Friday, November 30, 2007

Runaway Jury

Alex Good has posted his annual "Runaway Jury," in which three "jurors" review the GG poetry shortlist. It always makes for interesting reading and makes me wonder why the deliberations for most prizes are cloaked in such secrecy. Seems the Canada Council is missing a bet here. I took part in the first Runaway Jury in 2004, in which Alex, Steven Laird and I pretty much unanimously voted for David Manicom's book The Burning Eaves: the actual winner that year, Roo Borson's Short Journey Upriver Toward Oishida, didn't even come close.

Seems like all three of this year's jurors (Alex, Carmine Starnino and Paul Vermeersch) have similar takes on the 2007 list to my own. All I can say is I'm glad Atwood's book didn't win the actual GG, and it seems like the Runaway Jury made a good choice from the bad options they were given. Based on what was said about Domanski's book, I think I'm going to have to check it out, along with his earlier work.

There are a lot of insightful comments made by all three jurors along the way. I would agree with Carmine's observation, for instance, that Lee's book is more professionally interesting--and it is, very much so--than truly gripping. And overall, I'm glad to see the actual jury--not to mention publishers and editors--getting called to task for selecting books that are neither well-written nor well-edited. Carmine's right that Canadian poetry is in the middle of a highly charged historical moment; the runaway jury confirms just how bad institutions are at recognizing such things. I can't help thinking of Robert Sirman's clarion called for less rewarded mediocrity in Canadian arts when he took over the reins of the Canada Council. I hope the CC's doing better fulfilling this vague goal with art forms other than literature.

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