Karen Solie


Griffin Poetry Prize 2002
Canadian Shortlist

Book: Short Haul Engine

Poet: Karen Solie

Publisher: Brick Books

Click here to read and listen to an excerpt.



In addition to the Griffin Poetry Prize shortlist, Karen Solie’s first book of poems, Short Haul Engine, also recently won the Dorothy Livesay Poetry Prize, sponsored by the B.C. Book Prizes. As well, the book is shortlisted for the League of Canadian Poets’ Gerald Lampert Award, and for the National Magazine Award for poetry. Karen Solie’s poetry, fiction and non-fiction have appeared in numerous North American journals, including The Fiddlehead, The Malahat Review, Event, Indiana Review, ARC, Other Voices, and The Capilano Review. She has also had her poetry published in the anthologies Breathing Fire (Harbour, 1995), Hammer and Tongs (Smoking Lung, 1999), and Introductions: Poets Present Poets (Fitzhenry and Whiteside, 2001) and one of her short stories featured in The Journey Prize Anthology 12. Born in Moose Jaw, Solie grew up on the family farm in southwest Saskatchewan. Over the years, she has worked as a farm hand, an espresso jerk, a groundskeeper, a newspaper reporter/photographer, an academic research assistant, and presently, an English teacher.

Solie’s second collection of poetry, Modern and Normal, was published in the fall of 2005.

Solie was selected by the Griffin trustees as a judge for the 2007 Griffin Poetry Prize.

Solie’s 2009 collection, Pigeon, won the 2010 Canadian Griffin Poetry Prize.

Judges’ Citation

“Karen Solie’s first book of poems, Short Haul Engine – a nice phrase for poetry – stood out for its mix of physical impressions, perceptual strength, and – especially – mental grace. A kind of liveliness, agility, connectivity. In ‘Early in Winter,’ one of her many car poems, she writes: ‘feet cold, heart wagging its little tail.’ Grief shows: ‘what is not in everything/ there is; and all/ it wants to talk about/ is you.’ A monstrous old fish, a sturgeon, is hauled out of the water by some teenagers, but then, // when he began to heave and thrash over yards of rock/ to the water’s edge and, unbelievably, in,/ we couldn’t hold him though we were teenaged/ and bigger than everything. Could not contain/ the old current he had for a mind, its pull,/ and his body a muscle called river, called spawn.’

There is toughness here, as well as grace. Often in her pages, we encounter wisdom of a severity that we would almost rather not know. A cold person is a different species; there is a dismal companionship in grief, the water stays in the fish, even when the fish is out of the water. Short Haul Engine is not just an exceptional debut, it is an exceptional book.”

Karen Solie reads Sturgeon

Sturgeon, by Karen Solie


Jackfish and walleye circle like clouds as he strains
the silt floor of his pool, a lost lure in his lip,
Five of Diamonds, River Runt, Lazy Ike,
or a simple spoon, feeding
a slow disease of rust through his body’s quiet armour.
Kin to caviar, he’s an oily mudfish. Inedible.
Indelible. Ancient grunt of sea
in a warm prairie river, prehistory a third eye in his head.
He rests, and time passes as water and sand
through the long throat of him, in a hiss, as thoughts
of food. We take our guilts
to his valley and dump them in,
give him quicksilver to corrode his fins, weed killer,
gas oil mix, wrap him in poison arms.
Our bottom feeder,

On an afternoon mean as a hook we hauled him
up to his nightmare of us and laughed
at his ugliness, soft sucker mouth opening,
closing on air that must have felt like ground glass,
left him to die with disdain
for what we could not consume.
And when he began to heave and thrash over yards of rock
to the water’s edge and, unbelievably, in,
we couldn’t hold him though we were teenaged
and bigger than everything. Could not contain
the old current he had for a mind, its pull,
and his body a muscle called river, called spawn.

From Short Haul Engine, by Karen Solie
Copyright © Karen Solie 2001.

More about Karen Solie

The following are links to other Web sites with information about poet Karen Solie. (Note: All links to external Web sites open in a new browser window.)

Have you read Short Haul Engine by Karen Solie? Add your comments to this page and let us know what you think.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.