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Canada Reads Poetry: Sheep's Vigil by a Fervent Person by Erin Mouré

Sheep's Vigil by Erin Moure

Canada Reads Poetry is a three-week online initiative presented by CBC Books and the National Post. Inspired by the original Canada Reads format, Canada Reads Poetry features five panelists defending five collections of poetry. That's where the similarities end; while Canada Reads plays out on-air, Canada Reads Poetry plays out online.

Five poetry books are battling it out to be crowned the champion of the first-ever Canada Reads Poetry. We're looking at each contender in closer detail and today, we focus on Erin Mouré's Sheep's Vigil by Fervent Person. This book-length poem was chosen for Canada Reads Poetry by book blogger and poet Jacob McArthur Mooney.

Sheep's Vigil by Fervent Person is a loose translation of a classic long poem by the modernist Portuguese poet Fernando Pessoa. And we mean "loose." Erin Mouré herself describes it as a "transelation." This pastoral ode, originally published in 1946, celebrates the world of nature. Erin Mouré stays true to the spirit of the original, but she shifts the setting of the poem to contemporary, urban Canada.

The section "Some woman out there has a piano" is an example of this playful poet's method. It's read by CBC host Tom Power in the video below.


Erin Mouré (who uses the name "Eirin" as the author of the "transelation" Sheep's Vigil by a Fervent Person) was raised in Calgary and wrote her first collections of poetry in Vancouver before eventually settling in Montreal. In addition to writing her own poems, she is a translator of poetry from French, Spanish, Galician and Portugese.

Strongly influenced by language theory, Mouré's work is radically experimental and seeks to subvert traditional poetic and narrative conventions. It is also very cosmopolitan in its scope, incorporating languages other than English and coming to grips with issues such as cultural identity and power dynamics.

Mouré has written 13 books of poetry and won numerous prizes, including the Governor General's Award, the Pat Lowther Memorial Award and the A. M. Klein Prize. She has been shortlisted for the Griffin Poetry Prize three times — twice for her own poetry and once as a translator.

Come back tomorrow, when we talk to Erin Mouré about Sheep's Vigil by a Fervent Person and her work as a poet!

Until then, if you're itching for another Canada Reads Poetry fix, check out Jacob McArthur Mooney's essay on why Sheep's Vigil by a Fervent Person should win Canada Reads Poetry — and why you should read it. It's over at the National Post's books blog, The Afterword.

Sheep's Vigil by a Fervent Person © 2001 by Eirin Mouré. Published by House of Anansi Press, Ltd. Used with permission of the author and the publisher.

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