EMAIL mj.morris@live.ca


Saturday, October 17, 2015

Armand Ruffo and Liz Howard both from Chapleau nominated for 2015 Governor General Literary Awards in different categories

Armand Ruffo and Liz Howard, both from Chapleau, have been selected  as finalists in different categories in the 2015 Governor General's Literary Awards, to be announced on October 28.

Armand has been nominated in the non fiction category for his book Norval Morisseau: Man Changing into Thunderbird while Liz is a finalist in the poetry section for  Infinite Citizen of the Shaking Tent.

My first WOW came when I received an email from Armand recently advising that his book had been nominated, and the second came  when Liz posted on Facebook that her work had been selected. Just imagine! We kind of expect that two, even more on occasion, are nominated for prestigious awards or honours from large cities.. 

Armand and Liz are from a small rural community and have both been nominated in the same year for a very prestigious literary award. Before going any further, a huge "WOW" to both of you, and congratulations.

The Canada Council for the Arts  explains that the Governor General’s Literary Awards are given annually to the best English-language and the best French-language book in each of the seven categories of Fiction, Literary Non-fiction, Poetry, Drama, Children’s Literature (text), Children’s Literature (illustrated books) and Translation (from French to English).


Armand Garnet Ruffo was born in Chapleau with roots to the Biscotasing branch of the Sagamok First Nation and the Chapleau Fox Lake Cree First Nation. He is a graduate of Chapleau High School, and as I have noted when writing about Armand's work on other occasions, he played on my 1970-71 Midget hockey team. I still have the plaque the team gave me.

Andrew Carroll, editor of the Queen's Gazette wrote that Armand, the Queen’s National Scholar in Indigenous Languages and Literatures, is in the running for a Governor General's Literary Award in the non-fiction category for his work Norval Morrisseau: Man Changing into Thunderbird, a biography of the innovative and controversial Ojibway painter.
Mr. Carroll noted that Armand, who teaches in the Department of English Language and Literature and Department of Drama, was surprised by the nomination and considers it an honour to be included among “such fine writers.”
Norval Morrisseau: Man Changing Into Thunderbird took numerous years to write because of the huge amount of primary research that I had to do, and the way that I wanted to integrate this material into a compelling narrative, and so it is wonderful to hear that the book may not simply fall into the proverbial ‘big black hole’ and disappear quickly from sight,” he says. “Ultimately, it’s the writing that matters, and I think the nomination should help the book come to the attention of potential readers, and for a writer – at least for me – this is the best thing about the nomination.”
Armand previously taught at Carleton University in Ottawa. He has  Master's degree in literature and creative writing from the University of Windsor and an Honours degree in English from the University of Ottawa.


In a Facebook and email exchange with Liz, she advised " I'm so pleased to be in Chapleau Express. The Express was the first place that ever published me, when I was 8 years old!"
Regarding her background and family Liz said she was born in Timmins in 1985 and grew up in Chapleau on Monk Street and Highway 129. 

"I am the daughter of Tamara (nee Turcotte) and Sylvain Rousseau. My birth father was Russell Howard, son of William (Bill) Howard who is a former Chapleau Reeve. 

"I graduated from Chapleau High School in 2003 at the top of my class and left immediately to study psychological science in Toronto. I graduated from the University of Toronto with an Honours Bachelor of Science with High Distinction in 2007 and became employed by the Hasher Aging and Cognition Laboratory as a research officer. 

"After graduation I began an intensive period of writing and performing my poetry. I enrolled in the MFA in Creative Writing through the University of Guelph and secured a book contract before my thesis was submitted. 

"My childhood in Chapleau, especially the significant amount of time I spent in the woods and lakes, are foundational to my writing. I am also very proud of my Anishinaabe (Ojibway) heritage and write about many First Nations issues."


From Norval Morrisseau: Man Changing into Thunderbird by Armand Garnet Ruffo ©2015. Published by Douglas&McIntyre:

"This compelling biography delves into the life of Norval Morrisseau, a self-taught Ojibway artist who rose to prominence to become one of the most innovative and important Canadian painters of the 20th century.He was a charismatic - and troubled - figure who first started drawing sketches and age six in the sand on the shores of Lake Nipigon. He became a great internationally-known success, but struggled with alcoholism, often trading his art for booze, and landing in jail while his wife and children lived in poverty."

An Excerpt from the book by Armand: "The more I thought about Morrisseau and his life, the more I realized that his experiences, while extraordinary in their own right because of his unique gifts, were fundamentally connected to something larger than himself. I realized that Morrisseau's life was representative of the profound upheaval that had taken place in the lives of native people across the country. With their traditional economies and support systems in ruins, they were thrown into abject poverty, families literally starving to death, and it was into this milieu that Morrisseau, like my mother, was born in 1932 (which is the birth year that he acknowledged in a Department of Indian Affairs cultural development application). A period that coincided with the unparalleled movement by Native peoples to cities and one-industry towns across the country to find work-shell shocked as they were by a history of missionaries, decades of residential schooling that taught them to hate everything Indian, hate even themselves, the overt racism that made them stand at the back of the line, the total disregard and denigration of their cultures, the stereotypes that 
continually projected Hollywood versions of them whooping and hollering on the screen."

From Infinite Citizen of the Shaking Tent by Liz Howard ©2015. Published by McClelland & Stewart.

 "In Liz Howard's wild, scintillating debut, the mechanisms we use to make sense of our worlds - even our direct intimate experiences of it - come under constant scrutiny and a pressure that feels like love. What Howard can accomplish with language strikes us as electric, a kind of alchemy of perception and catastrophe, fidelity and apocalypse. The waters of Northern Ontario shield country are the toxic origin and an image of potential."

A poem from the book by Liz Howard:


The total psychic economy shimmers
a little mouthpiece out in the field
anthropologically, her voice in its hollow

All night the blood moon measures the dilation
of each pupil, pin-prick or dinner plate
in this poem where our attention fails to die

A positive outcome would be music in the unfinished
basement, a purple curfew for causation, the reply
a sinuous window of dried moths over the harbour

An exercise in temperament pitched back over
the clouded bathroom mirror transiting near to silver
being female, some Velcro, afterbirth and gravel

In our settler dreams Plexiglas teeth stuck in the hide
of the ravine, a freeway of copper wire and blackstrap
molasses, Copernican limbs, mercury in the water

Little silver pills tracing a path through the lakebed
of submerged logs to a trap of currents under rock
our odd love and petrochemicals not otherwise specified

The finalists in the Non-fiction category are: Bee Time by Mark L. Winston; Dispatches from the Front by David Halton; Norval Morrisseau by Armand Garnet Ruffo; Party of One by Michael Harris; The Social Life of Ink by Ted Bishop

The finalists in the Poetry category are: Crossover by M. Travis Lane;; For Your Safety Please Hold On by Kayla Czaga; Infinite Citizen of the Shaking Tent by Liz Howard; My Shoes are Killing Me by Robyn Sarah; Washita by Patrick Lane

Again, my sincere congratulations to Armand and Liz. My email is mj.morris@live.ca

1 comment:

Teresa Bazeley said...

Congratulations to both nominees! Wonderful news!

Michael J Morris

Michael J Morris
MJ with Buckwheat (1989-2009) Photo by Leo Ouimet


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