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25th Annual Trillium Book Award Finalists

English Language Finalists for the Trillium Book Award


Methodist Hatchet

Ken Babstock, Toronto, Methodist Hatchet (House of Anansi Press)

Marooned in the shiftless, unnamed space between a map of the world and a world of false maps, the poems in Methodist Hatchet cling to what’s necessary from each, while attempting to sing their own bewilderment. Fearless in its language, its trajectories and frames of reference, Methodist Hatchet gazes upon the objects of its attention until they rattle and exude their auras of strangeness. It is this strangeness, this mysterious stillness, that is the big heart of Ken Babstock’s playful, fierce, intelligent book.
Ken Babstock

Ken Babstock was born in Newfoundland and raised in the Ottawa Valley. He is the author of three previous collections of poetry, including Airstream Land Yacht which won the Trillium Book Award for Poetry. Methodist Hatchet is also shortlisted for the Griffin Poetry Prize 2012. Ken Babstock lives in Toronto.

Jury Comment:
Few books of poetry offer the wholly immersive experience of Ken Babstock’s Methodist Hatchet. Reading these poems is like wandering through a Victorian salon, where pictures span the walls from floor to ceiling: taken at a glance, the density of detail overwhelms, but up close, each piece presents its own, eloquently rendered portrait, every line and image crafted with mastery, precision, and grace.

Publisher’s Link: http://www.houseofanansi.com/Methodist-Hatchet-P1838.aspx

The Free World David Bezmozgis, Toronto, The Free World (HarperCollins Publishers)

It is Summer 1978 and in the bustling, polyglot streets of Rome, are thousands of Soviet Jews who have escaped to freedom through a crack in the Iron Curtain. Among the thousands who have landed in Italy to secure visas for new lives in the West are the members of the Krasnansky family -- three generations of Russian Jews. Written in precise, musical prose, The Free World is a stunning debut novel, a heartfelt multigenerational saga of great historical scope and even greater human depth. Enlarging on the themes of aspiration and exile that infused his first collection, Natasha and Other Stories, The Free World establishes Bezmozgis as one of our most mature and accomplished storytellers.
David Bezmozgis David Bezmozgis, a writer and filmmaker, was born in Riga, Latvia. His first book, Natasha and Other Stories, won the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Best First Book (Canada and Caribbean Region), and was nominated for a Governor General’s Award. The Free World was a finalist for both the Governor General’s Award for Fiction and the Scotiabank Giller Prize. Bezmozgis’ first feature film, Victoria Day, debuted at the Sundance Film Festival. In 2010, he was named one of The New Yorker’s “20 Under 40.” Bezmozgis lives in Toronto.

Jury Comment:
The Free World is a subtle and profound novel about loss in the chaos of emigration. In 1978, a three-generation family of Latvian Jews are stranded in Rome for months, in a purgatory of waiting and anxiety. Bezmogis reveals the characters — from an ailing Red Guard patriarch, to his two sons, naturally capitalist Karl and hedonistic Alec — with compassion, sardonic humour, and note-perfect dialogue.

Publisher’s Link: http://www.harpercollins.ca/books/Free-World-Bezmozgis-David/?isbn=9781443403993
Idaho Winter

Tony Burgess, Stayner, Idaho Winter (ECW Press)

Idaho Winter begins as the story of a boy with an extraordinarily painful existence. Idaho is, through no fault of his own, loathed by everyone in the town where he lives. His father, Early Winter, feeds him roadkill for breakfast. The crossing guard steers cars toward him as he crosses the road. Parents encourage their children to plot cruelly against him. When Idaho discovers that his miserable life is the creation of a cruel writer, he locks the author in a closet and takes control of the narrative. When the author emerges from the closet, he finds his story completely unrecognizable…
Tony Burgess

Tony Burgess is the author of The Hellmouths of Bewdley, Pontypool Changes Everything, Caesarea, and People Live Still in Cashtown Corners. He is also the author of two books which have won the Relit Award – Ravenna Gets and Fiction for Lovers. In 2008, acclaimed director Bruce McDonald adapted Pontypool into film and Tony was nominated for a Genie Award, and won a Chlotrudis Award, for best adapted screenplay. He lives in Stayner, Ontario, with his wife and their two children.

