I've walked in on 2008 Governor General's Award for Poetry winner Jacob Scheier as he's running late for the IFOA welcome party. As we catch up he's ironing his pants and in much better spirits than when I saw him at a bar in Brooklyn last year. That night a group of us tried to talk away the imbroglio that was then raging over his GG win.
Looking back to that December, the young poet is justifiably ambivalent. "I felt different things at different times," he offers. "Before I won I was happy with getting a review in Prairie Fire. After I won I was on the front page of the Globe and Mail with the word 'controversy' next to my name. It was surreal."
At issue was his friendship with a juror, a fact Scheier admits (and many at the time pointed out) was a not-uncommon occurrence in the tight knit world of Canadian poetry. "I have sympathy for those who have concerns over conflicts of interest. I had - and still have - them as well. But I have no sympathy for those people who presented speculation as fact." He again reiterates that the dialogue over awards and juries is a worthwhile one but is crestfallen over the detours that dialogue took last year into a dozen different Internet flame wars. "It's unfortunate that we couldn't have a mature conversation about it."
In the year since winning Scheier says the monetary prize helped him immensely but other than that, any changes have been subtle ones. "We're all pining to win awards. I am glad I don't have to worry about that anymore. It's nice to acknowledge each other's work but fixating on awards is detrimental to our mental health."
Of his new collection of poems about his family history and the immigrant experience, Scheier is excited. "I'm going to read some Jewy and commie poems tonight," he says with a grin.