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Suzanne Buffam’s first collection of poetry, Past Imperfect, won the Gerald Lampert Memorial Award for Poetry, was named a Globe and Mail ‘Top 100’ Book of the Year, and was longlisted for the ReLit Award. She won the 1998 CBC Literary Award for Poetry and has twice been shortlisted for a Pushcart Prize. Her poetry has appeared in various literary magazines and journals in the United States and Canada, including Books in CanadaPoetryJubilatA Public SpaceThe CanaryThe Denver QuarterlyPrairie Schooner, and The Colorado Review. Her work has also appeared in the anthologies Language MattersBreathing Fire: Canada’s New Poets and Breaking the Surface. A graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and the Master’s program in English at Concordia University, she currently teaches Creative Writing at the University of Chicago.

The Irrationalist

House of Anansi
2011 Shortlist
Canada

Judges’ Citation

Suzanne Buffam’s The Irrationalist takes nothing for granted. Its rhythms manage to mimic the mind at work, the mind edgy and witty and sharp.

Suzanne Buffam’s The Irrationalist takes nothing for granted. Its rhythms manage to mimic the mind at work, the mind edgy and witty and sharp. The tones are brave and sweeping, ready to re-define the world, alert not only to history and the exigencies of the contemporary, but also to larger questions to do with philosophy, with time and space. Buffam’s talent is to find the startling, telling phrase, arranging and turning her lines and cadences with considerable surprise and flair. Some of the poems are funny; others capture culture and nature, or the connections between them, with intelligence, originality and wisdom. Her poetic systems are bathed in irony, but she is also capable of allowing language to soar. In her three-line poem ‘On Last Lines’, she sums up the power of her own poetic gift: ‘The last line should strike like a lover’s complaint./ You should never see it coming./ And you should never hear the end of it.