25th Trillium Award

Helen Guri

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Helen Guri graduated from the University of Toronto’s Creative Writing program and has taught writing at Humber College. Her work has appeared in many Canadian journals, including Arc, Descant, Event, Fiddlehead and Grain. Match (Coach House Books) is her first collection. She lives in Toronto.

Please send your questions and comments for Helen Guri to [email protected]

Interview with Helen Guri

Helen Guri (Match, Coach House Books) is Open Book: Ontario's first annual National Poetry Month Writer in Residence. In her interview with Open Book, Helen speaks about writing from a male perspective, weird online purchases, meeting her "best bad influences" and her next writing project.

Open Book:

Tell us about your book, Match.

Helen Guri:

Match is a collection of poems written in the voice of a fictional character — a middle-aged man who falls in love with a sex doll. The book is my answer to the tradition of love sonnet sequences. I took what I considered to be the basic ingredients of a sequence — sonnets, a youthful, obsessive speaker, an idealized love object — and updated them, meaning that I changed the poems to free verse and made the speaker middle-aged. Like many love sonnet sequences, Match is partly sincere and partly a parody.


Was it difficult to you to write from the perspective of a male?


No. It was much easier than writing from my own perspective. The character, Robert, was a fantastic outlet for my inner dejected, wildly self-involved curmudgeon — qualities which are by no means exclusively male, but which are perhaps most easily explored under an alias.

Helen Guri’s Books


From Coach House Books:

Robert Brand has given up on real women. Relationships just haven’t ever worked out well for him. He has, however, found a (somewhat problematic) solution, a new feminine ideal: the 110-pound sex doll he ordered over the Internet.

Showing an uncanny access to the voice of the rejected, unimpressive, emotionally challenged modern male, Helen Guri’s debut collection explores Robert’s transition from lost and lonely to loved, if only by the increasingly acrobatic voices in his mind.

Match’s touching, whip-smart poems chart the limits of the mind/body relationship in decidedly virtual times. Does our hero’s lovesick, wry, self-searching and often self-annihilating gaze signal some catastrophic aversion to depth or a feverish (if unsettling) reassertion of the romantic impulse? Can anything good really happen when the object of one’s affection is, literally, an object? And if she looks like a human being, can you ever know for sure she isn’t one?

Equal parts love story, social parody and radiant display of lyrical gymnastics, Match announces the arrival of a daring, forthright and stubbornly original new talent.

Buy this book at your local independent bookstore or online at Chapters/Indigo or Amazon.

Recent Writer in Residence Posts

Way to May Day

Dear readers,

It saddens me to report that National Poetry Month (NaPoMo) has given way to May Day, which means that we must stop talking about poetry and consider, instead, the plight of the working class. Oh, wait, that’s us too.

Postal poetry experiment: Mabi David

We all know in our darkest heart of hearts that the end of bookstores is coming.

A few might survive, but we might not live near them. Or like them. Certainly, the poetry sections of many are looking a little sparse of late.

But, at the same time, ordering from Amazon has been demonstrated to count against your soul in the afterlife. (Each “order with one click” subtracts roughly ten points.)

Trouble in the (zeit)Geist?

The tangible rewards of being a contemporary Canadian poet are relatively few compared to the amount of effort, and, yes, hard work, it takes to be a contemporary Canadian poet.

The tangible rewards include, and are quite possibly limited to:

  • The ability to show up at the local reading series without needing to invite your friends. (There are six of them. And they are all already there.)
  • The ability to cause a kerfuffle at the border simply by stating your profession.

More Ping Pong for More Literacy

A few posts ago, I spoke with writers Jeff Latosik, Howard Akler, Elyse Friedman, and David Seymour about their ping pong team, Balls, Baby, Balls, which will compete in the Pongapalooza championship on May 8 to raise

Microphone Lessons for Poets: Part 3

If you thought we were done with the microphone lessons, I am afraid you were incorrect. There are more types of microphones, even, than types of detachable shirt front. You will never, in your short career, master them all. But, at any rate, onwards.

Armchair travel at elevation: Poetry from The Philippines

It is not without a twinge of regret that I admit, in my National Poetry Month blog for Open Book Ontario, that my favourite recently discovered literary magazine is published neither within the province nor within Canada.

High Chair—named, I like to imagine, for the deadly combination of purée-infused baby babble and getting onto a high horse that inevitably leads to poetry—is a product of the Philippines.

Ping Pong for Literacy

Contrary to popular belief, writers are not lazy.

Rather, they appear to slack off while actually working incredibly hard—a clever illusion that garners them both the envy of the public and the disapproval of relatives.

(Unfortunately, the illusion is not quite exciting enough to be marketable to circuses. Always coming up a little short in the employable skills department, the writers are.)

Microphone Lessons for Poets: Part 2

I received a lot of—forgive me—feedback about that last post on microphones.

Several readers demanded diagrams. These are forthcoming. Poet Gary Barwin wanted me to add that one should not worry about sounding too loud. Too loud, he emphasized, is in fact just the right volume.

Microphone Lessons for Poets: Part 1

Like meetings between hikers and wildlife, encounters between poets and mics do not always end, or even begin, well. Outside of their usual habitats (mics usually live in closets, as do poets), and unaccustomed to one another’s idiosyncrasies, the two species can easily startle one another.

The worst results of these encounters do not bear description. Upon listening to the recordings, Werner Herzog advised destroying the tapes.

Weekend poem: Leigh Kotsilidis throws brain into a headlight

Today, for your apres-pancake pleasure, a bang-up poem by Leigh Kotsilidis, author of Hypotheticals (Coach House, 2011).

Arguing about determinism vs. neuroplasticity might be a good way to kill the conversation at a dinner party, but Kotsilidis bravely chooses this topic anyway. She populates the no man’s land between those binary opposites with a carefully controlled avalanche of weird, absorbing, hilarious, unnerving, oddly necessary stuff.

Two Solitudes: The And-ers and the Ampersanders

A Poetry Month blogger more responsible than me would probably use this post to remark on the recently announced shortlist for the Griffin Poetry Prize — among the most lucrative and exciting poetry prizes going. Instead, I am going to fixate on a typographical symbol.

(“Responsible Poetry Month blogger” is an oxymoron anyway. But I do extend virtual kisses-on-the-cheek to all of the shortlisted poets and the lone poet-translator. It is one of the unlisted perks of being shortlisted.)

Parasite to Patron: I Can Haz Arts Grant?

If you were following the news last month, chances are you read about the cat parasite, which induces in its hosts a variety of eccentric traits and symptoms helpful to cats and harmful to babies. (In women, these traits reportedly include a willingness to drink suspicious liquids and to adopt stray cats.

Two events

The Poetry Month poetry events have been proliferating exponentially, rodent-style. Each night I go to sleep (or don’t, as the case may be), and by morning another five/twenty-five/one hundred twenty-five have appeared.

Ancient Parking Lot Found on Mars; Poem of the Day

Eran Ben-Joseph, author of the spectacularly titled Rethinking A Lot: the Design and Culture of Parking, recently wrote in the New York Times that “…parking lots are a 'found' place: they satisfy needs that are not yet met by our designed surroundings.”

NaPoMo: No Joke

The first of April, while perhaps better known as the day someone might fill your squeezable honey jar with dish soap, or the day you can perform “really advanced” google searches for rhyming slang, subtext, innuendo, grammatical faux pas, looping midi music, and other goodies, is also the start of National Poetry Month.

The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book: Toronto.

Helen Guri

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