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Poetry African American

The Response of Weeds

A Misplacement of Black Poetry on the Prairies

by (author) Bertrand Bickersteth

NeWest Press
Initial publish date
Apr 2020
African American, Places, Canadian
  • eBook

    Publish Date
    Apr 2020
    List Price

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Winner of the 2021 Gerald Lampert Memorial Award!
Finalist for the Stephan G. Stephansson Award for Poetry and The 2020 City of Calgary W.O. Mitchell Book Prize at the 2021 Alberta Literary Awards!
A 2020 CBC Poetry Book of the Year!
Finalist for the 2021 High Plains Book Awards in the Poetry and First Book categories
Bertrand Bickersteth’s debut poetry collection explores what it means to be black and Albertan through a variety of prisms: historical, biographical, and essentially, geographical. The Response of Weeds offers a much-needed window on often overlooked contributions to the province’s character and provides personal perspectives on the question of black identity on the prairies. Through these rousing and evocative poems, Bickersteth uses language to call up the contours of the land itself, land that is at once mesmerizing as it is dismissively effacing. Such is black identity here on this paradoxical land, too.

About the author

Born in Sierra Leone, Bertrand Bickersteth grew up in Edmonton, Calgary, and Olds, Alberta. Identified instantly as an athlete by innumerable school and community coaches, Bertrand only reluctantly began to use his brain in his twenties and soon after turned to writing. After an English degree at UBC, Bertrand committed himself to academia, continuing his studies and then teaching in the U.K. and later 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 presented variations on this topic at several academic conferences and in academic writings as well. He has also given many talks for the general public and, in 2015, delivered a TED Talk for BowValleyCollegeTEDx called The Weight of Words. In addition to his academic work, he has written a number of plays, one of which was excerpted during Black History Month, 2010 (produced by Centre Stage Theatre). His poetry has appeared in several publications, including most recently, The Antigonish Review, Cosmonauts Avenue, and The Fieldstone Review. His poetry has also been published in The Great Black North and is forthcoming (2019) in The Black Prairie Archives. In 2018, he was longlisted for the CBC Poetry Prize. He lives in Calgary, teaches at Olds College, and no longer plays a single sport. The Response of Weeds is his debut collection and is a part of the Crow Said Poetry series.

Bertrand Bickersteth's profile page


  • Short-listed, Stephan G. Stephansson Award for Poetry at the 2021 Alberta Literary Awards
  • Nominated, High Plains Book Awards, Poetry Category
  • Nominated, High Plains Book Awards, First Book Category
  • Winner, Gerald Lampert Memorial Award
  • Short-listed, City of Calgary W.O. Mitchell Book Prize at the 2021 Alberta Literary Awards

Editorial Reviews

"In its form and content, The Response of Weeds represents a vigorous and erudite excavation of history and a carefully constructed reclamation of place, both geographically located and culturally significant."
~ Valerie Mason-John, Quill & Quire

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