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ALBERT B. CASUGA, a Philippine-born writer, lives in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada, where he continues to write poetry, fiction, and criticism after his retirement from teaching and serving as an elected member of his region's school board. He was nominated to the Mississauga Arts Council Literary Awards in 2007. A graduate of the Royal and Pontifical University of St. Thomas (now University of Santo Tomas, Manila. Literature and English, magna cum laude), he taught English and Literature (Criticism, Theory, and Creative Writing) at the Philippines' De La Salle University and San Beda College. He has authored books of poetry, short stories, literary theory and criticism. He has won awards for his works in Canada, the U.S.A., and the Philippines. His latest work, A Theory of Echoes and Other Poems was published February 2009 by the University of Santo Tomas Publishing House. His fiction and poetry were published by online literary journals Asia Writes and Coastal Poems recently. He was a Fellow at the 1972 Silliman University Writers Workshop, Philippines. As a journalist, he worked with the United Press International and wrote an art column for the defunct Philippines Herald.

Friday, June 4, 2010


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Toronto Star’s Poetry columnist Barbara Carey reviewed Karen Solie’s Pigeon in her May 30 column prior to the announcement of the awards today. Carey said:

Karen Solie, who hails from rural Saskatchewan and now lives in Toronto, covers an impressive swath of geographic and metaphysical territory with lyric sharpness in Pigeon (Anansi, 102 pages, $18.95), her third collection.

Broadly speaking, Solie’s subject is the way we use (or squander) resources, whether she’s considering the natural world or the human capacity for love and hope, set against the caprices of fate, which she likens to the volatility of a storm whose “indeterminate forces are set in motion/ toward coincidence” or “cycle outward.”

Solie quietly charts the “heart’s/ repetitive stress fractures” and out tendency to long for things that don’t last. She’s often wryly humorous too, as in “Tractor: “In times of doubt, we cast our eyes/ upon he Buhler Versatile 2360/ and are comforted. And when it breaks down, or thinks/ itself in gear and won’t for our own good, start/ it takes a guy out from the city at 60 bucks an hour/ plus travel and parts, to fix it.”

(“Tractor” was included by last year’s Griffin awardee, Canadian poet A. F. Moritz, in The Best Canadian Poetry in English: 2009, Tightrope Books.)

Carey provides a peek into International Poetry winner Irish poet Eilean Ni Chuilleanain’s The Sun-fish (Gallery Books, 62 pages):

“...her 10th collection seems almost outwardly, whether she’s writing of Irish history, her ancestors, or a village church. The title poem, partly a meditation on the disappearance of the fishing stocks, is also about glimpsing what was once lost or concealed in a wider, metaphysical sense – and it’s indicative of Chuilleanain’s approach. In the same way that the sun-fish suddenly rise from the deep to “press up against the glassy screed,” so there are tantalizing glimpses of a mystic dimension to ordinary life. Even the mundane setting of a railway station’s platform becomes numinous: “Then they all shouted goodbye, the train began to tug and slide, / Joyfully they called while the railways pulled them apart/ And the door discreetly closed and turned from a celestial arch/ Into merely a door, leaving us cold on the outside.”

The Star’s publishing reporter Vit Wagner reported June 4 that: “The cash award was increased (from $50,000 t0 $75,000) as part of the 10th anniversary of the prize, one of the world’s most lucrative for a single volume of verse.

“Speaking about the impact of his prize earlier this year, (Scott) Griffin told the Star, “The purpose of the prize was to bring some profile to poets, who were virtually at the back of the bus --- and maybe not even on the bus. And I think it has done that.’ “

Bravo, Griffin.

Now, let’s look at these poems. Whether or not they are deserving of the Griffin Poetry Prize, the patronage can only increase the number of poets where their tribe in Canada is decidedly quiet, if not decreasing.

But will it increase the number of readers?

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