Catch up on your reading here and here about the outcry over the a questionable awarding of the Governor General’s Award for Poetry (by a jury that was obviously, at least partially, in a conflict-of-interest situation) before you read this synopsis piece in the Toronto Star in which the Canada Council defends the jury process and this jury in particular.
This has sparked an outcry among some in the poetry community. Eyebrows were raised almost immediately after the $25,000 award was announced last week, with naysayers venting their objections on the literary website Bookninja.com
“We followed guidelines and process to the letter,” Melanie Rutledge, the Canada Council’s head of writing and publishing, said yesterday. “We feel that it was a consensual decision reached by all three of the jury members. We stand behind the process. We stand behind the professionalism of the committee.
“At the same time, if some in the poetry community believe that we should not have been satisfied with the committee’s ability to be 100 per cent objective, then we must graciously and responsibly accept this feedback and continue to try to do the best we can.”
The Canada Council guidelines stipulate that a conflict “may” exist “if the assessor has made a direct, intellectual contribution to one of the books” or “if the assessor’s name is listed in the acknowledgement section.”
As the word “may” suggests, it’s a discretionary call.
I have no doubt the process was followed to the letter of the law. But what this illustrates is that the letter of the law needs to be changed because its obvious that leaving it a “discretionary call” isn’t working.