Poetic Justice - Shortlisted for QWF Awards 

The Quebec Writers Federation Awards were presented on Nov. 21, and as always, many of those shortlisted have Concordia connections. Here are the three finalists among the poets: distinctive, distinguished and utterly different from one another. The photos are by Terence Byrnes, longtime creative writing instructor and former English Department Chair.

Erin Moure acknowledged for falling in love with ancient songs

Erin Moure has more than 20 major literary awards to her credit. Her latest collection, O Codoiro, takes its name and inspiration from the troubadour poetry of the medieval Galician-Portuguese songbooks, the cancioneiros.

There are many influences in these Iberian songs — the Provençal troubadour tradition, Gregorian chant, Arab love poetry — and Moure revelled in the richness of their history. She went to Portugal to read the three original songbooks in a Lisbon museum.

“Playing with notions of translation, ‘translation’ that is creation, ‘creation’ that is bad translation, bad translation that is wonderful text, playing with notions of languages and words crossing borders into other languages, has been part of my work since at least 2001,” she said.

Magnifying glass

“In Galician, cadoiro is one word for waterfall, Cataract, perhaps.” she tells readers. “This to me is the place of poetry, for whoever writes poetry must be prepared, ever, to fall — and I did fall.”

Moure was writer in residence at Concordia in 1998, and taught a poetry course in the Creative Writing program that year. She has returned on invitation, and was here Nov. 1 with poet and translator Oana Avasilichioaei, giving a talk to students in Mary di Michele’s class on translation, creation and collaboration. Next March, she will take part in the department's Professional Development Day.

“I like Concordia,” she said. “Its mix of students and energies is something I applaud.”

We asked her to finish this sentence: “If more people read poetry . . .” Moure said: “ . . . and read a range of poetry and poetries in different languages, poetry would richly repay their attention and its joys, challenges, intensities would carry over into their lives as a whole.”

David McGimpsey is hip, funny, and a little wistful

David McGimpsey is a funny, likeable guy. You can tell that from his poetry. It’s got a winsome, wistful streak, too. He also teaches creative writing in the English Department.

Many of his poems are written in the first person. He uses the streets of this city, his nostalgia for TV programs, and the minutia of the daily news to explore the human condition.

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McGimpsey was born and raised in Montreal, but he wrote a critical monograph on baseball and American culture. He plays guitar and sings in the rock band Puggy Hammer, and has been a standup comedian. His travel writings appear frequently in the Globe and Mail and he writes a regular column about sandwiches for EnRoute magazine.

Here’s some vintage McGimpsey from an interview with Jon Paul Fiorentino in 2004.

On his pop-culture bias: “I come by my enthusiasms honestly and I am not pretending to like things I don't like just to have fun. I care about poetry. It's my good luck that most people get this, and this finds much of the energy of my poetry. It is, in the end, not really about hamburgers or rock shows, but about the fate of the individual's poetic voice, an idea completely within the tradition of English poetry.”

On Can-lit: “The Canadian model of poetry does not account for humour as much as American models do and one can feel this shouldn't be so, given Canadian success in television comedy, but that's what readers of Canadian literature actually buy. They have been given the choice of urban, hip and funny, but they generally prefer rural, earnest and serious.”

David Solway as defender of poetry’s honour

David Solway was a writer in residence at Concordia in 1999-2000. Many of his poetry collections have been published by Signal, the poetry imprint of Véhicule Press, run by Simon Dardick, who teaches in the English Department, and Nancy Marrelli, University Archivist.

Magnifying glass

Solway is erudite, and his poetry makes frequent references to classical literature and mythology. He told an interviewer in 2003, “If the poet wishes to cut his (or her) teeth, earn his credentials legitimately, ground his imagination in the soil of authenticity, then he or she should be able to handle any and every of the art's time-vetted forms.”

His latest collection is called Reaching for Clear: The Poetry of Rhys Savarin. Savarin’s capsule biography says he’s a young poet of the tiny Caribbean island of Domenica, and his first name honours novelist Jean Rhys. But there’s a catch: He doesn’t exist. One of Solway’s devices is to create a fictional literary personality whose work inspires him.

His editor, fellow poet Carmine Starnino, said, “Rhys Savarin is indeed a jeu d’esprit, but it’s a serious jeu.

“Tired of doing one kind of poem in one kind of voice, David is trying to teach himself new voices, to extend his ‘I,’ or sense of self, by speaking out of different biographies. As long as the result is good poetry, then the fact that these biographies are fictional shouldn’t make any difference.”

Starnino added, “I admire David's bloody-mindedness, his versatility and his readiness to cut loose, take risks and change his ways (even if it means possible failure).”


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