Thursday, September 20, 2007

Lampman-Scott Award Reading

The Archibald Lampman Award for Poetry was founded in 1986. This year the estate of Duncan Campbell Scott put its weight and his name behind the award for poets living in the Nation's Capital in order to make a new combined award in both their names.

In life Lampman and Scott were friends, both prominent in Ottawa's poetry scene. They made a joint legacy which continues in this form. Interestingly enough the prize money is now more than either would have made in a year (not adjusted for inflation). The prize is now $1500 for Ottawa's poetry book of the year.

The Lampman-Scott Award Reading on September 20th featured most of this year’s nominees, which are:
• Sylvia Adams: Sleeping on the Moon (Hagios Press)
• Ronnie R. Brown: Night Echoes (Black Moss Press)
• Terry Ann Carter: Transplanted (Borealis Press)
• Michael Dennis: Arrows of Desire (General Store Publishing House)
• Oni The Haitian Sensation: Ghettostocracy (McGilligan Books)
• Christopher Levenson: Local Time (Stone Flower Press) [no sites]
• rob mclennan: aubade (Broken Jaw Press)
• rob mclennan: name, and errant (Stride Publications)
• Monty Reid: Disappointment Island (Chaudiere Books)
• Grant D. Savage: Their White with Them (Bondi Studios) [no sites]

The preview of nominees had about 40 people attending in the comfortable surrounds, with wine and cheese and door prizes for several of the titles, won based on naming Ottawa Poets in the last Arc issue.

Most, if not all nominees, also had books present for sale. Christopher Levenson sent regrets for his absence and rob mclennan sent a proxy reader.

Lahey It was co-hosted by Anita Lahey, editor of Arc Magazine, and Steve Artelle, who spearheads historic walks thru literary history. He also advocated the creation of Poet's Pathway and Poet's Hill which was inaugurated in September 2006 at Beechwood Cemetery.

co-host Steve Artelle Artelle is shown here with Lahey and Brockwell

Paul and AnitaBeechwood Cemetery was the venue for this event, and is where both Lampman and Scott are buried. Artelle related how occasionally tributes to them appear on the graves. At one point coins were on Lampman's gravestone. At another point, an empty ice cream container, as a leftover from a private tribute party perhaps.

The energy at a cementary isn't always what one would expect, as proven by Oni's slam and sung poetry on shaving your bush for peace, after which Artelle quipped there's the whole shaved bush tradition running thru Lampman's work as well.

It was, not surprisingly, a night for impressive poetry, and across many styles and subjects. There was also an irregular refrain of that thoughtful gutteral sound when a poetic phrase strikes home, goosebumps and laughter.

Sylvia Adams opened the reading with poems from her book Sleeping on the Moon, a poetic narrative around the 1800s experiences of The story of Florence von Sass, a slave who becomes the wife of a British man. She describes the travels down to the detail, including the mosquitoes which bubbled up thick as blood. You can read more excepts of her book on her site.

GrantFollowing that Grant Savage read from his book of Their White With Them, of haiku, senryu and short poems and got a little hum from

first snow
the cat followed everywhere
by its footprints

A ripple of chuckles went around the room with his (p. 21)

leaving the frontier
the borderguard's pen
in my pocket

RonnieRonnie Brown was up next.

Ronnie Brown is a long time supporter and participant in Ottawa's poetry. She was also shortlisted for the Lampman award in 2001. Artelle said, "she's become a regular here -- careful Ronnie!"

Her Night Echoes follows in part the themes of loss, thru death and the distortion of lives caused by Alzheimer's taking a person gradually.

One poem is a tribute to Diana Brebner's daughter Ana who was struck by lightning out of the blue. Brown wrote of that teaspoon full of terror, doled out now and then like castor oil.

MontyMonty Reid, 3 time nominee for the GG read from his Disappointment Island. Despite the impression the title may give, it has a rich, often comic vision, and is an uplifting book. He read some of my personal favorites, including Nisidoro. It is one of those poems that when I come across in a book makes me want to buy it instantly (but it would be silly to buy a book on the weight of one poem, wouldn't it). But other poems convinced me. Here's an excerpt, p. 60,
the lanterns themselves
cling to the wires with a passion known only
in disappointed stone

In Bonebed: Dinosaur Provincial Park there are rich phrases like these: Out of a scattered bone/reconstruct a herd and All those millions of years just leave us/ exhausted.

Terry AnnThe fourth reader was Terry Ann Carter. She also has been a long time participant in Ottawa's scene. Artelle noted that she was one of the readers when he was doing the BARD reading series back in 1993 or 1994.

She read from Transplanted, a book which is also stemming from biography. A poem she read mused on the coming of age of Wilhelm Rontgen who discovered X-Rays and was awarded the first Nobel Prize for Physics in 1901. Was he shy of girls?

his serious mindfulness
falling out of fashion

with the ladies of Wurzburg.
Never claiming a prize

for best dressed --
never claiming a prize for wit.


Next up was Oni the Haitian Sensation who not only performed political poems for peace, but did her poetry mixing English, French and Spanish. She is an educator and threw a few tidbits our way, including the fact that Queen Victoria's grandmother was a black woman, Queen Charlotte.

She not only sang but got everyone on their feet to act out the gestures and shake their booties. (No photo of that I'm afraid.)

What a treat to hear her in French and Spanish as well. At least one person reported goosebumps from her French reading. in Yo Soy Oni Luciano she has a refrain of she bled, she bled, she bled that sounds remarkably like an instrument other than just voice.

MichaelMichael Dennis, recently mentioned here, followed this up reading from his book of erotic poems, Arrows of Desire, including a poetic response to Charles Simic's poem [search lower on that page] Eating Out the Angel of Death.

His poem on a husband distracting his wife on the phone while talked with her mom held the lines, fall to your knees where you begin that most sacred of prayers.

Watch for his (possible) poetry workshop coming to a venue near you.

To close, Lahey introduced the nominee with two titles shortlisted. The last the billet was rob mclennan, represented by proxy of Jennifer Mulligan. Rob mclennan, she said, is currently working out west, an appropriately vague description that rob himself might use.

Mulligan read outstandingly from two of his nominated titles. Continuing through with the theme started by Oni and Dennis, she read an excerpt of his poems from the ongoing collaboration of the poems around Sex at 31,
knows enough
when good is good
as it gets. is good

or even great. makes love
& pushes, envelopes in spades.


She also read from the series in aubade that begin with an epigraph as titles and starting points, you are lost in your own prologue - Robert Kroetsch which reads in part,

every step into a poem
is a new beginning, is there ever

a middle. this is a middle

From the one book, name , an errant in the poem seemly, a series come those observations that are humorous such as, even discount stores have their distinguished mark-up. The small ahs of hearing poetry pattered thru the poems from both of books nominated.

The award winner will be announced on October 13th in a ceremony that will be part of the Ottawa International Writer's Festival.

The reading closed with the book draw and thank yous to the staff who hosted the reading. There are a few other photos of those in attendance.

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