Issue Date: Summer, 2005
Editor: John Barton
Number of contributors: 19
The Malahat’s Long Poem Prize, held in alternating years, continues to attract the very best work of poets who appreciate the chance to “go long” in order to fully explore their creative vision. Two awards are presented in this category; in the Summer 2005 issue the honours were shared by Margo Button and Harold Rhenisch. Button’s poem, “Blue Dahlias,” (also that year’s Gold poetry winner at the National Magazine Awards) is set out in forty numbered parts, each consisting of five ghazal-like couplets. The poem is a slow and measured meditation on (among many things) the establishment of a garden, its demands, its rewards, and its heartbreaking constant reminders that nature cannot ever be truly tamed. The quiet grief from the memory of a son’s suicide intrudes upon an otherwise tranquil setting like “blood grass in the shade.” This is an assured and elegant work.
Co-winner Harold Rhenisch’s “Abandon,” (a National Magazine Award honourable mention) employs free-form lines and scattershot references in a restless tribute to generations of pioneers, adventurers, and seekers of all kinds. At times playful, at times deadly serious, the poet employs the touchstones of places (primarily in British Columbia) where a connection to the land and its forbears has been felt. These memories are the lightning strikes that set off little wildfires of philosophical musings and, ultimately, a theory of poetics that encompasses a wide-ranging vision and intelligence. Other poets in this remarkable issue include Jan Conn, Mike White, Nick Thran, and Sean Horlor.
Clea Young’s story, “Split,” looks at how a difference of opinion about babies can be a divisive one, and K. Alexander Cooper’s “ Border Crossing” is a dark, almost cinematic, glimpse of the desperate world of refugees and casual violence that could be right out of a Conrad novel. The excellent book reviews include a thoughtful appraisal by Brian Bartlett of the anthology, Breathing Fire 2: Canada’s New Poets, edited by Lorna Crozier and Patrick Lane.