Thursday, April 2, 2009

Gerald Lampert

The League of Canadian Poets, with its usual fanfare on such occasions, recently released the shortlist for this year's Gerald Lampert Award for best first poetry collection. It's an uncommonly good list this year--due in part, no doubt, to the presence of Barbara Nickel on the jury--with two of last year's best books, never mind debut collections, making the cut, and no egregious exclusions that I can think of. The two books of which I speak are Jeramy Dodds' Crabwise to the Hounds and Sachiko Murakami's The Invisibility Exhibit. Two very different books; I'd have a hard time choosing between 'em, were I a judge. Sachiko writes with skill and sangfroid about horrific subject matter. Jeramy assaults the page with a baroque barrage of sonorous imagery and metaphor. Neither one could conceivably write anything resembling the other's poems.

In another year, Katia Grubisic's What if Red Ran Out might be a serious contender, but tough comp in '09. A few months back I flipped through Johanna Skibsrud's book and took a pass; haven't looked at it closely enough to make a judgment, but what I saw didn't grab me. Chiles and Eichorn I know very little of. I hadn't even heard of Chiles' publisher, Cinnamon Press. Anyway, I've very curious to find out who wins this one.

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