Musings on Place, Travel, Books, Literature, Poetry, Literary Criticism, Collecting, Media, Life and the Arts

Archive for June, 2010

June 30th, 2010 • Posted in On Book Collecting

Forward Prize for Poetry: List of Winners

Best Collection

June 30th, 2010 • Posted in Authors and Books

List of Winners: National Book Award for Poetry

2009   Keith Waldrop Transcendental Studies: A Trilogy
2008   Mark Doty Fire to Fire: New and Collected Poems
2007   Robert Hass Time and Materials
2006   Nathaniel Mackey Splay Anthem
2005   W. S. Merwin Migration: New & Selected Poems
2004   Jean Valentine Door in the Mountain: New and Collected Poems, 1965-2003
2003   C. K. Williams The Singing
2002   Ruth Stone In the Next Galaxy
2001   Alan Dugan Poems Seven: New and Complete Poetry
2000   Lucille Clifton Blessing the Boats: New and Selected Poems 1988-2000
1999   Ai Vice: New & Selected Poems
1998   Gerald Stern This Time: New and Selected Poems
1997   William Meredith Effort at Speech: New & Selected Poems
1996   Hayden Carruth Scrambled Eggs & Whiskey
1995   Stanley Kunitz Passing Through: The Later Poems
1994   James Tate A Worshipful Company of Fletchers
1993   A. R. Ammons Garbage
1992   Mary Oliver New & Selected Poems
1991   Philip Levine What Work Is
1990   No Award
1989   No Award
1988   No Award
1987   No Award
1986   No Award
1985   No Award
1983   Charles Wright Country Music: Selected Early Poems
1983   Galway Kinnell Selected Poems
1982   William Bronk Life Supports: New and Collected Poems
1981   Lisel Mueller The Need to Hold Still
1980   Philip Levine Ashes : poems new & old
1979   James Merrill Mirabell: Book of Numbers
1978   Howard Nemerov The Collected Poems of Howard Nemerov
1977   Richard Eberhart Collected Poems, 1930-1976
1976   John Ashbery Self-portrait in a Convex Mirror
1975   Marilyn Hacker Presentation Piece
1974   Adrienne Rich Diving into the Wreck: Poems 1971-1972
1974   Allen Ginsberg The Fall of America: Poems of these States, 1965-1971
1973   A. R. Ammons Collected Poems, 1951-1971
1972   Howard Moss Selected Poems
1972   Frank O’Hara The Collected Works of Frank O’Hara
1971   Mona Van Duyn To See, To Take
1970   Elizabeth Bishop The Complete Poems
1969   John Berryman His Toy, His Dream, His Rest
1968   Robert Bly The Light Around the Body
1967   James Merrill Nights and Days
1966   James Dickey Buckdancer’s Choice: Poems
1965   Theodore Roethke The Far Field
1964   John Crowe Ransom Selected Poems
1963   William Stafford Traveling Through the Dark
1962   Alan Dugan Poems
1961   Randall Jarrell The Woman at the Washington Zoo
1960   Robert Lowell Life Studies
1959   Theodore Roethke Words for the Wind
1958   Robert Penn Warren Promises: Poems, 1954-1956
1957   Richard Wilbur Things of This World
1956   W. H. Auden The Shield of Achilles
1955   Wallace Stevens The Collected Poems of Wallace Stevens
1954   Conrad Aiken Collected Poems
1953   Archibald MacLeish Collected Poems, 1917-1952
1952   Marianne Moore Collected Poems
1951   Wallace Stevens The Auroras of Autumn
1950   William Carlos Williams Paterson: Book III and Selected Poems

June 30th, 2010 • Posted in On Book Collecting

List of Governor General’s Award Winners for English-language poetry or drama

I’m about to list a bunch of award winning works of poetry so as to access their titles easily when I need to…namely, in wifi zones near far flung used bookstores. Please bear with me.


Recipients of the Governor General’s Award for English-language poetry or drama

June 29th, 2010 • Posted in Authors and Books

Andy Warhol: “One of the Stupidest men I’ve ever met”

Two views of Pop Art

June 27th, 2010 • Posted in Authors and Books

No need to stop at The Last Station

Interesting how 900-odd pages of printed words can hold you rapt for days and weeks – a lifetime even – while a movie about their creator – filled with sounds and sights, costumes and effects, speech and music – can’t even keep you occupied for two hours.

