The CBC Poetry Prize has announced its 2015 Long List and I’m thrilled that my poem “The Liberation of Prague” is one of the 25 on the list. It’s a thrilling day for poetry across the country. I’m thrilled that my poem gets to share company with all the poems of all these great poets.
That’s the CBC’s image of the poets on the long list. You’ll find an image of me in there. What the CBC hasn’t shown is all the other poems, and the writers they have brought to light, who aren’t on this list. If we had that image, I think the perspective would be something like this:
That’s not white space around our little group of 25 poets, by the way. That’s what all the colours of all the poems of the country come to when they shine out all at once. Yeah, you thought that was winter snow? Na, it’s poems. It’s great to be in that company, too. I know some of those poets, and some of those poems, and I admire them no less than the ones who have made the list. I’m sure it’s the same way for the judges. Judging is hard, as you can see from these birds eyeing my feeder from my cranberry carageena hedge this afternoon.
Almost a year ago, it was a lot colder than this. I was flying back from the maze of mirrors, the old Jewish cemetery, and all the ghosts of Prague. I wrote this poem on the plane, with Kafka in mind, all my Bohemian ancestors, the years behind the Iron Curtain, and a half hour I spent with Maria in a black church on Kafka’s square, thinking of my mother, Dorothy, who was on her deathbed back home. I was going home to her.
Here we are together, back in 1958.
The trip to Prague was a break in the middle of editing my new book of ghazals, Two Minds, which came out this September. It’s a Sufic work, inspired by Khezr, the Green Man of Sufic tradition. You can read the surprising story about that encounter here. In Prague, I encountered something else. I encountered my Doppelgänger. I even got a picture of him. Look at the guy!
A ghazal is a poem that works in unseen ways, to lead to illumination. I didn’t know that I’d met this guy in Prague until I saw my image among those of the other nominees and went looking through my files to find an image to share with you. There he was. He looks like he’s looking for a poem. And the lion? Holding his portrait? I don’t know about that yet. I bet Khezr does, though.