Jury Comment:
Part genre parody, part postmodern game, Tony Burgess’s sixth novel is a darkly absurdist fusion of the coming-of-age story and the nineteenth-century adventure tale, an after-school special helmed by David Lynch, a wild metafictional romp through places real and imagined, and also a shrewd and surprisingly sensitive treatise on human cruelty, suffering, and compassion.

Publisher’s Link: http://www.ecwpress.com/books/idaho-winter
And Me Among Them Kristen den Hartog, Toronto, And Me Among Them (Freehand Books)

Ruth grew too fast. A young girl over seven feet tall, she struggles to conceal the physical and mental symptoms of her rapid growth, to connect with other children, and to appease her parents. Not knowing how to help Ruth, her parents, Elspeth and James, turn inward, away from one another. As their marriage falters, Ruth finds herself increasingly drawn to Suzy, the dangerous girl next door. Ruth’s extraordinary size affords her extraordinary vision: a bird’s-eye perspective that allows her not just to remember but to watch her past play out. Possessing an uncanny ability to intuit the emotional secrets of her family’s past and present, Ruth gently surfaces Elspeth and James’s vulnerabilities, their regrets, and their deepest longings.
Kristen den Hartog Kristen den Hartog is the author of the novels Water Wings, The Perpetual Ending, and Origin of Haloes, as well as The Occupied Garden: A Family Memoir of War-torn Holland, written with her sister, Tracy Kasaboski. Kristen lives in Toronto with her husband and daughter.

Jury Comment:
Deceptively slim, And Me Among Them presents an uncanny world guided by a uniquely heightened perspective. As she grows up (and up, and up), the girl giant Ruth stretches everyone’s consciousness, seeing into, above, and beyond the minds and dreams of her parents. Kristen den Hartog opens so many doors that every meaning is magnified, shifted, and understood anew — a magical, wonderful novel like no other.

Publisher Link: http://www.freehand-books.com/books/and_me_among_them
The Perfect Order of Things

David Gilmour, Toronto, The Perfect Order of Things (Thomas Allen Publishers)

Like a tourist visiting his own life, David Gilmour’s narrator journeys in time to re-examine those critical moments that created him. He revisits the terrible hurt of a first love, the shock of a parent’s suicide, the trauma of a best friend’s bizarre dissembling, and the pain and humiliation of unrelenting jealousy, among other rites of passage. In fact, here is the narrator of David Gilmour’s previous novels writing his own fictional autobiography in a dazzling cavalcade of stories that punctuate a life passionately lived and loved. Set within an episodic narrative arc, here are stories about the profound effect of Tolstoy, of the Beatles, of the cult of celebrity, of the delusion of drugs, and of the literary life on the winding road of the narrator’s progress.

David Gilmour

David Gilmour is a novelist who has earned critical praise from literary figures as diverse as William Burroughs and Northrop Frye, and from publications as different as the New York Times to People magazine. The author of six novels, he also hosted the award-winning Gilmour on the Arts. In 2005, his novel A Perfect Night to Go to China won the Governor General’s Award for Fiction. His next book, The Film Club, was a finalist for the 2008 Charles Taylor Prize and became an international bestseller. He lives in Toronto with his wife.

Jury Comment:
David Gilmour’s hilariously caustic “fictional autobiography,” The Perfect Order of Things, operates like its own ghost of things past. Whether meditating on romantic misadventures, pretentious film parties, California parks, Tolstoy, or the Beatles, Gilmour’s gift, as always, is his keen eye for absurdity, turned here both outward — at celebrities, books, and exes — and, with wry self-awareness, within.

