21 December 2016

The 2016 Kitty Lewis Hazel Millar Dennis Tourbin Poetry Prize goes to … me

A nice surprise this morning. I saw that Ottawa poet and poetry-book blogger Michael Dennis was announcing the winner of his annual Kitty Lewis Hazel Millar Dennis Tourbin Poetry Prize and as my finger neared the link, I wondered who had won. Would it be Eva HD again, who won last year?

And it was me, for A Sparrow Came Down Resplendent, my most recent poetry book. I win bragging rights and dinner at Michael's house, and I have the hassle of revising my résumé.

For several years now, Michael has maintained a blog called Today's book of poetry. More or less, he writes about a poetry book he likes every two days. Yes, every two days. I just phoned him up now: he has written about 536 poetry books to date. That's a lot of poetry books, and also a lot of poetry books for one person to like.

But Michael has been receiving books in the mail, since he began the blog, from all over Canada, the U.S., and occasionally even abroad. I thought I had a pretty good idea of what literary presses were around, but more often than not, it's the first I've heard of the American publishers who send him stuff.

I interviewed Michael on this blog back in October 2013, when the project was still pretty young. And that interview also appeared in my 2015 Anvil Press book Further Confessions of a Small Press Racketeer (which I don't believe has received a single print review). I tried to convince Michael early on to write about books he didn't like; he was adamant that he would not. And really, how would he have the time, even if the idea interested him.

A lot has been said about the evils of prize culture, and I agree with much of it. And I've stayed pure by winning only prizes that have no or almost no money attached. Not by choice, mind you. I would gratefully accept a prize that would make me richer, or at least less in debt. But I never expect to be shortlisted for one. I might hope: I did have hopes for A Sparrow Came Down Resplendent — not expectations, though. After all, I did sell out in the writing of that book, and what's the point of selling out if it doesn't pay off?

The other thing about big prizes is they open the door to residencies and festival invitations. If they're really big prizes, it might even be a case of international invitations. It's too bad that's the way it works, but that's the way it works.

Here, by the way, are the previous winners of the KLHMDTPP:

2013 – Nora Gould, I See My Love More Clearly From A Distance (Brick Books)
2014 – Kayla Czaga, For Your Safety Please Hold On (Nightwood Editions)
2015 – Eva HD, Rotten Perfect Mouth (Mansfield Press)

I'm glad to join that list. The prize, incidentally is name for three pretty wonderful people: Kitty is the general manager of Brick Books. Hazel is the publisher and managing editor of BookThug. And Dennis (1946 – 1998) was a beloved writer and visual artist, and a very close friend of Michael's.

Meanwhile, I look forward to having dinner at Michael's place! It may be the first time he cooks vegetarian!

(And no pasta or rice for me, Michael: I have successfully reversed my diabetes this year [diagnosed in August; liberated in December], and I'm going to stay on the wagon. You'll need to use your imagination.)

Over and out.


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