A poem influenced by a set of Whitehorse power outages has snagged local poet Michael Eden Reynolds a shortlisting for the 2010 CBC Literary Award.
It’s the second time Reynolds has won the title; the first time, in 2006, was for his poem, Fugue. He’s one of the 26 poets in Canada to be shortlisted.
Outage is set in a mythical Whitehorse following a power outage that has plunged the city in darkness.
Reynolds wrote the poem during the winter of 2008 when outages were happening about every three weeks. So often in fact, that Reynolds was forced to stop working on the poem one day when the lights cut out.
He wrote and performed the poem for last year’s arts event Dark Days, but it has not yet been published.
It’s one of the few poems of his that Reynolds considers to be about the North.
This even though many of the poems in his recent book of poetry, Slant Room, waltz with the notion.
“I don’t think of myself as a northern writer,” said Reynolds.
“But maybe that’s just me fighting against being ghettoized as one.”
Although the award is flattering – especially since the judges included such A-list writers as Marina Endicott, Karen Solie and Evelyn Lau – Reynolds doesn’t think it will make his poetry books fly off bookstore shelves any faster.
But that’s the poetry business in Canada.
Following the publishing of his book last fall he’s turned his attention to an epic poem he started writing in 1999.
The poem, After Trout, is about Canadian painter Tom Thompson’s death in 1917. The artist had been challenged to catch a legendary trout, but after he set out on his canoe in Canoe Lake, Thompson was never seen again.
Reynolds focuses on the eight-day period before Thompson’s body floated ashore using a trout as his narrator.
The poem has been slow-going, but that doesn’t bother Reynolds.
“I only hope to finish the poem before the centenary of his death,” he said with a laugh.
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