Meet the $20,000 Prize Winner
This year’s winning poem is “38 Michigans” by Eva H.D.. For the text of the poem, please scroll down.
The 2015 Prize Judge Eavan Boland selected “38 Michigans” from a manuscript of 51 poems from 10 countries, comprising the 2015 Global Poetry Anthology. The 2015 Montreal International Poetry Prize garnered just over 2000 entries from 66 countries.
Eva H.D. Biographical Note
Eva bartends on Queen West in Toronto and just this spring published a book of poetry with Mansfield Press called Rotten Perfect Mouth. Sometimes she gets to run off and cook on tallships or canoe in Temagami. She has also worked as a translator for Legal Aid, a nanny, a woefully subpar drywaller, a bicycle messenger and a cardboard-folder on an assembly line. She sometimes tells people that Keith Richards is her boyfriend, and they believe her, because they have never heard of the Rolling Stones. Some people have called her a tough read. Other people have called her a tarantula. In her spare time she transcribes the fictional conversations of pigeons and crabs and makes unsolicited translations of popular song lyrics. She will send haikus to your home by postcard. She often gets asked for directions, and would like to buy you a beer.
Some people have called her a tough read.Other people have called her a tarantula. In her spare time she transcribes the fictional conversations of pigeons and crabs and makes unsolicited translations of popular song lyrics.
Comments from the 2015 Prize Judge
Eavan Boland, who is currently Melvin and Bill Lane Professor in the Humanities at Stanford University, California, said the following of Eva H.D.’s poem “38 Michigans”:
This poem—“38 Michigans”—is a quirky, intense elegy. It works so well, I think, because it makes fresh again an old and powerful basis of lament: one in which all the contours of ordinary reference and experience are forced into a new shape. Where any logic of place or geography becomes the willing servant of memory and longing.
We never get to feel here that the person missed or lost is also being objectified into silence or passivity—a big risk in the contemporary elegy. Instead the subject of the poem is defined, right from the start, in original, offbeat, surprising ways so that we stay connected to them and to the emotional colour of the poem. They are “thirty-eight Michigans away.” Or they are “polishing off a sandwich made of rare, impossible air.”
There is a fine line being managed here between the sugar of whimsical language and the shadow of an actual loss. But the management is always adroit and convincing. The poem benefits from the tension. The whimsy itself suggests that grief has found a voice and is making its own reality with a devil-take-the-hindmost defiance.
Without Further Ado: The 2015 Winning Poem!
Listen to Eva H.D. read her poem by clicking here: 38 Michigans.
You are thirty-eight Michigans away from me,
thirty-eight wolverine states into your cups
in the sky, because being dead is like being
profoundly tanked, profound as an empty silo,
with your thoughts and your arms and your
credit cards ignoring you, just eyes, eyes, and behind
those eyes nothing, or the sky, or the smell of manure,
or thirty-eight Michigans of black, bloated ice.
One Michigan is bigger by far than a football field,
and two or ten is one of those I’m a man who needs
no woman type of motorcycle trips and fifteen is all the
old routes of tea or silk or spice or Trans-Siberian
misery rolled; but thirty-eight is the size of the space where Oh,
I need to call you, though laying hands upon
the phone I am repelled by a forcefield of practicality,
grasping at the incongruities of the calendar year and my
desire and your non-existence. Thirty-eight Michigans away
you are no doubt somewhere or other, balking at being,
polishing off a sandwich made of rare, impossible air.
You are as likely as the apocalypse. I can almost hear
you on my radio, the cracks in your voice of clay.
I summon up photos of our planet as seen from
invented places like e.g. the moon and it looks
like a Rubik’s cube. Peel off the stickers and
solve the black plastic beneath. Solve this blank
sheet of aluminium. Solve this anteater.
Yes, I recommend walking in the rain,
sluicing in the lake, howling at the shadow
of the moon behind the moon. Say Go long
before you throw long. Say Heads. Give the
dead more than their due. Yes, I recommend
cutting and running. Can you hear me, thirty-eight
Michigans down the line? Go long.
by Eva H.D.