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A. F. Moritz has written more than 15 books of poetry. He has been a finalist for the Governor General’s 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 magazine’s Bess Hokin Prize. A. F. Moritz lives in Toronto and teaches at Victoria University.

The Sentinel

House of Anansi
2009 Winner
Canada

Judges’ Citation

A. F. Moritz has beautiful command of what William Empson called ‘a long delicate rhythm based on straight singing lines.’

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.