Publisher Link: http://www.thomasallen.ca/site/Title.aspx?ISBN=9780887628078


Phil Hall, Perth, Killdeer (BookThug)

These are poems of critical thought that have been influenced by old fiddle tunes. These are essays that are not out to persuade so much as ruminate, invite, accrue. Hall is a surruralist (rural and surreal), and a terroir-ist (township-specific regionalist). He offers memories of, and homages to, Margaret Laurence, Bronwen Wallace, Libby Scheier, and Daniel Jones, among others. He writes of the embarrassing process of becoming a poet, and of his push-pull relationship with the whole concept of home. In this book, the line is the unit of composition; the reading is wide; the perspective personal: each take a give, and logic a drawback. Language is not a smart aleck; it’s a sacred tinkerer. Readers are invited to watch awe become a we.

Phil Hall

Phil Hall was raised on farms in the Kawarthas region of Ontario and attended the University of Windsor in the 70s, where he received an MA in English and Creative Writing. He has published numerous books of poems, four chapbooks, and a cassette of labour songs. Recent books include An Oak Hunch and The Little Seamstress. Killdeer won the Governor General’s Award for Poetry and is shortlisted for the 2012 Griffin Poetry Prize. He is a member of the Writers’ Union of Canada, and lives near Perth, Ontario.

Jury Comment: Phil Hall’s Killdeer migrates all our basic borderlands: part memoir, part essay, part poetry, all insight. From highway scars to birdwings, crumbling basements to coastlines, Hall’s essay-poems illuminate not only the big issues, but also the essential paradoxes of everyday life. A sure, wondrous, profound pilgrimage of a book.

Publisher Link: http://www.bookthug.ca/proddetail.php?prod=201105

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English Language Finalists For The Trillium Book Award For Poetry


Match Helen Guri, Toronto, Match (Coach House Press)

Showing an uncanny access to the voice of the rejected, unimpressive, emotionally challenged modern male, Helen Guri’s debut collection explores a man’s transition from lost and lonely to loved, if only by the increasingly acrobatic voices in his mind. Match’s touching, whip-smart poems chart the limits of the mind/body relationship in decidedly virtual times. Does the hero’s lovesick, wry, self-searching and often self-annihilating gaze signal some catastrophic aversion to depth or an unsettling reassertion of the romantic impulse? Can anything good really happen when the object of one’s affection is, literally, an object? And if she looks like a human being, can you ever know for sure she isn’t one?
Helen Guri Helen Guri graduated from the University of Toronto’s Creative Writing program, and has taught writing at Humber College. Her work has appeared in many Canadian journals, including Arc, Descant, Event, Fiddlehead and Grain. Match is her first collection. She lives in Toronto.

Jury Comment: In Match, Helen Guri draws on social parody, the surreal, and psychological insight to elucidate central human concerns: loneliness, self-doubt, and the possibilities of connection. Daringly told from the perspective of an isolated young man who seeks true love with a sex doll, this is a highly accomplished, thoroughly modern, and absolutely singular debut.

Publisher’s Link: http://www.chbooks.com/catalogue/match
Folk Jacob McArthur Mooney, Toronto, Folk (McClelland & Stewart)

In this virtuoso collection, the two sections - one rural in orientation, one urban- open an intricate conversation. Taking as its inciting incident the 1998 crash of Swissair Flight 111 off the coast of Nova Scotia, before moving to the neighbourhoods around Toronto’s Pearson International Airport, Folk is an elaborately composed inquiry into the human need for frames, edges, borders, and a passionate probe of contemporary challenges to identity, whether of individual, neighbourhood, city, or nation. This is poetry that poses crucial questions and refuses easy answers, as it builds a shimmering verbal structure that ventures “beyond ownership or thought.” Mooney’s distinctive voice is unsettling, appealing, and answerable to our difficult times.
Jacob McArthur Mooney

Jacob McArthur Mooney's debut book of poetry was the much acclaimed The New Layman's Almanac. His work has also received the Banff Centre Bliss Carman Poetry Award. A respected poetry commentator and critic, Mooney writes the popular Vox Populism blog, and was a panelist for the National Post's Canada Also Reads competition. Folk was a finalist for the Dylan Thomas Prize. A Nova Scotian now living in Toronto, he is a recent graduate of the MFA in Creative Writing Program at the University of Guelph-Humber.

Jury Comment: In Folk, Jacob McArthur Mooney plots hundreds of fine lines across the vector fields of grief and growth. Here is a map to both suburbia and skies, where every meridian makes possible both doom and dominion, every loss in altitude a rare ascension into knowledge.