 Imagine a production that has all the financing it needs, all the big name actors, composers, cinematographers… everything…save a plot, and…interesting dialogue. Here, you have The Last Station. There’s something quite pathetic about talented film stars having to mouth vacuous lines. Engaged they are in what seems like a desperate overcompensation;  hopelessly struggling to augment and vitalize a pulse-less moribund script devoid of wit and depth; forcing themselves, it appears, to communicate what requires more than what they’re given; failing as a result, to convey with accuracy what we know resides in the real, complex world: real, complex emotion.

Lush, inviting camera-work, plaintive Windham Hillian pianos and oboes, evocative period sets, verdant, foggy landscapes, frilly costumes…none can save this film. I can only recommend ‘non-participation in and open resistance to its evils’.

Love, legacy, historiography, gaps between beliefs and practices, private and public domains. All themes ripe for exploration. The life-blood of Tolstoy’s work, treated anemically.

Tolstoyans devoting themselves to living lives Tolstoy espoused but never lived; to shaping legend from lie. The complex contradictions of love. Internecine scrapping over copyright and wills. Samovars, horse-drawn carriages, wood-chopping and virgin sex…all there, but dumb, unexplored. Nothing clever or profound, a thin storyline; all surface. Pond-scum.

James McAvoy is his usual  twitish self, flustered, innocent, shy  – welling up and sneezing splendidly on demand; (pass the pepper). Christopher Plummer at least looks the part. Sage and watery-eyed (more pepper). Helen Mirren, the wife, and Paul Giamatti, Tolstoy’s moustache-twisting buddy, throw a few decent shit-fits, and lots of mean glares, but they’re all pepper, no steak.

The Last Station is proof that despite all the technical accoutrements and human talent  ‘money can buy’, without words on the page: dialogue – or at least some sort of advancing plot -: without good writers, all you have is histrionics.

This film though pleasing, at times to the eye, is mostly a boring, irritating waste of time; diametrically opposed to the experience of reading War and Peace. It does a disservice to its subject. Not even Kerry Condon’s breasts can save it.

June 26th, 2010 • Posted in Bookstores

“Bring the book home, hold it, admire it, and read it…”

Picture 150

Writing in the Winter 2009 Fellowship of American Bibliophilic Societies newsletter Kenneth J. Plako tells us:

"The Internet and the Google library project mark the end of the out-of-print/used bookseller. We say this with a heavy heart; the noble profession has existed ever since words were first put on paper.

In the past the bookseller acted as a guardian of knowledge by purchasing, storing, and selling books…

Google’s powerful search capacity becomes the new intermediary, matching the information seeker to the information. Thus the end of the out-of-print and used bookseller. A decentralized market consisting of thousands of idiosyncratic, individualistic, professional booksellers selling books containing information now becomes a centralized market controlled by corporations running on the business model, selling access to information…

Individuals who believe that words deserve letterpress printing, marbled and handmade papers, original artwork, and a fine binding define the book as a physical object with aesthetic appeal, not ephemeral electronic bytes…In these uncertain times, I suggest we all visit a "bricks and mortar" bookshop operated by an independant bookseller. If you can, bring a child or young adult with you and buy them and yourself a book. Bring the book home, hold it, admire it, and read it…"

June 26th, 2010 • Posted in On Book Collecting

How to Scout a Used Book Sale

(…or a used bookstore for that matter)…

Ottawa Public Library Mammoth Book Sale

I scoped out the Experimental Farm’s annual used book sale this morning. Arrived about half an hour after the gates opened. Dealers had already done their damage, although I did come away with a signed copy of Guy Vanderhaeghe’s Governor General’s Award winning novel Man Descending (please do contact me if you collect GGs: I have a fair number of duplicate copies, some signed, that I’d be happy to sell/trade)

 After the book sale I dropped in on Bill Cameron, one of the best book scouts in the biz – he has several stalls at the Ottawa Antique Market on Bank Street where he sells a nice selection of reasonably priced books, most in excellent condition, many sporting classic jackets. He was at the sale. So I asked him what he does when the bell rings at these affairs. First priority: because of all the stress and shoving at the beginning, the best thing to do is to quickly go to the sections that interest you and scan the tables and shelves for dust jackets. This requires that you first familiarize yourself with the look of the DJs on those books you’re keen to own. Best way to do this: use the search engines at an online bookseller (here’s an example from ) and pull up the titles you want that have accompanying images. Study them to the point where they’re seared in your mind so that when the time comes to charge the ramparts your visual memory clicks in automatically. Then, at a glace, you’ll be able to spot and grab your quarry before the enemy swipes it away.

