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Continuing Education Instructor wins 2009 Griffin Poetry Prize

The Sentinel
A. F. Moritz
House of Anansi Press

The Sentinel

Read an excerpt.

The Light

In your house on the upper floor one light is on in a window open like a mouth saying Oh, and it looks, it sounds just like your breath. No other light there speaks to the night, and below I see the door in shadow and its blacker mark, the keyhole. If I went up and forced it and felt it give, would I find you somewhere, breathing, maybe behind that one bright window laid on a bed or crouched in a closet or pressed brow first into the angle of two white walls? Or no one there? No one, for you had turned into your house: I was in you, so never again could meet you face to face, never once more trace the halls and, reaching the only room still lit with its small bed and folded-down sheet, see you there and see if you are alive or dead.

From The Sentinel, by A. F. Moritz
Copyright 2008 A. F. Moritz

A. F. Moritz, Griffin Poetry Prize 2009 Canadian Shortlist

TORONTO, June 11, 2009 -- The Continuing Education Division of St Michael's College congratulates Dr. A.F. (Albert) Moritz on being awarded the 2009 Griffin Poetry Prize for his collection entitled The Sentinel. Dr. Moritz is one of Continuing Education's most popular instructors and in addition to creative writing workshops has offered an annual series focusing on Oscar worthy films, entitled "Values in Current Release". Dr. Moritz has written more than 15 books of poetry, has won the Award in Literature of the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters and a Guggenheim Fellowship. He was also a finalist for the Governor Generals Literary Award. Both Dr. Moritz and his wife, Theresa, joined the teaching faculty in the early years of Continuing Education at St Michael's and have made enormous contributions to the success of lifelong learning at this University.

Biography

(Courtesy of Griffin Poetry Prize) A. F. Moritz has written more than 15 books of poetry. He has been a finalist for the Governor Generals Literary Award and he has won the Award in Literature of the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters and a Guggenheim Fellowship. His recent collection, Night Street Repairs, published by House of Anansi Press in 2005, won the ReLit Award and The Sentinel was given Poetry magazines Bess Hokin Prize. A. F. Moritz lives in Toronto and teaches at Victoria University.

Summary

Mortality, love, ethics, civilization, divine presence, human body, modernity, the natural world and constructed spaces. The Sentinel watches and reports back to us in a voice that is timeless and worthy of trust. Whether describing renewal and regeneration, the despair brought on by global capitalism, or a place where decay and loss meet their antithesis, A. F. Moritzs magisterial voice, rare insight and supple craft are on impressive display.

Judges Citation

A. F. Moritz has beautiful command of what William Empson called a long delicate rhythm based on straight singing lines. In his extraordinary collection The Sentinel, we never lose our bearing, so sure is his formal grace, even as we are carried into fabulous circumstance, get lost in places we know, are found in imaginary cities or in any prosperous country. We read his fable of a city awaiting the arrival of a butterfly and stand with the crowd in wonder, as a creature so large it blots out the sun transforms to a humble yellow thing, so menacing and loud it crashes to the sea like a fighter jet but erupts in a burst of quiet. After such a dazzling show, we are left with unreadable feelings to watch the black ocean again. It is a place Moritz often asks us to stand. He is at once moved and troubled by the black imperial/Roman traces that our language shares with the classical poets, numbering himself among the barbarians with their slaughter/and triumph. He stares out between the bars of its alphabet at the darkness/of useless vigilance, or inwardly as the keeper/of my own breast. In the title poem, the one keeping watch a figure, we now know, for the poet stands on either side of two forms of darkness, the outward/dark before his face and the dark of the camp at his back, where he imagines soldiers settling down to sleep. Their dreams of bleeding inwardly are the dreams of this unsettling, superb collection of poems.

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