Books

Tess Liem, Klara du Plessis among League of Canadian Poets award winners

Tess Liem, author of Obits, and Klara du Plessis, author of Ekke, will each receive $2,000 as part of winning awards from the League of Canadian Poets.
Tess Liem (left) and Klara du Plessis were among the 2019 League of Canadian Poets award winners. (Coach House Books, Palimpsest Press)

The League of Canadian Poets have revealed the winners of their annual poetry book awards, giving out $2,000 to each of this year's four prize winners.

Tess Liem's Obits, a collection of obituaries for people who haven't been mourned in full, won the Gerald Lampert Memorial Award for a debut book of poetry.

"The book takes real risks dangling over the edge of amateurism with its emotive openers and its centre-alignment, and relies on nothing but prosody and guts to win a skeptical reader back. It contains one of the most complete treatments of depression in Canadian poetry and an expansive, challenging, new approach to the idea of mourning," said the jury in a press release of the Montreal poet's debut.

"Most importantly, Liem's ability to manage the collection itself as a gestalt object, tying images to one another across pages and reusing titles, sounds and lines, is downright symphonic. It feels like someone's life's work."

Ekke by Klara du Plessis won the Pat Lowther Memorial Award, which is given to a book of poetry by a woman. The book explores the poet's roots in South Africa and current life in Montreal through long, essay-like poems.

"Ekke reflects on the strange vagrancy of meaning and slippage of sounds between different languages," said the jury in a press release.

"Both politically conscious and aesthetically beautiful, Ekke reads like a combination of the best parts of Lisa Robertson and M. Travis Lane: brainy and beautiful meditation with a beating lyric heart."

Victoria poet Stevie Howell won the Raymond Souster Award, which is given to a book of poetry by a League member, for the book I left nothing inside on purpose.

"Stevie Howell's poems create a dazzling sense of contemporary experience, with all its wounds, as well as the bruising quality of the past: an AI bot named Tay learns to be racist and sexist from 'Talking w/ humans;' Kintsugi pottery and fragments from Kierkegaard, D.H. Lawrence, and the vocabulary of self-help rattle through the deceptive transparency of Howell's lines," said the jury in a press release.

"This collection is sophisticated, funny and sad, often within the same line."

Finally, the Sheri-D Wilson Golden Beret Award for excellence and innovation in spoken word poetry was awarded to Andrea Thompson. 

"Andrea Thompson is a Canadian icon of Spoken word and her submissions reflect her long and praiseworthy career," said the jurors in a press release.

"The work is well-written and professionally produced with top notch recordings — as Andrea presents a strong-woman voice filled with spirit and fierce power, intelligence and musicality."

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