Wednesday, April 23, 2014

BIRDS, METALS, STONES & RAIN - Russell Thornton (Harbour Publishing) - 2014 Raymond Souster Award Nominee

For the month of April this blog will be looking at the nominees for the 2014 Pat Lowther Memorial Award, Raymond Souster Award and the Gerald Lampert Memorial Award as recognized by the the League of Canadian Poets.

The Pat Lowther Memorial Award is given for a book of poetry by a Canadian woman published in the preceding year, and is in memory of the late Pat Lowther, whose career was cut short by her untimely death in 1975. The award carries a $1,000 prize. It is presented each year at the League’s Annual General Meeting in May or June, with the shortlist announced in April.

The Raymond Souster Award is given for a book of poetry by a League of Canadian Poets member (all levels, dues paid) published in the preceding year. The award honours Raymond Souster, an early founder of the League of Canadian Poets. The award carries a $1,000 prize. It is presented each year at the LCP Annual Poetry Festival and Conference in June, with the shortlist announced in April.

The Gerald Lampert Memorial Award is given in the memory of Gerald Lampert, an arts administrator who organized authors’ tours and took a particular interest in the work of new writers. The award recognizes the best first book of poetry published by a Canadian in the preceding year. The Award carries a prize of $1,000 and is sponsored by the League of Canadian Poets. It is presented each year at the League’s Annual General Meeting in May or June, with the shortlist announced in April.


Today's book of poetry:
Birds, Metals, Stones & Rain.  Russell Thornton.  Harbour Publishing. Madeira Park, B.C.. 2013.

 "Why doesn't Russell Thornton have a wider readership?...Thornton has written another collection of deeply affecting, impeccably constructed poems that recover and restore a life lived, imagined, re-lived and ultimately wrested from the swamp of the personal to become common language.  Parable, oneiric memoir, family history and flights of song all appear..."
     -Ken Babstock, Globe and Mail

Rain Wolf, West Coast Trail

It is standing at the edge
of a clearing, pale glacial
eyes narrow and lined in black,
the wolf's kohl. The entire wolf
the thick kohl of my own eyes,
it brings jagged grew trees, stones
lying alive on the ground, rain
like a bead-curtained doorway,
steel wool cloud and the dark's sheen
sharp into my eyes. Without
any flaw in its fury,
a wolf of antimony,
eater of impurities,
it eats the decrepit kind
of my eyes and a reborn
king emerges from a fire,
the burned wolf hissing like rain
and shaking away the ash.
The trees have burned up, the wolf
lifts its nose to smoke, charcoal,
and licks the visible clean,
leaving the two pinpoint lights
of its eyes in the dawn air.


"Always alert to the ephemeral, Thornton makes of spring's first sparrows 'little light-carpenters,' because the season will end; he looks with tenderness at the 'woe-papery faces' of late-night bus travellers, knowing that daylight will flatten those faces.  And so, when in a gritty, long-gone North Vancouver bar of his memory he sees Cezanne's apples 'about to slide off new surfaces,' one admires not only his startling juxtaposition but his ability to see what others would have missed, to trust what he sees, to make us see it, too."
     -Stephanie Bolster

Playing With Stones

When I carry her home each evening
from the park playground swing, she pleads with me
to let her walk on the bed of smooth stones
at the front of our apartment building.
She wants to find individual stones
and put them in her wide pocket, then place
the same stones along a row of large rocks.
I would like us to stay as we are now
within the flowering and flowing gold
gaze of the sun' late rays. And suddenly
I imagine a day when she is old.
As if I were her child and she was soon
to be gone, I begin to grieve for her, 
little mother, my daughter. Carrying
her shepherdess's bag filled with her stones,
one for each sheep in her flock, already
she is keeping count for when it is night
and she brings the sheep into the stone fold,
already she is asking that they all
be kept in the great invisible scrip.
The tears she comes to cry for those she loves,
the tears others who love her cry for her,
will stray and go lost,  so she places stones
one by one on flat rock, stones that are tears
she gathered as they rolled out of the sun.


"Masterful lyrics and short narratives of great beauty by a fine poet.  They are impeccable in their craft.  You read them, only to go back and read them, carefully, again."
     -Patrick Lane

The Aeschylus Rock

Fresh corpse of a baby gull
splayed against a shore rock.
Feathers, guts, skin case, stain,
the sections of the skeleton
like parts of a pictograph,
neck, skull, eye hole, keel,
ribs, ilium, wing bones, claws,
thing that had not flown long
dropped by an eagle or hawk.

The tide will find it in an hour
and take what is left of it,
but for now the bones manacle
the carcass to the dry rock
while the shore rats run out
of nests to get at it. Sunlight
embraces it. The thief of first
deep within the rock drinks
and eats it and lives forever.


Russell Thornton is the author of several collections of poetry, among them House Built of Rain (Harbour, 2003), which was a finalist for the Dorothy Livesay Prize (BC Book Prizes) and the ReLit Award, and The Human Shore (Harbour, 2006). His poetry has appeared widely in Canadian literary journals, and anthologies.  He won the League of Canadian Poets National Contest in 2000 and The Fiddlehead magazine's Ralph Gustafson Poetry Prize in 2009.  He has lived in Montreal, Aberystwyth, Wales, and Salonica, Greece. He now lives where he was born and grew up, in North Vancouver.

Russell Thornton reading "The man who sleeps in cemeteries".  March 21, 2010

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