Garth Martens won The Bronwen Wallace Award for Emerging Writers, a national prize administered by The Writers’ Trust of Canada for the best writer under thirty-five who has not yet published a book. He has also been shortlisted for The Bridport Prize and Arc Magazine’s Poem of the Year Contest. His work is published or forthcoming in Poetry Ireland Review, Hazlitt, This Magazine, Vallum, Prism International, The Fiddlehead, The Malahat Review, Grain Magazine, The Times Colonist, and the anthologies Poems from Planet Earth and Leonard Cohen: You’re Our Man. He is the Literary Coordinator for Open Space, an artist-run centre, and curates their reading series Open Word: Readings and Ideas. For six years he has studied flamenco cante and baile with Alma de España under the mentorship of Amity Skala and Veronica Maguire.
His first book of poems is due to appear with House of Anansi Press in April, 2014. This manuscript derives from his eight years working on large-scale commercial construction. From Anansi’s description: “Garth Martens’ debut, Prologue for the Age of Consequence, is about the tar sands and industrial projects of Alberta, and the men who work in them. But to describe it as such restricts the book to its physical concerns, when in fact these are poems of great philosophical ambition, and startling ethical and psychological reach. Martens has made an elemental world both beautiful and severe, and on his stage, characters assume a collective status both emphatically human and radically mythic. He is interested in endurance, in addiction, loss, abuse, and pain, in how people are created, and how they create themselves, out of crude material both inherited, and scavenged. His language is rough and baroque; his metaphors are titanic in their range and scope. This is a book about grace and error, about hurtling towards the unknown, about acting out. Martens writes: ‘It is dark when you reach the excavation and you don’t know if the road starts or ends here. If it’s abutment, chimera, hole.’ Prologue for the Age of Consequence accrues the propulsive force of an epic. It will pry you open, and reorder what it finds inside.” You can hear him read Dreamtime, a prose poem from that manuscript, here. As well, you can read his poem Reclamation online here. His book is now available at House of Anansi and bookstores across Canada.
What Others Say
“His poetry is gloriously dense, not prosy, even when it’s written as prose. It’s poetry as concentrated language, a play of sound and allusion that’s frequently right on the edge of conventional meaning. Its deliberate ambiguities can dissolve into a sparkle of fragments, darting in all directions.” The Globe and Mail
“Here’s a poet of sweat and ambition and all the sensory detail and wild character that builds a world. Heroic, this writer, ‘smoother than concrete.’” Jury Citation, The Bronwen Wallace Award
“One of the more ambitious submissions I read … taut and energetic …” The CBC Poetry Prize
“Stands out for its sheer originality and strangeness, for the poet’s complete confidence in the alternate world [he] creates.” The CBC Poetry Prize
“Of the various marvels in Garth Martens’ Prologue for the Age of Consequence, the ones that strike me most are the powerful and original language, the stirringly concrete grappling with technological-industrial reality, and the approach through work life as lived today. His is poetry that embraces the harshest facts, then spirals through meditation and lyricism to a vision of our world from the towers of Troy to the towers of the oil derricks, set in their present-day ‘microwavable / avatar country of the digital.’ [A]n exceptional book.” —A.F. Moritz
“Prologue for the Age of Consequence speaks a demotic blurt, Woody Guthrie, early Dylan rough, consonants thunking like nail guns. And in the marvelous din, towers, ziggurats of the oil boom, rise, mammoth, purposeful and unhuman. Martens gives us the men who erect them in Fort Mac or somewhere east of High Prairie . . . The book is as character-crammed as the Inferno.” —Tim Lilburn
A profile on Martens in Boulevard Magazine here.