Honor roll: Governor General's Literary Award for Poetry

Each of these books has been nominated for a Governor General's Literary Award for Poetry. They are ranked by honors received.

Book:Stumbling in the Bloom

Stumbling in the Bloom

John Pass

The poems in Stumbling in the Bloom engage the ever-present enticements and entanglements of beauty on life’s, and art’s home ground—in wilderness and garden. But this surprising volume, the finale of John Pass’s quartet of poetry books, At Large, takes intriguing side trips on the home-stretch, including a singularly moving Canadian journey towards and away from the “ground zero” of the 9/11 tragedy. The book, and Pass’s aesthetic, come to rest finally on a fulcrum of acceptance: the embrace of uncertainty and (un)happy accident that purpose and effort alone make possible.
Book:Processional (Anne Compton)

Processional

Anne Compton

Processional is Anne Compton’s second book of poems, the follow-up to her widely-acclaimed, award-winning debut, Opening the Island.

Here Compton is at the head of a poetic procession, a guide leading readers through a house affected by both daily life and the extraordinary—stopping only to take in the change of seasons and prepare the outside yard for it. With one breath, she tells of life and death, with the next, play and metaphysics, joy and heartbreak. She is a guide like no other, accomplished and versatile, leading by example and from a distance at the same time.

Book:Kill-site: Poems

Kill-site: Poems

Tim Lilburn

To his virtuoso collection of new poems, Tim Lilburn brings a philosopher’s mind and the eyes and ears of a marsh hawk. This series of earthy meditations makes the strange familiar and the familiar strange. Lilburn’s close study of goldenrod, an ice sheet, or night opens into surprising interior and subterranean worlds. Pythagoras lurks within the poplars, Socrates in stones, people fly below the ground. Elsewhere, the human presence of motels and beer parlours is ominous. Kill-site is an exploration of a human’s animal nature. Lilburn invites the reader to: “Go below the small things… then / walk inside them and you have their kindness.” Though a natural progression from Lilburn’s last book, To the River, in Kill-site, the poet moves toward a greater understanding of the human, of sacrifice.

Book:Surrender (Roy Miki)

Surrender

Roy Miki

These poems open into a new space where ideas, identity, documents and authority are questioned, explored, and exploded. They exist in particular forms of apposition and opposition, often in parts that face each other across the page in dialogue, battle, or antiphony. Roy Miki is a brilliant, articulate poet, whose intermixture of the lyrical with the political, the moment with history, and whose exploration of the formation of identity makes him among the most original and powerful of contemporary poets.

Book:Execution Poems

Execution Poems

George Elliott Clarke

Execution Poems is a suite of poems about Clarke’s cousins, George and Rufus Hamilton, who were hanged in July 1949 for the murder of a Fredericton, New Brunswick, taxi driver. In this startling work, Clarke reminds us of racism and poverty and of their brutal, tragic results, blurring the line between the perpetrator and the victim? – a line we’d prefer to be simple and clear. As all true poetry should, Clarke’s embodies both damnation and redemption, offering convoluted triumphs alongside tragedy.

Book:Birds, Metals, Stones & Rain: Poems

Birds, Metals, Stones & Rain: Poems

Russell Thornton

The crows pick at the waste on the asphalt.
The men push jingling shopping carts. Or stand and mimic life
in a prison yard. The wild white swan is dead. Where I caught
trout as a child, no trout swim now. The drives
and crescents gouge ravines, make creeks disappear. Where wild
baby fish run, they run the gauntlet of penned fish. They are eaten alive…
— from “Nest of the Swan’s Bones”

Russell Thornton’s latest collection of poems, Birds, Metals, Stones and Rain, explores powerful, primary human…[more]

Book:Bite Down Little Whisper

Bite Down Little Whisper

Don Domanski

From a master poet, meditative lines running like veins through the dark grace of being alive.

Award–winning poet Don Domanski’s new collection, Bite Down Little Whisper, delves into the interconnectedness of all life with spiritual gravitas and powerful mindfulness. These are poems brimming with mythological and scientific energies, with a multi-dimensionality that opens itself to both complexity and clarity. Domanski shows us seams and fastenings that unite our longings with the earth itself, with the nonhuman vitality that surrounds us. The heart’s need for unity and reverence is present in these poems as a whisper we hear in occasional moments of quietude, when it’s possible to perceive the workings of a larger existence.

Quietude is called returning to life Lao Tze says…[more]
Book:The Polymers (Adam Dickinson)

The Polymers

Adam Dickinson

The Polymers is a bold and brilliant new work from one of our most ambitious poetic minds. Structured as an imaginary science project, the varied pieces in this collection investigate the intersection of poetry and chemicals, specifically plastics, attempting to understand their essential role in culture. Through various procedures, constraints, and formal mutations, the poems express the repeating structures fundamental to plastic molecules as they appear in cultural and linguistic behaviours such as arguments, anxieties, and trends. Adam Dickinson’s poems challenge our understanding of the world around us while simultaneously demonstrating the plasticity at work in the very words we use to describe this world.

A wildly experimental and chemically reactive work, The Polymers thrills and provokes. You’ll never look at the world of a poem — or the world itself — in the same way again.

Book:Where the Sun Shines Best

Where the Sun Shines Best

Austin Clarke

Three Canadian soldiers awaiting deployment to the war in Afghanistan beat a homeless man to death on the steps of their armoury after a night of heavy drinking. The poet, whose downtown Toronto home overlooks the armoury and surrounding park, describes the crime, its perpetrators, the victim, and a cast of homeless witnesses that includes the woman, a prostitute, who first alerts police. The subsequent trial evokes reflection on the immigrant experience the poet shares with one of the accused, and on the agony of that young soldier’s mother.

From Kandahar to Bridgetown to Mississauga, Ontario, Where the Sun Shines Best encompasses a tragedy of epic scope, a lyrical meditation on poverty, racism and war, and a powerful indictment of the ravages of imperialism.

Book:Any Bright Horse

Any Bright Horse

Lisa Pasold

When Marco Polo was captured by the Genoese he whiled away his year in prison by dictating a memoir, the Livre des Merveilles. Polo’s Book of Wonders became a raging best seller before printing presses even existed—Christopher Columbus travelled with his own carefully-annotated copy. Poet Lisa Pasold takes Polo’s stories about Afghanistan, Russia, and China to speculate on the transformative effect of journeys, especially upon those who insist on finding marvels.

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