I wrote to Mark Tredinnick, winner
of the first Montreal Prize, to ask what he planned to do with his $50,000
windfall. This is his reply:
live in debt, and this prize will go toward paying some of mine down. But it
will also finance some more of the silence upon which the making of poems
depends: in other words, the money should feed and clothe and shelter me and
mine for a year of so and spare me some of the worry and the work one would
rather not do but has to, while letting me sit in gainful unemployment and
write. (I have a book of prose, Reading Slowly at the End of Time, to finish
writing by June, and a new book of poems, Body Copy, to quilt by July; now I have
a chance of doing both--and staying sane.) Perhaps a return trip to the
Columbia River, where the poem arose, a new fountain pen and a jacket I've been coveting. A
new laptop for my eldest daughter. A visit to a temple in Japan to observe my
fiftieth birthday, which is imminent. The rest of it I'll try to waste
beautifully on some of the millions in way more need than I, with none of the
freedom I am lucky enough to have in which to indulge in the creative agonies
His thoughts on the Montreal Prize?
I think of the prize I've said in a few recent posts on my site. But I
believe it tells the world that poetry counts, that it us being made beautifully
all over the world, despite everything, all the time. The prize, in its size
and reach and gravitas, gets that message out; it incites more and richer
poetic direct action all over the place. Because of all this, it feeds poetry
itself, that discourse of the soul, the discourse of the land, a language we
need more than ever now, when the shrill and meagre language of the market is
colonizing our politics, our communities, our schools, our aspirations.
The prize was offered and administered and judged with more intelligence,
generosity, and elegance than I have ever experienced. It changes the poetic
world and therefore also the rest of the world. It cries the beauty, the everyday
divinity, of poetry; it lets poetry make its own case for poetry on a very
To win it feels, still, completely improbable. It's a huge delight and a big
break and an honour I'll try to keep living up to in my writing.
Thanks especially to Asa Boxer and Len Epp, to the judges, Andrew Motion, in
Though I take the certificate and the cheque home, this prize celebrates the
making of poetry everywhere, in particular these fifty shortlisted poems.
I write this in the car outside my daughter's preschool. And now I must fly.
I said I hope he’s feeling great.
feeling great. And thanks. Oh, I thought in the supermarket (!) I'd like to add
that, though it's never nice to take money from one's fellow poets, it's a deep
delight to win a prize funded in large part by one's peers and judged by some
of the best poets in the world: democracy and artistic nettle in one. Okay,
home now to get on with the chopping of wood and the carrying of water... Mark.