
  5. If you were going to recite this poem, how would you indicate the shifts back and forth between two voices?
  6. Write a poem that is a dialogue between two people that runs together so that the reader...

From thirsty

  1. How does the speaker feel about the city?
  2. How are similes — “innocent as thresholds / and smashed night birds, lovesick, / as empty elevators” — used throughout to set the atmosphere of the poem?
  3. How does the poem portray the non-human life in the city — animals, even inanimate objects?
  4. The speaker wonders “would I have had a different life” if she hadn’t identified so closely with “broken things.” What do you think?
  5. If you were reciting this poem, what tone would you use? What does it mean...

i am graffiti

  1. In our Q&A with Leanne Simpson, she explains that she wrote this poem because, “I was watching the closing of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and I felt angry, not reconciled”  How do you feel the poem transforms that anger?
  2. How is the image of graffiti used in this poem?
  3. How does the poem suggest resilience and survival in the face of attempted erasure?
  4. How does the poet use repetition to suggest a continual re-emergence of the self?
  5. Do you feel that the mood of the poem is the...

I've Tasted My Blood

  1. What do you think the opening lines “If this brain’s over-tempered / consider that the fire was want / and the hammers were fists.” suggest about the experiences lived by the speaker?
  2. When the speaker says “I’ve tasted my blood too much / to abide what I was born to,” what do you think the speaker can’t abide?
  3. Why do you think the speaker's mother is mentioned? How does that stanza relate to the rest of the poem?
  4. Where is repetition used? What effect does that have on the mood of the poem?
  5. ...

mixed tape

  1. How does the structure of a mixed tape work to tell this poem’s story?
  2. How does “side a” differ in tone from “side b”?
  3. What images does the poet use to capture the cold atmosphere following the brother’s disappearance?
  4. How are the relationships among the family members described?
  5. If you were going to recite this poem, how would you voice its short lines? Where and for how long would you pause?
  6. Write a poem using song titles to tell a story.

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Opus 75, Sestina in B-flat for the Glockenspiel

1. Why is the girl in an empty classroom early in the morning? Literally, what is she doing?

2. What similes and metaphors are used in the poem? How do they help you understand what sort of person the girl is?

3. The poem uses a fair amount of enjambment, most notably in stanzas one and two. How does this poetic device affect the rhythm of lines? How might it support the poem’s theme?           

4. What do we know about the girl’s peers/classmates? How might the repeated images of “...


  1. This poem has a strong voice running through it. How would you describe the speaker’s mood?
  2. Look at some of the more unexpected things the speaker in the poem finds beautiful, like leaves in the gutter or salt stains on shoes. Why are these details more interesting than a more obvious example of beauty, like flowers, would be?
  3. What is the effect of the poet’s use of similes that offer more than one comparison of an image, such as “the sky, lit up like a question or / an applause meter” or “raindrops / like jewels...


  1. It's helpful to know that this poem is about Reena Virk. She was a teen of South Asian descent who was murdered by her peers in Saanich, British Columbia, in 1997. What part of her story is being told in this poem?
  2. How does the title inform the story? What does the word "Tide" make you think of in this context?
  3. What details from the environment are highlighted? What effect do those details have on the mood of the poem?
  4. Though a reader should never assume that a poem in the first person is written from...

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