After the starting-gate rush has subsided, slowly, carefully work your way through sections of choice, again watching for books with DJs in good shape. Look particularly for pre-1920 jacketed titles, and buy them. They’re scarce, and you should always get good trade-in value for them when you visit your local used/antiquarian bookstore.

Stay tuned: I’ll be parceling out more tips on how best to bag the books you want as the summer goes on.

June 26th, 2010 • Posted in Authors and Books

Penguin Canada Sexual Harassment Case: Exclusive Video Footage

This from Quill and Quire:  Former Penguin Canada president David Davidar has hit back at claims by ex-employee Lisa Rundle that he had sexually harassed her over a three-year period. Via his lawyer, Peter Downard:

"David Davidar has not sexually harassed anyone. He has not assaulted anyone. David Davidar had a consensual, flirtatious relationship that grew out of a close friendship with a colleague. He deeply regrets the hurt this has caused his wife.

Ms. Rundle and Mr. Davidar kissed on two occasions…contrary to Ms. Rundle’s claim, Mr. Davidar did not bully his way into her room, nor did he force himself upon her. Ms. Rundle did not object when they kissed. After the kiss, Ms. Rundle said she wanted to take a nap, as she was feeling jet-lagged. She asked Mr. Davidar to wake her up in an hour."

Here’s our exclusive video footage of what really happened:



June 25th, 2010 • Posted in Authors and Books

Galileo, Newton and Einstein for the Masses



(via the incomparable piony) ….relativity can be fun, thanks to Ramamurti Shankar, Yale University. His talk of trains reminds me of Jacob Bronowski’s lucid description of the theory of relativity in The Ascent of Man. Here, thanks to Google and Internet, you can watch the brilliant Bronowski as he talks about how the structure of nature is translated into numbers.  And, more impressively, apropos Newton, Einstein et al, Bronowski’s take on the matter (at around the 33 minute mark).

June 25th, 2010 • Posted in Literary Criticism

‘Community’ or ‘Creepy form of Collusion’?

Contrast what Andre Alexis says of ‘community’ and the importance of understanding the necessity and logic of creation, and in this "what is best about theory: the brief — inevitably brief, because every generation has to renovate the language and idea of criticism — sense that literature is one of the most startling things we humans do, our hive making, our adaptive coloration."  Contrast this, and his condemnation of ‘argument’

"Good criticism is not about “argument”, if “argument” is understood as contradiction. To say “this is not good” without giving the grounds for that evaluation is not “argument”. It’s the assertion of an opinion. when Starnino gave his opinion on Christian Bok, he distorted what the Oulipo is. as far as I’m concerned, he simply lied in order to put a negative spin on oulipean thought. he gave FALSE grounds for his opinion. when Solway dismissed a poem by Al Purdy, he presented himself as unable to understand elements in Purdy’s poem. he did this in order to suggest the poem under consideration was unworthy, but Solway is capable of great subtlety when he deals with what he likes."

with this from Carmine Starnino toward the end of his introduction to A Lover’s Quarrel, a collection of essays and reviews:

"Anger can itself be affirmative – ‘Passions face both ways’ writes William Logan – and being ‘anti’ can be an act of recovery, an effort to recapture and reanimate aspects of the tradition that have been forgotten. True, the act of repudiation plays itself out so routinely in these pieces that a reader may think I see reviewing as an easy opportunity for fisticuffs. I agree that contrariansism can be profoundly habit-forming, but in my case I simply don’t believe that unanimity, and the complacency it can breed, is always a desirable state. I’m interested, instead, in the energy that comes from argument and disputation. I believe that the most important of the critical community’s tasks is to frustrate the uncontested stattus of certain ideas which is why sympathy is something I’ve always pursued reluctantly: reviewing that seeks out those prinicples that best flatter a work of poetry forgoes its conscience and becomes a rather creepy form of collusion. I’ve always taken to heart the maxim inscribed on the wall of Montaigne’s library: ‘To any reason an equal reason can be opposed.’

What is to be wished for? As I see it,  something quite simple: passionate, intelligent, heated, civil, good-willed, good-humoured, rational exchange, with no fighting, no biting, no fibbing, no name-calling and a tiny – if only for a step or two -  bit of moccasin swapping.