Monday, April 30, 2007

Gala Report

Back from Victoria. The gala was fun, even if neither Rachel nor Steven Price won in their respective categories. Rachel was beaten out by a book on the history of land surveying in BC (and really, how can you hope to compete with land surveying?) and Steve lost to Don McKay's Strike/Slip (and really, how can you hope to compete with Don McKay's land surveying?).

We stayed at a stellar inn, The Abbeymoore, conveniently located half a block from the Lt. Governor's house, where the gala was held. And if our accommodations were nice (and they were very nice; I highly recommend staying there if you ever need a roof in Victoria), the grounds of Government House were spectacular. And they're routinely open to the public, which I think is a very cool thing and almost makes me think our vestigial attachment to the British monarchy isn't such a terrible thing. Almost.

I've never been in a room with so many people I've reviewed. Fortunately, they weren't the only people there; 300 witnesses = 0 knives in the back. In all seriousness, everything was very pleasant. I met Lorna Crozier and Patrick Lane, who received the Lt. Governor's Award for his lifetime's work. Guess he can stop now. Some folks were visibly moved by his acceptance speech, but I found his suggestion that the Interior of BC didn't exist until he wrote poems about it a bit, um, problematic. After all, let's not forget the land surveyors! Oh yeah, and the native peoples. God save the Queen! (For the record, tho I've been critical of Lane's recent work as a poet, editor and mentor, I am still an admirer of his Selected Poems 1977-1997. Lane's best work, while limited in range, is powerful stuff and I think he is a very worthy recipient of this award.)

I also had a very nice chat with Eric Miller, whom I've only met once before, but I really like him. As a person and as a poet, he's a very original guy and quite delightful. I think I'm going to have to track down his essay collection, The Reservoir, which was nominated in the non-fiction category, but lost to the Nazis, who are even tougher competition than land surveyors. (A regrettable feature of this event was that, while there were tables on which the nominated books were displayed, there was no opportunity to purchase said books. Apparently, this has something to do with not being allowed to sell stuff in the Lt. Gov's house. Oddly enough, earlier in the day, there was a big plant sale on the grounds. Plants good, books bad. Sure.)

Eric introduced me to Patricia Young, who recently became a member of team Biblioasis. Wish I'd had the chance to chat more with her. A very outgoing, ebullient person, who did her damnedest to straighten out Rachel's nominee corsage, a lovely white rose which seemed bound and determined to follow the dictates of gravity.

As many readers of CLM probably know, I'm not a big fan of literary prizes in general, but it was great to see Rachel's book getting some official recognition. It was at times an uphill battle for her. At every stage of the game there were people saying that her book didn't work for one stupid reason or another. Many of those people were BC publishers, so it was particularly gratifying to see the book shortlisted for a regional prize that recognizes books that "contribute to the understanding and enjoyment of British Columbia." Also good to be in that category because it's outside the poetry ghetto and all the political bullshit that taints just about every poetry prize in the country. And it was great to share the event, two days before R's birthday, with several members of her family, since the book honours their heritage so beautifully.

Afterwards, we headed over to Steven Price's for a post-gala nightcap and post-mortem with Steve and his brother Kevin (who is also the designer of the very sharp cover for Anatomy of Keys). I'm now planning my theft of Steve's collection of framed letterpress broadsides.

Victoria's a great little city. I could see living there some day, should the occasion arise.

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