Publisher’s Link: http://www.mcclelland.com/catalog/display.pperl?isbn=9780771059391

Earworm Nick Thran, Toronto, Earworm (Nightwood Editions)

Earworm, the second book from acclaimed poet Nick Thran, expertly combines wicked cleverness, adept craftsmanship and a uniquely insightful perspective in an entertaining yet substantial tour de force. Building on the success of his debut, Thran has enhanced his compelling pop culture rhythms and distinctive voice with bolder formal experimentation and greater poetic maturity. This eclectic collection takes in topics ranging from cartoons to Caravaggio to cicadas, expressed in a comparable variety of poetic forms. Despite this diversity, the book is unified by its perfectly balanced blend of thoughtful observation laced with Thran’s whimsical sense of humour.
Nick Thran Nick Thran is the author of one previous collection of poetry, Every Inadequate Name (Insomniac Press, 2006). His poems have appeared in numerous publications across Canada, including: Arc, The Best Canadian Poetry 2010, Geist, Maisonneuve, Matrix, The National Post and The Walrus. Since growing up in western Canada, southern Spain and southern California, Nick has spent the last few years living in Brooklyn, New York and Toronto.

Jury Comment: From painted railroads to post-apocalyptic pineapples to walk-off homers, Nick Thran’s Earworm listens in on all of our irreducible, inane, and iridescent obsessions, and then responds. Here is an answer to why poetry matters, to how alchemical stanzas can turn experience to gold. Earworm is just as likely to make you cry as laugh, long and loud.

Publisher’s Link: http://www.nightwoodeditions.com/title/Earworm

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French Language Finalists for the Trillium Book Award

Plantation Massa-Lanmaux Yann Garvoz, Toronto, Plantation Massa-Lanmaux (Éditions Maurice Nadeau)

In the eighteenth century, the young son of a West Indian sugarcane planter returns home from his studies in France. His father’s plantation runs on the absolute submission of slaves to the master. Imbued with the ideas of the Enlightenment, but also with their ambiguities, Donatien, who shares the Marquis de Sade’s first name, will attempt to modernize the estate. His actions will end up laying bare the libidinal workings of slave society and pushing them to a fever pitch: according to Yann Garvoz, the "Sadian" dialectic of Desire and Imprisonment became astonishingly real in the French colonies of America.
Yann Garvoz

Yann Garvoz is a French writer ("a Francophone of French origin," as he likes to describe himself) who has lived in Toronto for five years. Part of his family lives in Guadeloupe, where he has also spent many years. He is particularly interested in French colonial history and the ensuing problems of identity, as well as psychoanalysis, dance and poetry.

Jury Comment:
In this novel, the storyteller’s genius transports us to the 18th century, to the terrifying setting of a slave society where rank is everything, even in relationships between the slaves themselves, who are classed according to their origins as Bossales, Creoles, Mulattoes, etc. The plantation is located on an island, a closed world with its own very complex survival strategies, where sins of the flesh constantly cut across the racial divide.

Publisher’s Link: http://livre.fnac.com/a2883151/Yann-Garvoz-Plantation-Massa-Lanmaux
L’enfanCement Maurice Henrie, Ottawa, L’enfanCement (Éditions Prise de parole)

In a concise and touching style, Maurice Henrie recalls scenes from his life as a young boy, as his family moves from one house to another. From his first home in Val-d'Or, Quebec, with its red-brick tar paper exterior, through five more houses in Rockland in Eastern Ontario, he lays out his most vivid memories side by side. He writes about the first time he saw a corpse – that of his neighbour, killed in an accident; seeing Jean Touchette arrested by the Canadian army as a deserter; the conquest of freedom on his first bicycle; fishing for miraculous catfish; a night on the Ottawa River with Mimine; working on the farm with Uncle Marius; and Valerie, with her small, round, heavy breasts. And so many more memories. His one desire: to grasp it all, this tangle of countless disparate influences that shaped him, making him the man he is.
Maurice Henrie Born in Rockland East, Ontario, Maurice Henrie has published short story collections, essays, two satires of the civil service and two novels. He has won numerous awards and distinctions, including a Trillium Book Award in 1996 for Un balcon dans le ciel. His work has been translated and used in schools around in the world.

