Alberta Literary Awards shortlist

wgalogoI’m honoured to be among the writers on this year’s Alberta Literary Awards shortlist. My short story Haircut
(published in Alberta Views) is a finalist for the Howard O’Hagan Award. Winners will be announced at the Alberta Literary Awards Gala
on June 10 in the Lister Centre at the University of Alberta in Edmonton.

The Writers Guild of Alberta is presenting two readings featuring shortlisted authors:
An Afternoon with the Authors, Sunday, May 28, at 2 pm at Audreys Books, 10702 – Jasper Ave., Edmonton; and An Evening with the Authors, Wednesday, May 24, at 7 pm at Shelf Life Books, 1302 – 4th Street SW, Calgary.

Here is the complete list of finalists:

R. Ross Annett Award for Children’s Literature (Picture Books)  

  • Paige Feurer (Calgary) – And Then It Rained on Malcolm, Sky Pony Press
  • Georgia Graham (Lacombe) – Cub’s Journey Home, Red Deer Press
  • Alison Hughes (Edmonton) – What Matters, Orca Book Publishers

James H. Gray Award for Short Nonfiction

  • Austen Lee (Edmonton) – “Among Cougars and Men,” Glass Buffalo
  • Omar Mouallem (Edmonton) – “Welcoming Omar Khadr,” University Affairs
  • Shelley Youngblut (Calgary) – “House of Cards,” The Walrus

Howard O’Hagan Award for Short Story

  • Laurie MacFayden (Edmonton) – “Haircut,” Alberta Views
  • Gisèle Villeneuve (Calgary) – “Nuit Blanche with Gendarme,”
    University of Alberta Press
  • Thomas Wharton (Edmonton) – “Bestiary,” Hingston & Olsen

Stephan G. Stephansson Award for Poetry

  • Nora Gould (Consort/Edmonton) – Selah, Brick Books
  • Helen Hajnoczky (Calgary) – Magyarázni, Coach House Books
  • Richard Harrison (Calgary) – On Not Losing My Father’s Ashes in the Flood, Wolsak and Wynn

Jon Whyte Memorial Essay Award

  • Rona Altrows (Calgary) – “Letter of Intent”
  • Mary Graham (Calgary) – “The Plight, and the Power, of the Stoney Nakoda”
  • Lee Kvern (Okotoks) – “Heavy Weight for Silence”

Gwen Pharis Ringwood Award for Drama

  • Ellen Close & Braden Griffiths (Calgary) – My Family & Other Endangered Species
  • Mieko Ouchi (Edmonton) – I Am For You
  • Vern Thiessen (Edmonton) – Of Human Bondage

Wilfrid Eggleston Award for Nonfiction

  • Marty Klinkenberg (Edmonton) – The McDavid Effect: Connor McDavid and the New Hope for Hockey, Simon & Schuster Canada
  • Myrna Kostash (Edmonton) – The Seven Oaks Reader, NeWest Press
  • Sydney Sharpe & Don Braid (Calgary) – Notley Nation, Dundurn Press

Georges Bugnet Award for Fiction

  • Lauralyn Chow (Calgary) – Paper Teeth, NeWest Press
  • Lisa J. Lawrence (Edmonton) – Rodent, Orca
  • Gisèle Villeneuve (Calgary) – Rising Abruptly, University of Alberta Press

things that open my heart

your morning beauty
your eyes in civil twilight
the small of your back
your sweet sweet kindnesses
the love in your eyes
seen through my eyes
your quiet magic
votre chapeau blanc
votre chemise bleue

your willingness
your hopeful
your aching rocking rhythm
that flicker
that grin
that curling in you do when we entwine
your mysterious
your bravado
your bossy hands
your sense of non-direction
your funny accent
your holy holy heartbeat


just to say

this is just to say
i got your note.
really, willy. the last plums.
you knew i was saving them
and still you ate them. all of them.
so delicious and so cold.
fine. i hope they froze your tongue.
you have always been selfish.


this is just to answer your note:
i’m sorry you feel that way. I truly am sorry
about the plums. i didn’t expect you to take it so hard.
look, there’s a banana on the counter,
why not have that?
oh and by the way, did you ever stop to think
that perhaps the plums were a fucking
metaphor? maybe when i wrote ‘plums’
i meant eggs, or stones, ovaries, testacles.
maybe i was being all in your face
with the sexualization of fruits. seeds. nuts.
(nuts. get it?)

this is just to say that maybe i was gazing
upon those lovely luscious purple plums and couldn’t help being
transported to your breasts, your round, supple, smooth
lovely breasts, and i had to pop them
in my mouth, even though they were so cold
(unlike your impeccable breasts.)

maybe the plums were the first thing i’d eaten in days. would you still
begrudge me their flavour, their violet skins,
their rejuvenating coldness?

maybe i just needed to satisfy
an oral craving. maybe i just got home from a bender
and was in dire need of greasy eggs
and coca-cola with a slice of lemon but all i could find
to appease the raging hangover tongue was your silly little juicy
plums, all ‘c’mere, c’mere’ taunting me from the basket
in their deep cold purpleness.

this is just to say that maybe nothing else on this day
was ever going to quench
my thirst for you, my darling, not even
those lovely, luscious plums. but i had to try.

this is just to say
that i thought, i hoped
you would be mildly amused by my poem
my admittedly bratty apology, my little-boy, ‘please don’t hate me
but i ate your plums’ exercise in male privilege.
yes, i did eat your plums, because deep down i felt entitled.

