for a debut book of poetry.
The Gerald Lampert Memorial Award is given in the memory of Gerald Lampert, an arts administrator who organized authors’ tours and took a particular interest in the work of new writers. The award recognizes a first book of poetry published by a Canadian. With a prize of $2,000, it is presented each year at the LCP Annual Conference in June, with the shortlist announced in April.
The 2019 Gerald Lampert Memorial Award goes to…
Obits. by Tess Liem (Coach House Books)
From the publisher: Can poems mourn the unmourned? In Obits. a speaker tries and fails to write obituaries for those whose memorials are missing, those who are represented only as statistics. She considers victims of mass deaths, fictional characters, and her own aunt, asking what does it mean to be an ‘I’ mourning a ‘you’ when both have been othered? Centring vulnerability, the various answers to this question pass through trauma, depression, and the experience of being a mixed-race queer woman.
From the jurors: Tess Liem’s Obits. is a rare success for any book, let alone a debut. Namely, it manages to create what feels like an entire intellectual world: whole ethics, aesthetics, aspirations, fears, and philosophies, line by line and trope by trope. The book takes real risks dangling over the edge of amateurism with its emotive openers and its centre-alignment, and relies on nothing but prosody and guts to win a skeptical reader back. It contains one of the most complete treatments of depression in Canadian poetry and an expansive, challenging, new approach to the idea of mourning. Most importantly, Liem’s ability to manage the collection itself as a gestalt object, tying images to one another across pages and reusing titles, sounds, and lines, is downright symphonic. It feels like someone’s life’s work.
Tess Liem lives in Tio’tia:ke/Mooniyaang—unceded Haudenosaunee and Anishinabe territories (Montreal QC). Her writing appears in The Puritan, Plenitude, Cosmonauts Avenue, THIS and elsewhere. Her debut collection of poetry, Obits. (Coach House 2018), was shortlisted for a Lambda Literary award.
To see the 2019 Book Awards shortlists, click here.
Thank you to our 2019 jury: Adebe DeRango-Adem, Amanda Earl, and Jacob McArthur Mooney.
2018 Emily Nilsen, Otolith
2017 Ingrid Ruthig, This Being
2016 Ben Ladouceur, Otter
2015 Kayla Czaga, For Your Safety Please Hold On
2014 Murray Reiss, The Survival Rate of Butterflies in the Wild
2013 Gillian Savigny, Notebook M
2012 Yi-Mei Tsiang, Sweet Devilry
2011 Anna Swanson, The Nights Also
2010 James Langer, Gun Dogs
2009 Katia Grubisic, What if red ran out
2008 Alex Boyd, Making Bones Walk
2007 Steven Price, Anatomy of Keys
2006 Suzanne Buffam, Past Imperfect
2005 Ray Hsu, Anthropy
2004 Adam Getty, RECONCILIaTION
2003 Kathy Mac, Nail Builders Plan for Strength and Growth
2002 Aislinn Hunter, Into the Early Hours
2001 Anne Simpson, Light Falls Through You
2000 Shawna Lemay, All the God-Sized Fruit
1999 Stephanie Bolster, White Stone: The Alice Poems
1998 Mark Sinnett, The Landing
1997 Marilyn Dumont, A Really Good Brown Girl
1996 Maureen Hynes, Rough Skin
1995 Keith Maillard, Dementia Americana
1994 Barbara Klar, The Night You Called Me a Shadow and Illya Tourtidis, Mad Magellanês Tale
1993 Elisabeth Harvor, Fortress of Chairs and Roberta Rees, Eyes Like Pigeons
1992 Joanne Arnott, Wiles of Girlhood
1991 Diana Brebner, Radiant Life Forms
1990 Steven Heighton, Stalinês Carnival
1989 Sarah Klassen, Journey to Yalta
1988 Di Brandt, Questions I Asked My Mother
1987 Rosemary Sullivan, The Space a Name Makes
1986 Joan Fern Shaw, Raspberry Vinegar
1985 Paulette Jiles, Celestial Navigation
1984 Sandra Birdsell, Night Travellers and Jean McKay, Gone to Grass
1983 Diana Hartog, Manitee Light
1982 Abraham Boyarsky, Schielber and Edna Alford, A Sleep Full of Dreams
1981 Elizabeth Allan, The Shored Up House