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Born in California in 1952, Roo Borson has made her home in Canada since graduating with a Master of Fine Arts Degree from the University of British Columbia in 1977. Short Journey Upriver Toward Oishida, also winner of the Governor General’s and Pat Lowther Memorial Awards and shortlisted for the Trillium Book Prize, is her tenth book of poems, which include Water memory (1996) and Night Walk: Selected Poems (1994), a finalist for the Governor General’s Award. In addition to her prize winning essays, Borson’s poetry has won many awards including the CBC Prize for Poetry in 1982 and 1989, and has been a finalist for the National Magazine Awards in 1990 and 1993, the Governor General’s Award in 1984 as well as 1994, and in collaboration with Kim Maltman and Andy Patton as PAIN NOT BREAD, won the Long Poem Prize in the Malahat Review in 1993. Among her publications are: In the Smokey Light of the Fields (1980), Intent, Or, the Weight of the World (1989), Landfall (1977), Rain (1980), A Sad Device (1981), The Transparence of November; Snow (1985) and The Whole Night Coming Home (1984).

Borson has given readings across Canada, in the United States and in Australia, and has been published in a wide array of anthologies including The New Oxford Book of Canadian Verse, the Norton Introduction to Poetry, the Norton Introduction to Literature and The Morningside Papers. She has served as the writer in residence at both Concordia and the University of Western Ontario. Currently living in Toronto with poet and physicist Kim Maltman, along with Andy Patton and Maltman, Borson is a member of the Collaborative performance poetry ensemble PAIN NOT BREAD.

When the Griffin Trust took part in the Dublin Writers Festival in 2005, Roo Borson kept a blog of her observations and impressions – you can read it here.

A Short Journey Upriver Towards Oishida

McClelland & Stewart
2005 Winner
Canada

Judges’ Citation

The book is a small perfection in its construction, moving deftly through seasons and forms: poetic prose for a garden of persimmons, haiku rising out of prose sequences for the autumn record, and the book’s fulcrum, the ‘Water Colour’ poems…

To lose ‘North’, in some idioms, is to lose all direction. In her journey, Borson finds North. This is the work of a poet writing at the height of her powers. It is a poetic journal of mortality, of the ‘why be born?’ and ‘do you still love poetry?’, of entering middle age, and of journeying through landscape, seasons, plants, pasts, to find it again. The book is a small perfection in its construction, moving deftly through seasons and forms: poetic prose for a garden of persimmons, haiku rising out of prose sequences for the autumn record, and the book’s fulcrum, the ‘Water Colour’ poems, not haiku but poems that bear haiku’s arrested feeling and succinct observation. As for Basho, Borson’s mentor and poetic ancestor, setting off toward North – lost, loss, losing – is to find the journey itself and one’s own corporeality, out of grief and into the light of words.