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Canadian Poets Among the Bestselling Rhymers, Beats and Others as Country Celebrates Poetry Month

The Prophet the Number One Bestselling Book of Poetry, BookNet Canada Finds

TORONTO April 1, 2006 - Canadian poets are among the biggest sellers in poetry in Canada, outselling such classics as Walt Whitman, T.S. Eliot and the beat poets, BookNet Canada has found. BookNet Canada is the not-for-profit agency that gathers sales and supply chain data for the publishing industry.

Philosopher Kahlil Gibran shares top ten status with murdered rapper Tupac Shakur in terms of sales, though The Prophet takes the lead and is the country’s number one bestselling poetry title.

While BookNet Canada doesn’t reveal sales figures, Canadian poet Al Purdy’s Rooms for Rent in the Outer Planets is second only to The Prophet, a mainstay of wedding ceremonies, funerals and teen angst years.

Rooms for Rent is the only volume of Al Purdy’s selected poetry currently in print, and includes three decades worth of insightful, disturbing and thought-provoking work, selected by Purdy himself with help from Sam Solecki, the editor of a book of collected Purdy prose.

Irving Layton’s A Wild Peculiar Joy is number eight and The Best of Robert Service is number 12. Layton, who died early this year at age 93, was one of Canada’s most highly celebrated and prolific poets, having authored over forty books of poetry. He was twice in the running for the Nobel Prize for Literature. Robert Service was born in 1874 in England, but lived in Canada intermittently and wrote his first book of poetry in Whitehorse, Yukon. He was a correspondent for the Toronto Star during the Balkan Wars of 1912-13 and an ambulance driver and correspondent in France during World War I. He returned to Canada during WWII, before ultimately leaving for France.

Other top 20 poets include Oprah favorite Maya Angelou, Homer, Dante and John Milton. Tupac Shakur’s The Rose that Grew From Concrete, at number six, outsells The Iliad and The Divine Comedy but not Beowulf and Gilgamesh, epic poems dating to the earliest centuries of civilization. Beowulf was resuscitated in 2000 when Nobel Prize winning poet Seamus Heaney released a new translation.


The Top 20 Books of Poetry in Canada are:

  1. The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran
  2. Rooms for Rent in the Outer Planets by Al Purdy
  3. Beowulf by Seamus Heaney
  4. Irish Blessings by Ashely Shannon
  5. Gilgamesh by Stephen Mitchell
  6. The Rose That Grew from Concrete by Tupac Shakur
  7. The Iliad by Homer
  8. Amazing Peace by Maya Angelou
  9. A Wild Peculiar Joy by Irving Layton
  10. Love Poems by Anonymous
  11. Reflections of a Peacemaker by Mattie Stepanek
  12. The Best of Robert Service by Robert Service
  13. Good Poems by Garrison Keillor
  14. The Divine Comedy Vol. 1 by Dante Alighieri
  15. Good Poems for Hard Times by Garrison Keillor
  16. The Iliad by Homer
  17. Break, Blow, Burn by Camille Paglia
  18. The Ode Less Travelled by Stephen Fry
  19. The Odyssey by Homer
  20. Paradise Lost by John Milton

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About BookNet Canada
Created and supported by the Canadian book industry, BookNet Canada is the not-for-profit agency dedicated to technology innovation in the Canadian book industry It provides services and develops standards and certification in areas including business-to-business electronic commerce, bibliographic data, and analysis of point-of-sales and other industry data.


About Poetry Month
Established in Canada in April 1999 by the League of Canadian Poets, National Poetry Month brings together schools, publishers, booksellers, literary organizations, libraries, and poets across the country to celebrate poetry and its vital place in Canada’s culture. Communities and businesses participate through readings, festivals, book displays, and other events.