Saturday, November 29, 2008

My open letter to the Canada Council

Below is a letter I sent to Melanie Rutledge, head of the writing and publishing arm of the Canada Council. I've sent a copy to Robert Sirman, the head honcho of the Council as well. Practically nothing in this letter is original in the least. All the suggestions were made by others at Book Ninja and on the Canadian League of Poet's List Serve. Much of the wording echoes Zach's letter quite closely because, well, I couldn't think of a better way to phrase my concerns without much unnecessary brain wracking. Those words, though, bear repeating.

Dear Melanie Rutledge,

Doubtless you well aware of the controversy brought about by Jacob Scheier's win of this year’s Governor General’s Award for Poetry. Rather reiterate the contentions surrounding this decision, I would like to point out some measures that would assure greater objectivity and transparency in the award nomination and judging process. These have been suggested by a number of writers on websites and list serves where Canadian poetry is discussed.

-- having as many as five or six jurors, at least one of whom is not a Canadian poet, on the award jury

-- that the jurors make their decision independently on a points system, instead of meeting up and trying to persuade each other of the merits of their particular favourites

-- that meetings between jurors be recorded and witnessed, as they are in other jury funding processes, where someone can step in and say there's a clear conflict of interest here, or there's a bit too much personal sniping, etc.

Adopting any of these measures would go a long way towards clearing up the problems around this award. At a time when arts funding is being questioned and cut, it is extremely important that even the appearance of unethical or inappropriate dealings vis-à-vis the disbursement of public money be avoided.

Thank you for listening to my concerns.


Brian Campbell
poet, translator, editor

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