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Contest

The Confederation Poets Prize & Critics’ Desk Award Winners for 2019

Congratulations to all our 2019 winners!

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Con­fed­er­a­tion Poets Prize

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Arc Poetry Mag­a­zine’s Con­fed­er­a­tion Poets Prize is named in recog­ni­tion of a group of Cana­dian poets who were born around the time of Cana­dian Con­fed­er­a­tion. The term was first applied and usu­ally refers to Charles G.D. Roberts, Bliss Car­man, Archibald Lamp­man and Dun­can Camp­bell Scott. Lamp­man and Scott, as well their con­tem­po­rary William Wil­fred Camp­bell, lived and wrote in Ottawa, where, in the for­ma­tive years of a new coun­try, they helped lay the foun­da­tion for a tra­di­tion of poetry.

A cen­tury later, Arc hon­ours them and acknowl­edges the wealth of new Cana­dian poetry by awarding the annual Con­fed­er­a­tion Poets Prize for the best poem pub­lished in Arc in the pre­ced­ing year. Selected by a promi­nent mem­ber of Canada’s lit­er­ary com­mu­ni­ties, the award includes a $250 prize.

This year’s judge was Puneet Dutt.

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Arc 88

 

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This year’s Con­fed­er­a­tion Poets Prize winner is Sachiko Murakami, for “An Internment” from Arc 88.

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Dutt had this to say about the winning poem:

Joan Margarit writes, in New Letters to a Young Poet, that “someone enters a poem in a certain state… If the disorder is less when that person exits the poem, it means that it was a good poem.” And yet, Murakami’s poem narrates something already igniting, using intense and haunting imagery: “soft teeth crumble into boxed dust.” In “An Internment,” the poem’s deft form speaks in clips, a technique akin to a camera’s shutter, providing a glimpse, and then a cut—a glimpse and then a cut—amongst tangles and knots. As jarring as a hook in the throat, the poem’s immediacy tears into scorched scenes which leave one hungry to grasp fully, but which slips outside of a definitive meaning with each read. To rewrite Margarit’s quote: …if however, the entire perception of order is shattered when that person exits the poem, it means that it was a great poem.

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Critic’s Desk Award

With the Critic’s Desk Award, Arc marks the importance that the thoughtful treatment of poetry holds in the evolution and wider appreciation of the genre.

Inaugurated in Arc’s 25th-anniversary year, the Critic’s Desk Award honours excellence in book reviewing. The Award is given annually to a feature review and to a brief review to have been published in Arc in the previous calendar year.

This year’s judge was Shane Neilson.

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Neilson had this to say about the winning reviews:

To celebrate criticism is rare. It’s my recollection that Anita Lahey, who breathed transformative life into Arc during her tenure as editor in the late aughts, created the Critic’s Desk award. Though there were many achievements during this era, and also much celebrating, I invite Arc’s readership to celebrate her vision once again. For who’s unusual enough to publish and celebrate criticism? Arc was, and still is.

As a keen reader of Canadian poetry criticism, I’ve informally detected a trend away from formal analysis in poetry reviews. I get the sense that, in the tens, we’ve largely (though not exclusively) decided not to demonstrate a knowledge of poetics as we proceed to interpret texts according to a thematic lens. I therefore thought it important, as the judge of this year’s Critic’s Desk Award, to select reviews that deliberately foregrounded formal elements as their means of analysis and interpretation.

Sanchari Sur’s “In Search of Home: Three Perspectives on What It Means to Belong” demonstrates the power of structurally organizing a piece around how each book under review works. The piece’s thesis – that “Crusz navigates a binary space between two homelands, and Deen engages with a hybrid culture that brings together multiple experiences, Thom points to a future homeland that can be reclaimed through the trans femme body” – is laid out in a first paragraph that leads into a graceful unpacking of how three related books explore “homeland” in different ways. Sur knits together the analysis so that, rather than a group review, a formal conversation between books occurs.

Like most reviews of Klara du Plessis’s work, Carl Watts’ brief review of Ekke recognizes that the poet “plays with the ghostly similarities and gaps between English and Afrikaans, the Montreal poet’s first language.” Where Watts distinguishes himself is in the formal attention to the means of du Plessis’ artistry. After noting that du Plessis uses “common experimentalist devices like shorthands, unpunctuated dialogue, and virgules within lines,” he demonstrates that “there’s a weirdly literal quality, as well as a simplicity, that infuses these tropes with something new.” And from there, he packs in one formal observation after another. The density of his formal insights affirms that the brief review, as difficult as it is to do, still can show us how the beautiful trick of poetry is accomplished.

 


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Arc 88

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This year’s feature review winner is Sanchari
Sur
for “In Search of Home: Three Perspectives on What It Means to Belong,” from Arc 88
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Arc 89

 

The brief review winner is Carl Watts on Klara du Plessis’s Ekke, from Arc 89.

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