25th Trillium Award

Trillium Testimonial: Kathryn Kuitenbrouwer

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This year marks the 25th Anniversary of Ontario's illustrious Trillium Book Award/Prix Trillium. To celebrate this silver milestone, Open Book has asked members of the literary community to tell us what they love about their favourite award-winning Trillium title. If you're looking for a recommended read (or re-read), follow these Trillium Testimonials on Open Book: Ontario from now until the winners of the 2012 award competition are announced. Today, novelist Kathryn Kuitenbrouwer tells us why she's chosen Adam Sol's Crowd of Sounds (House of Anansi, 2003 Trillium Award for Poetry) — although she protests that "books are like wines: they go with certain meals, or in this case, with certain moments in one’s life."

Open Book:

What do you love about this book?

Kathryn Kuitenbrouwer:

What is the purpose of words if not to make music with them? If the words don’t sing it, they also don’t say it. I love so many of these poems — the way they find their pulse under the words, and slowly build to tell it straight. The poems "Earring," "Stunt" or Sol’s wonderful querying poem concerning which song Orpheus will play to convince Death to release his lover Eurydice ("Orpheus in Hell") — these poems play rhythm and pitch into the heart of our yearning:

…But if so,
then the song we’ve learned from Apollonius
and Ovid and Virgil, and
sung ourselves for generations, is it the whole story
or just the song he sang to Death

(from "Orpheus in Hell")

You will note the playfulness, another Sol trademark. There is a melancholic undercurrent, too, here, which always speaks to me, that tells the story of how in spite of the music and in spite of the pitch, we can fail one another, and fail to even recognize how we have failed one another. We compete instead of communicate, we behave our compassion instead of feeling it, we over-think, we are narcissists. The poems tell how art fails, as it must, but still, art goes out singing. Singing joyously.


Where did you first read it?


I read this book where all good books ought to be read. In bed.

Kathryn Kuitenbrouwer is the author of the novels Perfecting and The Nettle Spinner and the story collection Way Up (Goose Lane Editions). Recent fiction of hers has been published in Granta Magazine, Storyville, and The Walrus. She is the recipient of The Sidney Prize. Kathryn teaches and advises writers through The University of Toronto, The University of Guelph and The New York Times Knowledge Network. For more information, please visit her at her website.

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