Contest winners will be recognized by our contest judge (a published Canadian poet) with a 1st, 2nd, or 3rd place ranking as well as the appearance of their contest entry poetry on this contest website. 

Our 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place contest winners will also each receive one copy (print or ebook) of our guide, Mentor Me: Instruction and Advice for Aspiring Writers.

An interview with the first-prize winner will be published on the contest website, or an affiliated publication, or Allyson Latta's website, "Memories into Story",, recommended by The Writer magazine in the 125th-anniversary issue as one of "16 of Our Favorite Writing Blogs and Websites" (March 2012). Allyson has served as our contest's Editorial Consultant and published interviews with our contest winners from 2012 to 2015.

To develop talent, the Contest will commit $500 to online private mentoring with our contest judge (for his/her biography, see Contest Judge). Rather than a cash prize, our Contest winners will receive as follows:
1st place:  5 private online mentoring sessions (each session is a 1/2 hour in length)
2nd place: 4 private online mentoring sessions (each session is a 1/2 hour in length)
3rd place: 3 private online mentoring sessions (each session is a 1/2 hour in length)

Online mentoring sessions create an opportunity for these aspiring poets for private instruction and to have a selection of their poems closely reviewed. 

Our interview with 2017 first-prize winner, Jill Reitman, can be found below.

Persist in Your Writing ~  My Interview with Jill Reitman
Heidi Stock

Heidi: Why did you decide to submit this particular poem to the contest?

Jill: It is a very honest piece that helped me, and could possibly help others, see where I come from. It came closer than many of my other poems to speaking through example, imagery, personification and by appealing to the senses. Going "public" with it, though, was a difficult decision as it is so personal.

Heidi: What's the backstory to this poem?

Jill: Very simply, in my home growing up, we really did have carpets that showed every mark, and a mother that obsessed about it. We lived in an era and environment in which certain valued objects and certain special rooms were not accessible to children. It's something we, in our family, all learned to live with and about which we never thought there were other choices. Now, obsession, inherited or learned, serves me well in reviewing my poetry, but it doesn't get in the way of my dog's having the run of the house!

Heidi: When did you start writing poetry?

Jill: I think I started in elementary school when we had writing assignments. But poetry was in and out of my life. Very present in high school, and then again later in life. It seemed to surface most in introspective periods, but now that I've focused on it seriously, I think it's here to stay.

Heidi: Do you remember your first poem? Care to share a couple of lines? What inspired that first poem or your first piece of creative writing?

Jill: I remember writing a poem about spring when I was in Grade 3. Perhaps that was the first poem I wrote, or maybe the first one I remember writing. It was a poem inspired by a work by e. e. cummings called, "in Just". Unfortunately, I have no recollection of the specifics. But I recall relating so closely to cummings' reference to the world being "mud-lucious" and "puddle wonderful" because that's exactly how my walks felt going to and from school - through the mucky playground, slushy gutters, and over the wet, often waterlogged wooden foot bridge.

Heidi: Was poetry your first creative outlet, or was it another style of writing? Or another art form? 

Jill: In high school, poetry was a creative outlet for me - writing, reading and analyzing. I would say it was my first really creative outlet, although I played piano and violin as a child and teenager.

Heidi: Do other forms of artistic expression and/or life experience influence your writing? 

Jill: Remembering childhood experiences or family members are rich sources for my writing.

Also, I travel a great deal and experiences or sights on these journeys often serve as inspiration, starting me on my way to a poem.

Heidi: Who has influenced or encouraged your writing - which writers/authors, other artists, teachers/mentors, loved ones?

Jill: The first Poetry writing course I ever took was at University of Toronto's School of Continuing Studies, given by Catherine Graham, an accomplished Canadian poet and novelist.

I had been writing, but not really knowing how. She taught me, and was a mentor to me for a few years. She introduced me to the works of great poets such as Pablo Neruda, Federico Garcia Lorca, Jane Kenyon, Louise Glück, Robin Robertson, Elizabeth Bishop, and so many more. They all became my mentors too.

