The University of Victoria, on behalf of The Malahat Review, is pleased to announce that this year's recipient of the P. K. Page Founders' Award for Poetry is Billy-Ray Belcourt for his poem, "Love is a Moontime Teaching," which appeared in the Malahat's Indigenous Perspectives issue (#197). His poem was chosen by award judge, Mary di Michele.
The P. K. Page Founders' Award for Poetry recognizes the excellence of The Malahat Review's contributors by awarding a prize of $1000 to the author of the best poem or sequence of poems to have appeared in the magazine during the previous calendar year. The winner, selected by an outside judge who is recognized for his or her accomplishment as a poet, is announced prior to the publication of The Malahat Review's Spring issue.
Of Belcourt's poem, Mary di Michele says: "This is poetry with the power to move; to teach us a new language; and our own language anew. Billy-Ray Belcourt's poem, 'Love is a Moontime Teaching' shows how beautiful and yet how partial and in need of learning and relearning is language, how partial and uncertain are the meanings of our words. The poem upends expectations of nature imagery: 'the word for hate sex is forest.' It is at once personal and political, confession and protest, lyric and dialectic.
The poem speaks with sincerity and unobtrusive artistry. From the first line, 'your kookum's crooked smile when you pick up the phone' I learned the Cree word for kinship, and kinship is where the poem takes me, kinship with an eighteen year old girl on the rez with cancer, kinship with the loneliness of the speaker and the white gay men referenced in the German film, taxi zum klo.
Repetition is a way we teach; a way we learn. Words and lines that seem as plain as an impoverished life: 'living is going to bingo to pay the bills after you quit your job that barely paid the bills' are using sophisticated rhetorical techniques of repetition. Particularly effective because it seems organic to the content is the use of anadiplosis, because the stepping back effect through the repetition of the last word in the previous line at the beginning of the next seems organic to the content; it's the way we learn language, through repeating the words, and it embodies struggle, it's the stuttering, the stepping forward and stepping back of slow progress, the 'labour it takes to survive.'"
Billy-Ray Belcourt is from the Driftpile Cree Nation. He is a 2016 Rhodes Scholar and is reading for an M.St. in Women's Studies at the University of Oxford. In 2016, he was named by CBC Books (à la Tracey Lindberg) as one of six Indigenous writers to watch, and his poetry has been published in Assaracus, Red Rising Magazine, SAD Mag, mâmawi-âcimowak, The Yellow Medicine Review, The Malahat Review, and PRISM international. His first book, THIS WOUND IS A WORLD, is forthcoming in the fall with Frontenac House.
Mary di Michele is a poet, novelist, and member of the collaborative writing group, Yoko's Dogs. Her books include a selected poems, Stranger in You(Oxford University Press 1995), and the novel, Tenor of Love (Viking Canada, Simon & Schuster, USA 2005). A tenth collection of poetry, Bicycle Thieves is forthcoming from ECW Press in April 2017. Her awards include first prize for poetry in the CBC literary competition, the Air Canada Writing Award, and The Malahat Review's Long Poem Prize. She lives in Montreal where she teaches at Concordia University.
The P. K. Page Founders' Award for Poetry honours the celebrated Victoria poet's contribution to Canadian letters. It is made possible by a financial donation to The Malahat Review by P. K. Page in recognition of her long association with the magazine and as a gesture of her deep appreciation of her peers in the local and national literary communities.
For more information about the P. K. Page Founders' Award for Poetry and how you may support it through a donation, please email The Malahat Review.