Results of the Griffin Poetry Prize in the year 2013.
The often outrageous and always wise follow-up to 2008’s Governor General’s Award–nominated Be Calm, Honey shows David W. McFadden at his most inquisitive and provocative. Here you’ll find ninety-nine poems full of surprises by a Canadian long-distance poet in his sixth decade of writing, a writer who never rests on his laurels or allows himself to become complacent. This is a book full of mystics and Golden Age movie stars, friends of McFadden and long-dead philosophers, and their tales are all told in the poet’s deceptively plainspoken voice.
These are not love poems. These are almost-love poems. Jittery, plaintive, and fresh, Personals is voiced through a startling variety of speakers who continually rev themselves up to the challenge of connecting with others, often to no avail. Williams writes in traditional poetic forms: ghazals, a pantoum, blank sonnets, mock-heroic couplets, and creates forms of his own: poems that spin into indeterminacy, poems that don’t end. With a deft hand and playful ear, Williams entices the reader to stumble alongside his characters as they search, again and again, for intimacy, for love, for each other.
Sailing to Babylon is the first full-length collection from James Pollock. These are poems of exploration and discovery of the self and the universal. Closer to home, there is the schoolboy fascination with the English teacher; the grandmother’s old Bible; a Dantean-style extended account of a hiking adventure with a young son, fully realized in terza rima. Further out in time and geography, Pollock muses on figures from Canadian history—explorers Henry Hudson, David Thompson, and John Franklin; pioneering literary theorist Northrop Frye; and pianist Glenn Gould. Each of these quests has accompanying trials or triumphs. This is a collection full of surprises and pleasures, with a treasure-chest mapped for discovery in “an image of the world/ made small enough to hold inside the mind.” A book that has the power to take you “to the place/ exactly where you always meant to go.”