this is just to say that, had i thought for one second you genuinely
would have a problem with me eating the damn plums, i wouldn’t have
eaten the damn plums. but my god, i ate them.
and they were good. they were possibly the best fucking plums i’ve ever had
with all their purpleness and coldness,
you know? they were awesome fucking plums, for christ’s sake,
and i would do it again, i would eat the damn plums again, even knowing
that it would freak you out and cause you to rethink
our life together. still
i would eat them all over again. so get off my back.

this is just to say that i am DREADFULLY sorry for eating
the plums but i think, all things considered, you probably
WANTED ME to eat the plums. why else would you have left them
right next to the cheese drawer? i swear, i will buy you
one thousand plums
if you will forgive me this indiscretion.



this is just to say, william, that you are such an ass.
while you were going on and on about the damn fucking
marvelous plums, i was out licking the beautiful, most
perfect plums, not cold, tucked inside your
best friend’s trousers.

have a nice day.

nov. 12, 2012
author’s note: the things you stumble upon
in old, forgotten notebooks.
i might go to hell for this abomination.
are there plums in hell?
probably not cold ones

something i wish i’d written; by bob hicok

Other Lives And Dimensions And Finally A Love Poem

My left hand will live longer than my right. The rivers
 of my palms tell me so.
Never argue with rivers. Never expect your lives to finish
 at the same time. I think
praying, I think clapping is how hands mourn. I think staying up and waiting
for paintings to sigh is science. In another dimension this 
is exactly what’s happening,
it’s what they write grants about: the chromodynamics of mournful Whistlers,
the audible sorrow and beta decay of Old Battersea Bridge. 
I like the idea
of different

 theres and elsewheres, an Idaho known for bluegrass,
a Bronx where people talk 
like violets smell. Perhaps I am somewhere patient,
kind, perhaps in the nook 

of a cousin universe I’ve never defiled
or betrayed 
anyone. Here I have 
two hands and they are vanishing,
the hollow of your back 
to rest my cheek against, your voice and little else but my assiduous fear to cherish. 
My hands are webbed 
like the wind-torn work of a spider, like they squeezed something in the womb 

but couldn’t hang on. One of those other worlds 
or a life I felt
 passing through mine, or the ocean inside my mother’s belly 
she had to scream out.

 Here, when I say I never want to be without you,
 somewhere else I am saying 
I never want to be without you again. And when I touch you 
in each of the places we meet, 

in all of the lives we are, it’s with hands that are dying 
and resurrected.
 When I don’t touch you it’s a mistake in any life, 
in each place and forever.

Bob Hicok

friday nights in grade 8

we had no boys at our parties
just tea and cribbage
sometimes a bowl of bugles
beatles 45s and one glass of pop each if mom was in a good mood
she loves you ya ya ya 8 days a week baby it’s you

we hung off each other and slowdanced a clumsy box-step shuffle
secretly wishing it was max coulson’s hands around our waists
or pete scanlon’s short dirty legs rubbing up against our nervous thighs
rec room couch not quite lumpy enough for the cottage

spin the bottle, truth or dare
by 14 a couple of boys came calling
it was always awkward
til gary and ray started sneaking canadian club into the 7up
then we were all relaxed and stupid

anne went off to neck with gary
peggy had a thing for ray
i just kept changing the records
refilling the chip bowl
and tried to keep mom from coming downstairs

kisses at 14 seemed so much more thrilling
anne’s dare kiss ray on the mouth
peggy’s truth have you ever, you know, let a boy touch you there
consequences of telling a lie go outside topless and run three times around that big tree
kelly’s lament why isn’t max coulson at this party!

at 14 you still have your freckles and eyebrows
and all the cute boys in the world seem somehow attainable
in your dreams at least
where paul and john sing an endless loop of baby it’s you
and i wanna hold your hand

and what would i give to hold your lonely hand now
in my sweaty 14-year-old palm
curl up under the tv blanket
graze elbows, touch timid toes
giggle and fall asleep smiling
before the late night horror movie even comes on

february 2015

folkfest snapshots

after all, it was you and me

i wore my lover’s garden faux-Crocs to work today. only partly because it is joyously hot and i’m growing weary of socks; mostly because i was half asleep when I walked out the door. still kinda sticky and buzzing from the opening night of folkfest. conscious enough, however, to remember to grab the headphones & plug in the shuffle for a little musical inspiration on the slow stroll to the bus stop … because some mornings ya gotta wake up the ears first, and if you’re lucky the brain and mouth eventually, if somewhat reluctantly, will fall into step as well.

the unit is always on random play, so i sleepwalked through melissa etheridge’s similar features and managed to dodge the morning rush hour traffic (considerably thinner than usual, due to august vacations) while marianne faithful husked out as tears go by. as the trusty ol’ #106 turned off the quesnell bridge and curled around into fox drive, i skipped over rufus wainwright’s version of hallelujah and love hurts by nazareth in search of something to grab me with both hands and yank me into TGIF mode. and then bingo — there it was, sympathy for the devil. the perfect anthem to jack me through those office doors and into the corporate elevator … because it’s friday, it’s day 2 of the edmonton folk music festival, and sometimes ya just need a little mick ta get the synapses over the hump for that 9 a.m. meeting.

see ya on the hill …