Wednesday, April 30, 2014

ROVE - Laurie D Graham (Hagios Press) - 2014 Gerald Lampert Memorial 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:
ROVE.  Laurie D Graham.  Hagios Press.  Regina, SK.  2013.

Rove  is an elegant epic poem so rooted in the soil of the Canadian west it comes from that you might find some earth under your fingernails every time you turn a page.

from Rove

Were there buffalo here? Will there be crops planted?
The family round the table never talking

about what they have to do to get the land working. The Saturday
dances get told, the roving packs of musicians,

the roving doctors, the young men
on the threshing crews — those three nice Indian brothers,

what were their names, saying catcha mayesh
for (Russian text) to the women in town —

going to church, singing Mass;
the blessed bread,

the tidied graves. Then oil is discovered and they rove away.
Two generation of farmers: the wars

fought to have this right to vacate.
See the branches of the suburbs blossom wild with bungalows.

See the grass-green, the oil refinery, the tight grey brickwork of a city
shamed to forgetfulness. Big Bear, look, these brick lanes

are the reason you were starved off. Wandering Spirit, look,
no place for a warrior but the streets and penthouses;

this is why you were hung. Look, there's no ground here;
they've stretched concrete flat. Look how big,

the houses in the valley, look at this religion of parking lots.
You know they plant these crops all over.

They won't tell us how much the oil wells spend —
they show the paper flying from hands and pockets.

And look how people beg on corners,
bless the rotgut whisky,

look they rove on air and water,
gazing down the blinking planet.

Look what they do no sleep inside.
And remember how the soldiers kept on coming.


Laurie D Graham does stuff here that only my favourite jazz musicians can do with confidence.  She riffs fantastic.  This is sustained lyricism of such clear purpose and language that it is a privilege to read.

I do apologize for not being able to reproduce the short phrase in Russian that appears in the above, my Cyrillic typing skills have abandoned me.

more from Rove

See this Robin Hood give and give.
To this home, a fig tree arching at the bay window

               from within its net of lights.
In front of this house, a tricycle,

                           a satellite dish,
Out of this house, the old lady now

             walking her beer cans to the trash bin in the park.
In this house, a football ref

with coke-bottle glasses and legions of rose bushes.
In this one, an English professor will give up

and amass arrowheads and jazz records.
Into this house we can't imagine

for the foil over the windows.
              This house, two stories tall, impossible to see.

In this one, Stevie Ray Vaughan
                           and the woman always a mess.

              In this one, the neighbours come over
and stay till morning.

At this one, the kids won't come
inside until the dad's home from work.

                           This house refuses to shear the yard these days.
                           This house dries bedsheets on the verandah at night.

In this one, a man beats his dog with a broom handle.
Out front of this one, an old guy waters his driveway.

In back of this one, there's always a rink when it's cold.
This house keeps their garbage bins in front

and a stake and a chain for a missing dog.
Out of this house there's pipesmoke and a woodstove,

                           a big beard, a library.
In front of this one, gnomes and flamingos.

In this one, a girl shaved her head.
In this house, no Christmas,

                           no birthdays, the weirdest boy.
In this house, a fat kid plots his revenge,

              shimmering and Romanian.
                           See this house neigbouring the basement preschool,

letting the kids scream in their yard after.
Tell everyone this house always smells

                                                        of old potatoes.
Tell this one always with milk on the doorstep.

                              Say this house, its one-eyed tabby
arching at the window. Say the fig tree within its net of lights.


Rove has a driving narrative as big as any western novel and sweeps over the plains like big weather.  There is an unbroken white light surging uninterrupted through these pages.  Laurie D Graham is seriously strong on the page.  These couplets drive themselves into your brain with the force of a fist and resonate like a caress.

more from Rove

If there's calm in belonging.
Like when there's a storm and the power goes out:

if there's a thinning, nothing to do but look out your window,
the trees that make you,

bending. Cacophony of throat and ribcage; the lodged
song out of tune.

Something about need and order.  And loss can behave like blessing,
but it's always loss.


Not sure how Graham got to be so wise but reading Rove certainly makes me appreciate it.

This is marvelous poetry and certainly one of the best books I've read this year.

Laurie D Graham grew up in Sherwood Park, Alberta, and now lives in London, Ontario, where she is a poet, teacher, and editor of Brick, A Literary Journal. Her poems has appeared in numerous Canadian journals and anthologies, including Event, Arc, The Malahat Review, and Best Canadian Poetry 2012.

"The struggle to live deeply in the West, rather than just operate and extractive, Hudson Bay Company grab-and-run, continues, it seems, generation after generation. Laurie D Graham carries the project forward with luminous, sweet vigor in Rove.  This brilliant, large-hearted poem is where the quest of Suknaski, Kroetsch, MacKinnon and Zwicky has gone, picking up new, idiosyncratic preoccupations along the way.  How good it is to have this book."
     Tim Lilburn

"Choked with grief but still singing its makeshift litanies...claiming its "half-right to tell half story," Rove is a refreshingly humble ad-hoc tour through a land and a family. It took me in, worked with what it had at hand, and fed me."
     Alayna Munce

I would like to personally thank Laurie D Graham for sending TODAY'S BOOK OF POETRY a copy of her book.  Hagios Press politely declined our request for copies of the two books Hagios published that were nominated for awards.  As a result I won't be able to look at Murray Reiss's The Survival Rate of Butterflies in the Wild (Hagios Press) which was also nominated for the Gerald Lampert Memorial Award this year.

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