Kootenay poets Jordan Mounteer and Emily Nilsen have made the shortlist for the 2015 CBC Poetry Prize, for their poems “Pareidolia” and “Meanwhile” respectively. The pair were selected from over 17,00 entrants from across the country.
“Meanwhile, I take a Scotch to bed,” Nilson, who is from Nelson, writes in her poem’s opening. “because my grandfather, the man who knows / things we may never know, wet himself / at the dinner table. Someone, please tell him / he is older than most of us will ever be.”
The poem goes on to describe an imagined scene in which her grandfather is pushed out to sea.
“It is not easy to watch the dying / go adrift, harder yet to know / we are responsible.”
According to Nilsen, “Meanwhile” was “inspired by defeatism, sad acceptance in the state of rapidly deteriorating oceans, the various methods we use to understand and frame our current situation, parallel losses.”
It was one of two poems she submitted.
“For me, writing poetry can often feel like I am chasing my own tail or that I’m sinking into bottomless terrain. But both of these poems fell into my lap for different reasons and they were the only things that made sense at the time.”
Winlaw poet Mounteer, meanwhile, wrote about something close to home: Trout Lake.
“You stumble on the definition as a tendency /’to perceive a pattern or meaning in random stimuli’,” starts his poem. “pre-Cambrian giants in clouds / or Jesus on a piece of toast.”
“Through graveled fractures in the windshield / dawn-dark spruce and Western hemlock / sentry the road. Oiled puddles under-tire scream / over ditches. Twice, the pebbled gaze of mule deer / seem to signal from the tree-line but are gone / when you turn to spot them. Irretrievable.”
He wrote the piece after working as a treeplanter.
“A number of my poems have been framed by the experiences I had while working deep in the interior of British Columbia and on the coast,” Mounteer said. “It gave me a glimpse into some of the more dubious politics surrounding logging practices in Canada, but on a personal level it also helped to establish a comparative reflection between myself an the wilderness I was inhabiting.”
Mounteer describes his relationship with poetry as “bipolar”.
“The writing of a poem often makes me feel more like an interface to some process rather than the actual agent of it.”
This year’s jury is made up of Shane Book, Karen Solie and former parliamentary poet laureate Fred Wah, who grew up and taught writing in Nelson.
The winner will receive $1,000, a ten-day residency at the Banff Centre and will see their work published in En Route magazine.
The winner of this year’s CBC Poetry Prize will be announced on Nov. 24.