Jury Comment: It was a brilliant idea to use the different types of houses the author lived in to structure the narrative. It is well written throughout, the characters are sympathetic, the descriptions are very successful, and Henrie brings to bear a rich vocabulary and a style of unquestionable quality.

Publisher’s Link: http://prisedeparole.ca/titres-livre/?id=2295
Miroirs et mirages Monia Mazigh, Ottawa, Miroirs et mirages (Éditions L’Interligne)

There are novels whose very fibre is a magic key, the writing like an “open sesame” into a world of frightening mysteries we dare not approach because our North American prejudices make us blind to the truths they contain. I am talking about Monia Mazigh’s novel, which portrays immigrant women from North Africa, the Middle East and Asia, with their cultures, their hopes, their differences and especially their Muslim religion.
Monia Mazigh A human rights activist, Monia Mazigh was born in Tunisia and immigrated to Canada in 1991 to attend university. Since 1998, she has lived in the Ottawa area with her husband and two children. She is best known for her fight to assert the innocence of her husband, Maher Arar, after he was unjustly deported from the United States to Syria, where he was imprisoned and tortured. Her book about her fight and Arar’s, Les Larmes emprisonnées, was published in both French and English (Hope and Despair) in 2008. Miroirs et mirages is her first novel.

Jury Comment: With a surprising touch, Monia Mazigh achieves a tour de force in this novel: showing us the true faces of individual Muslim women, most of them young, she makes it impossible to shunt them into the category of “the Other”, hostile and disturbing. Though they have not renounced their faith and embraced secular modernity, they are contemporaries of their fellow citizens and part of our common humanity whose dreams and passions they share.

Publisher’s Link: Click Here
Xman est back en Huronie Joëlle Roy, Midland, Xman est back en Huronie (Éditions David)

What makes the story of Xavier, “Xman” to his friends, so captivating is above all the way it is told, as always in literature. From the very beginning of this novel, the reader is confronted by an unexpected narrator: the storytelling alternates between Xavier in the first person and the all omniscient author. This gives us the advantage of reading both Xavier’s thoughts and those of the characters who gravitate to him. In another bold stylistic touch, Joëlle Roy alternates the cultivated prose of the narration with the colourful vernacular of the dialogues. Whatever the purists and nationalists may say, the local – when portrayed with insight – is a wide open window on the universal.

- Alain Thomas, Chair of the Comité Christine–Dumitriu-van-Saanen, Salon du livre de Toronto 2011
Joëlle Roy Originally from Temiskaming, Northern Ontario, Joëlle Roy has for years been a successful presence on the musical scene as performer, producer and songwriter. In 2009, she obtained her Ph. D. in Francophone Studies from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. It was in the bayou that she laid the foundations for this, her first novel.

Jury Comment: This book takes us body and soul into the special universe of Northern Ontario, with the characters’ particular way of speaking, their concerns, their qualities and faults. A book entirely rooted in both its socio-historical setting and in modern times.

Publisher’s Link: http://editionsdavid.com/products-page/livres/xman-est-back-en-huronie
Jeudi Novembre

Michèle Vinet, Ottawa, Jeudi Novembre (Éditions Prise de parole)

The central character in this allegorical tale, Jeudi Novembre Légaré, has literally fallen from the sky – one morning, he lands in DesAnges’s cabbage patch. The stranger, a young adult, is adopted by DesAnges and her male neighbour, “Zave”, who make sacrifices for him unconditionally. For his part, Jeudi passionately devotes himself to soaking up everything about life, like a sponge. Along the way, he transforms the lives of everyone around him. His path takes him from bicycle seat to piano bench, from town to country and from obstacles to perils. What could possibly satisfy this character’s insatiable appetite for experience? In Jeudi Novembre, the seasons have voices, the night acts, and flowers pour out their feelings, in Vinet’s fluent, rounded and imaginative writing.
Michèle Vinet Michèle Vinet had a career as an actress before venturing into writing novels. She has appeared on stage in many plays in both French and English, in films including Heart-Shaped Womb and Memory of Mother, and in television series. At the same time, she was working as an educator for school boards and professional associations, teaching courses in French as a second language and creative writing and leading professional training workshops.

