Honourable Mention: John Newlove Poetry Prize

I was feeling some warm fuzzies for my new hometown of Ottawa last night at the Ottawa Writers Festival. This year’s John Newlove Poetry Prize winner was announced (not me), along with honourable mentions (including me). And, better than that, I got to sit back and listen to some poems, a too-rare pleasure for parents of small children.

My poem, Confessional, which received the Honourable Mention, appeared on Ottawa’s Bywords.ca last December and also in Bywords Quarterly‘s Winter 2011 Issue. Those were my first local publications after transplanting to Ontario, and I’ll always remember the little boost in morale they gave me, a gentle acknowledgment of my place here. Being included in the Newlove evening felt like an extension of that, as it was my introduction to a local writer’s great work. Newlove was born in Saskatchewan and lived in many places throughout his life, but he spent his last 20 years in Ottawa. Here’s the poem of his that I read at last night’s reading:

GOD BLESS THE BEAR
by John Newlove

How many of them die of old age?
They die of the tension of not-knowing,
the apprehension. 
         Fear sits in their guts,
thus the courage, the quickness, the shyness
of a deer, asking Are you my death? the gopher
taking on last look. I want to know
what my death looks like
no matter how fast it comes.

Or the bear. God bless the bear,
arthritic as me, doing its death-clown act
on two legs, ready to embrace, saying
I'm just you in funny clothes.
Your clothes are funny too. Let's wrestle,
my little man, my little son, my little death, my brother.

I always leave a poetry reading feeling a little giddy and goofy and inspired. It was nice to trip back out into the Ottawa night thinking, Thanks for that, Ottawa. I think Ottawa and I are developing a relationship.

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