Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Baring it All: The Son of all Poetry Awards

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It goes something like this -- Barrie was a great Canadian poet, perhaps the most original, creative, and inspiring poet the country has ever seen. He changed the way people write in this country. Canada had a small press movement and scene before Barrie, but he transformed that into a lifestyle. He made little books, big books, weird books, poetic objects (such as poems printed on balloons or t-shirts), computer poems, sound poems, even children's television. As such, his impact was enormous and continues to grow and extend in strange directions.

Barrie died in 1988, much too young. As a tribute to his impact on us, the Phoenix Community Works Foundation has been hosting the bpNichol Chapbook Award since 1986 (the last two, maybe three, were judged by Barrie himself).

Two of the frontrunners for this year's award were John Barlow and Gary Barwin. Barlow's book is a cloth-covered and stitched compilation called "Global Telepathy" that was "cut and pasted" by Czandra. These are poems created out of Barlow's enigmatic emails and group postings (to a poetry community known as Riverspine). They are fluid, tangential writings, moving from cards to grammar to war to family to hockey in a series of digressions that compile and combine and collapse and accrue again. Barlow's voice shines through the fragments like a blast of heat in a hurricane.

Barwin's book, on the other hand, is a collection of visual poems that splice nature scenes with punctuation. It's a beautiful little chapbook he's made (self-published by his delightfully named Serif of Nottingham Press) that explores surreal montage, all finely done with elegant space surrounding the images. These are illustrations from a botany textbook from a pataphysical realm. Below is an example of the kind of work in the book, taken from his weblog. It gives a sense of the humour and intelligence by which Barwin so successfully realized the project.
Here's another for good measure:I was delighted to find out the other day, on the 24th of June, that Gary Barwin won this year's award. He, in many ways, and in many ways more than many, embodies bpNichol's daring spirit and humour and his constant creative engagement with the world. He seems to be in constant collaboration with the world. Check out Inverting the Deer. It's a pleasure to read the images, and a treasure worth keeping on your bookshelf. And now that it has won a major award, you can take confidence, dear reader, without any risk on your part, in acknowledging this bit of experimental writing as definitively good.

I should also clarify that Gary split the award with Sandra Ridley's chapbook Lift. I haven't had a chance to see this book yet, so can't fairly comment on it, but congratulations to Sandra as well.

The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book: Toronto.

Gregory Betts

Gregory Betts is an experimental poet, editor, essayist and teacher. He is the author of If Language (BookThug, 2005), Haikube (BookThug, 2006) and The Others Raisd in Me (Pedlar Press, 2009). He has edited editions of poetry by W.W. E. Ross, Raymond Knister and Lawren Harris. His latest book is The Wrong World: Selected Stories and Essays of Bertram Brooker (University of Ottawa Press 2009).

Go to Gregory Betts’s Author Page