Jury Comment: This is a little book with a strange title, and the reader enters with some hesitation. We quickly understand that the hero, Jeudi Novembre, is an extraterrestrial, and why he has two names. At first tempted to close the book and move on to something else, the reader stays with it a bit longer, curious to see if these really are just the kind of crazed imaginings that could have come from the Raëlian sect. Too late! Once we get into this mystical, magical, fantastical tale, there is no pushing it to the back of our minds; we are in all the way, with no hope of return.

Publisher’s Link: http://prisedeparole.ca/titres-livre/?id=2381

French Language finalists for the Trillium Book Award for Poetry

À tire d’ailes Sonia Lamontagne, Ottawa, À tire d’ailes (Éditions Prise de parole)

In À tire d’ailes, a young woman looks at her daily life, the passions and confusions of the heart, the melancholy set against the empty spaces of Northern Ontario landscapes around Fauquier, Sudbury and Blind River. The text draws a narrative arc around key moments that form four phases, leading this woman from an uncertain youth in the North to a new awareness of her own identity and personality that opens up a changing perspective on the world.
Sonia Lamontagne Originally from Fauquier in Northern Ontario, Sonia Lamontagne completed her undergraduate studies in literature, psychology and education at Laurentian University. After teaching for two years, she has returned to school to study professional writing at the University of Ottawa.

Jury Comment: This exceptional book deftly portrays a place (Northern Ontario) and succeeds in imparting a vision of Northern geography and sensibilities. The simple yet evocative text uses arresting images to reflect on the region’s isolation and distress but also brings out its tremendous beauty.

Publisher’s Link: http://prisedeparole.ca/titres-livre/?id=2373
Apocryphes du cœur François Baril Pelletier, Ottawa, Apocryphes du cœur (Éditions David)

Apocryphes du coeur is a collection rooted in the history of being. It seeks to reveal what people keep secret, what they do not say and do not want to hear: psychological wounds, traces of a common past marked by strict religious mores and the difficult search for identity in a community whose foundations have been chipped away.
François Baril Pelletier François Baril Pelletier has lived in Montreal and Regina, and is now a resident of Ottawa. A visual artist with a passion for ancient history, he has managed to carve out a large place in his life for writing, amidst his studies, travel, work and painting. Apocryphes du coeur is his first poetry collection.

Jury Comment: Masterfully combining rhythm and images with strong assonance, the author creates a world in which the words and the form of the text itself reveal the deepest secrets of being

Publisher’s Link: http://editionsdavid.com/products-page/livres/apocryphes-du-coeur
Cendres de lune Aurélie Resch, Toronto, Cendres de lune (Éditions L’Harmattan)

Cendres de lune is a book of shadows. The shadow that falls across ancestral fears and the most secret dramas. The veil of night that sometimes lifts to reveal the entire system of a life without a dawn. The shadow of a people haunted by its own demons, pushed forward by its challenges, its tribal laws and its crimes. Dark and spellbinding, this first collection of poetry, original in form, invites the reader to explore the world after dusk.
Aurélie Resch Writer, journalist and filmmaker Aurélie Resch works on exile and the search for identity. In 2002 and 2005, she was nominated for the Prix des lecteurs de Radio-Canada and the Prix littéraire de Christine Dumtriu Van Saanen. Aurélie Resch contributes to various cultural magazines, produces documentaries for French-language television, and teaches writing workshops in schools and cultural centres and at book fairs. Her work to promote French culture through all of these activities earned her a nomination as a finalist for the Trophées du Sénat français en 2008.

Jury Comment: In this text that very successfully uses poetic prose, the author plunges us into the world of legend, where characters – in this case gypsies – have to discover the essence of their own history and forge a form of belonging in a world that is sometimes hostile.

Publisher’s Link: http://www.editions-harmattan.fr/index.asp?navig=catalogue&obj=livre&no=32321

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