From Mark Tredinnick, Montreal Prize winner: Feeling Great
16 December 2011

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:

Poets 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 of poetry.

His thoughts on the Montreal Prize?

What 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 large stage.

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 particular.

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.

Yep, 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.


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