BERTRAND BICKERSTETH THE RESPONSE OF WEEDS (NeWest Press)
2021 GERALD LAMPERT MEMORIAL AWARD WINNER
"The Response of Weeds draws us into a confluence of geography, music, and identity, in which the voices of 20th Century Black artists fluidly merge with the prairies. In Bickersteth’s interpretation we hear a blue modality and we feel Alberta sung as a point of arrival and departure, a junction in the diaspora. This collection questions place and belonging as it amplifies the Black prairie." - KAIE KELLOUGH, author of Magnetic Equator
THE RESPONSE OF WEEDS
From the jurors:
Bickersteth’s vision powerfully highlights the erasure of Black communities in the Prairies and claims those histories and presences in the movements of land. The Response of Weeds is a work of research of a stunning range, occupying a powerful space in Canadian poetry. It reveals through its polyvocality and song-like lyricism the stories that no one else can tell but that generously involve and include the reader. Bickersteth’s work re-inserts the presence of Black subjectivity into “an easing confluence/ that confuses complaint in this country” that makes us realize what we lose by not attending to these dramatis personae of invisible men and women, made visible by his vivid figuration.
Born in Sierra Leone, BERTRAND BICKERSTETH grew up in Edmonton, Calgary, and Olds, Alberta. After an English degree at UBC, Bertrand continued studying in the U.K. and later taught in the U.S. A return to Alberta provided him with new insights on black identity and most of his writing has been committed to these perspectives ever since. Although he writes in several genres, anticlimactically, the topic is always the same: what does it mean to be black and from the prairies? He has also given many public talks including a TED Talk for BowValleyCollegeTEDx called The Weight of Words. His poetry has appeared in several publications, including most recently The Antigonish Review, Cosmonauts Avenue, and The Fieldstone Review. He has also been published in The Great Black North and the forthcoming anthology The Black Prairie Archives (2020). In 2018, he was longlisted for the CBC Poetry Prize. He lives in Calgary, teaches at Olds College, and writes everywhere.