Annal: 2011 Governor General's Literary Award for Poetry

Results of the Governor General's Literary Award in the year 2011.

Book:Killdeer (Phil Hall)

Killdeer

Phil Hall

These are poems of critical thought that have been influenced by old fiddle tunes. These are essays that are not out to persuade so much as ruminate, invite, accrue. Hall is a surruralist (rural and surreal), and a terroir-ist (township-specific regionalist). He offers memories of, and homages to—Margaret Laurence, Bronwen Wallace, Libby Scheier, and Daniel Jones, among others. He writes of the embarrassing process of becoming a poet, and of his push-pull relationship with the whole concept of home. His notorious 2004 chapbook essay “The Bad Sequence” is also included here, for a wider readership, at last. It has been revised. (Its teeth have been sharpened.) In this book, the line is the unit of composition; the reading is wide; the perspective personal: each take a give, and logic a drawback. In Fred Wah’s phrase, what is offered here is “the music at the heart of thinking.”

Book:Cosmographia: A Post-Lucrecian Faux Micro-Epic

Cosmographia: A Post-Lucrecian Faux Micro-Epic

Michael Boughn

Butt out, Dante. Move over, Milton. Piss off, Pound. Outta the way, Olson. Here comes Cosmographia: A Post-Lucrecian Faux Micro-Epic, the latest ground breaking incursion into the ever popular spectacle of the Epic Poem. Tracking the classic epic journey through the unfolding cosmos toward home, though occasionally disoriented by milling cows with similar intent, Cosmographia teems with nasty political invective, scurrilous spiritual slander, and endless exploitive sexual innuendo. Taking as its muses Cab Calloway and Charles Mingus, by the time it gets home, Cosmographia has subjected the epic to unspeakable acts in the name of linguistic rectumtude, dada terrorism, and sporadic ejaculations of self-expression. Oh yeah!—poetry will never be the same.

Book:Discovery Passages

Discovery Passages

Garry Thomas Morse

With breathtaking virtuosity, Garry Thomas Morse sets out to recover the appropriated, stolen and scattered world of his ancestral people from Alert Bay to Quadra Island to Vancouver, retracing Captain Vancouver’s original sailing route. These poems draw upon both written history and oral tradition to reflect all of the respective stories of the community, which vocally weave in and out of the dialogics of the text.

A dramatic symphony of many voices, Discovery Passages uncovers the political, commercial, intellectual and cultural subtexts of the Native ­language ban, the potlatch ban and the confiscation and sale of Aboriginal artifacts to museums by Indian agents, and how these actions affected the lives of both Native and non-Native inhabitants of the region. This displacement of language and artifacts reverberated as a profound cultural disjuncture on a personal level for the author’s ­people, the Kwakwaka’wakw,…[more]

Book:Fieldnotes, A Forensic

Fieldnotes, A Forensic

Kate Eichhorn

Fieldnotes, A Forensic charts one forensic anthropologist’s series of descents in the first decade of the new millennium—a decade when forensic discourses and experts became ubiquitous in popular culture and on the daily news. But the edgy, passionate and erudite writer of these fieldnotes is no Temperance Brennan or Kathy Reichs. Part parody of popular discourses on the forensic anthropologist, part exegesis of the fieldnote genre, and part response to the natural and human catastrophes that unfolded during the writing of this book, Eichhorn’s second collection continues to explore the poetics and affective dimensions of knowledge making at the edges of poetry and fiction.

Book:Origami Dove

Origami Dove

Susan Musgrave

The first collection of new poems in more than a decade from one of Canada’s most vibrant and original writers.

With her first major collection in ten years, Susan Musgrave displays a range of form and expression that may surprise even her most faithful readers. The quiet, lapidary elegies of “Obituary of Light” are set against the furious mischief of “Random Acts of Poetry,” where the lines move with the inventive energy of a natural storyteller, while “Heroines” wrests a harsh and haunting poetry from the language of the street.

Her alertness to the absurdity in even the most heartbreaking personal crises leavens the sorrow that speaks through so many of the poems. Sadness and levity interweave. The wilderness and the penitentiary reflect one another. There’s an underlying tenderness, though, whether she is writing about family, the dispossessed, her life on Haida Gwaii, or the vagaries of love. This is Susan Musgrave in full control of her powers, writing poetry that cuts right to the bone.

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