Skip to main content

Montreal Prize

Montreal, a 400-year-old-plus city of several million souls, the home of the great wave of Canadian modernist poets of the 1940s and 1950s, as well as legends like Leonard Cohen, has a strong tradition of poetry, and a number of vital small poetry presses.  It also is enriched by its bilingualism, a superb creative writing program at Concordia University, some lively reading events and festivals, and an international vibe at the cultural cross-roads of Europe and America.

Yet it is rarely these days at the forefront of poetic matters in Canada - Toronto tends to hold the keys to the kingdom.  So it comes as a welcome surprise to learn that Andrew Motion will be judging the world's biggest cash prize for best single poem - called The Montreal Prize.  I have some problems with poetry competitions (perhaps the biggest question being, do such occasions ever actually locate the most strange, original or unsettling works, or the ones that rather confirm already-established norms), but not enough to not enter them, from time to time; or even to host them.  Motion is a good choice as first judge.  World-famous, intelligent, and a fine poet, he is a safe pair of hands, and immediately accords the prize prestige.  Motion is, however, a very mainstream lyric poet (not a bad thing in the Eyewear household mind you), and this will make it intriguing to see what happens to the more experimental poems that get entered; if indeed any are.

Frankly, Canada needs a prize that emphasises the individual well-made poem, since some of the chief pleasures of poetry are to be found invested in such objects; experimental Canadian poets who tend to construct their poetic writing as book-length texts may have the wind of theory at their backs, but sometimes create works of terrible aesthetic quality that lack enduring appeal, at least to a wider audience.  Of course, as Charles Bernstein would no doubt be the first to tell you, the wider audience is a myth; poetic (open form) process is all; and who cares if a poem is well-made if it is banal?  Thus, like all poetry prizes, this one will yet again, stir the tempest in the tea-cup which is the age-old battle over evaluation and poetics.  Perhaps the best thing to assume is - in Bob Holman's famous quip - the best poem never wins.  The winner may well be Montreal - and international poetry, the idea of which is still sadly tenuous.
Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

DANGER, MAN

Like a crazed killer clown, whether we are thrilled, horrified, shocked, or angered (or all of these) by Donald Trump, we cannot claim to be rid of him just yet. He bestrides the world stage like a silverback gorilla (according to one British thug), or a bad analogy, but he is there, a figure, no longer of fun, but grave concern.

There has long been a history of misogynistic behaviour in American gangster culture - one thinks of the grapefruit in the face in The Public Enemy, or Sinatra throwing a woman out of his hotel room and later commenting he didn't realise there was a pool below to break her fall, or the polluted womb in Pacino'sScarface... and of course, some gangsta rap is also sexist.  American culture has a difficult way with handling the combined aspects of male power, and male privilege, that, especially in heteronormative capitalist enclaves, where money/pussy both become grabbable, reified objects and objectives (The Wolf of Wall Street for instance), an ugly fus…

AMERICA PSYCHO

According to the latest CBS, ABC, etc, polls, Clinton is still likely to beat Trump - by percentile odds of 66% to 33% and change. But the current popular vote is much closer, probably tied with the error of margin, around 44% each. Trump has to win more key battleground states to win, and may not - but he is ahead in Florida...

We will all know, in a week, whether we live in a world gone madder, or just relatively mad.

While it seems likely calmer heads will prevail, the recent Brexit win shows that polls can mislead, especially when one of the options is considered a bit embarrassing, rude or even racist - and Trump qualifies for these, at least.

If 42-45% of Americans admit they would vote for Trump, what does that say about the ones not so vocal? For surely, they must be there, as well. Some of the undecided will slide, and more likely they will slide to the wilder and more exciting fringe candidate. As may the libertarians.

Eyewear predicts that Trump will just about manage to win th…

SEXTON SHORTLIST!

Announcing the Shortlist for the 2016 Sexton PrizeSeptember 13, 2016 / By Kelly Davio
Eyewear Publishing is pleased to announce the shortlist for the 2016 Sexton Prize. The finalists are, in no particular order, as follows:


THE BARBAROUS CENTURY, Leah Umansky
HISTORY OF GONE, Lynn Schmeidler
SEVERE CLEAR, Maya Catherine Popa
GIMME THAT. DON’T SMITE ME, Steve Kronen
SCHEHERAZADE AND OTHER REDEPLOYMENTS, David McAleavey
AN AMERICAN PURGATORY, Rebecca Gayle Howell
SIT IN THE DARK WITH ME, Jesse Lee Kercheval

The shortlist was selected by Eyewear’s Director Todd Swift with Senior Editor Kelly Davio. Don Share of Poetry Magazine will select the winning manuscript, which will be released at the 2017 AWP conference in Washington, D.C. The winner will be announced in October. 
Congratulations to our finalists!