Catherine's comments were both "emotionally honest" (to cite Richard Hugo) and very constructive. She provided me with many useful tools to write effectively, and I learned a great deal from her.

Heidi: What do you do to develop your craft?

Jill: I continue to read poetry, go to readings, write as often as I can, and always look for similes and metaphors in my surroundings.

I also, at the suggestion of Catherine Graham, keep a list of words that I hear or read that I think may be useful in my writing.

Heidi: What advice do you have for fellow aspiring poets?

Jill: Find a mentor you respect - one that is honest and not afraid to be critical in a constructive way, persist in your writing - don't give up, write every day, and read good poetry. And always remember, complacency can get in the way of achieving your greatest work.

Read Jill's contest winning poem, Carpets, below


1st place:   Jill Reitman (poem, Carpets)

2nd place:  Noah Kherani (poem, Dream)

3rd place:  Sapphire Kaye (poem, talk talk)

​Contest winning poems are posted below

Carpets by Jill Reitman (1st place)
(With thanks to Robin Robertson)

For ten years I dreamt of that house:
I knew every corridor, cornice, each grain
of wood in every floor board, the way light
fell each time of day. Lines and angles.

The carpets, mossy green velvet,
pouring over stairs and floors, melding
the rooms in my mind. I rubbed my fingers
on the pile, one way, then the other;

rough as a brush. In our house, no wrinkles.
Wall-to-wall, silver green ripple-less lake.
Footprints removed, hour by hour, by the vacuum's
broom pounding a steady rhythm of perfection.

Relief, release, in each stroke, feather, stroke, feather;
rowing away imprints until the house looked mint.
Walking from room to room meant walking
on water, floating like a ghost so no marks showed.

I hear the steady cadence, calm emerald lake,
placid in the noise till it sounded like redemption.
I see the slim seam, the border, like museum cordoning
marking the entrance to our living room. Living room.

Antiques poised precariously, crystal and glass cringing
at little fingers, marble wincing at water marks,
couches overstuffed; cushions, silk parachutes, never
floating down - sitting not permitted,

nor children, except by invitation—piano practice
with mother. Rose taffeta, the piano bench—
a hot seat; living room pleasure not always
worth the pressure. I remember the carpets.

Dream by Noah Kherani (2nd place)

I once had a dream
that you kissed my neck
and set my whole body 
on fire. 
I felt my veins scorch
as I pulled you close
and like a matchstick
I burned.  
My body was blazed
but you did not sweat
you stared into my eyes
I awoke. 
I yearned for your lips
your nails on my neck
you left burning scars
And ran. 
But I chased after
your locked and caged heart
your fiery touch
I'm yours. 
So if you are fire
I'll incinerate
and if you are water
I'll drown. 
When you kiss me
my body will ignite
and you will grab the flames
But do you go home love
with frostbitten lips?
For mine will burn from you
All night... 

talk talk by Sapphire Kaye (3rd place)

​talk talk hold on stop
I waited by the coffee shop 
if I think in rhymes does that save time? 
I hope you're waiting for me while I waste time
I hope when I come up in your mind you go blind
I'll take you on a ride because that's just what I do 
I talk in circles while I look at you 
my mind starts to panic it's tragic and it's only because I only know how to be frantic 
take me with a grain of salt 
I'm like a disappointing horoscope 
I'll do this automatic writing while you play with your telescope 
tell me do the stars align or are they just dancing? 
is it my imagination or are you romantic? 
I like the pictures because they lie to me constantly 
I talk to myself about this monstrosity 
if I watch a film I am that film and that film is me 
the reels slide through my veins while I project fantasy 
music is my friend too because it possesses me
my body's strapped to a chair and I feel the Lord testing me 
is it Art that I want or is Art stressing me? 
I'm up at the altar with a notebook and a pen while you're in the aisle trying to hit "send" 
thoughts just create thoughts and in them I drown 
the book is in my hand and in this book I'm bound 
to this book I'm bound 
ring on my left finger was just from a toy machine
I put a quarter in and now I'm saccharine

Our interview with 2016 first-prize winner, Rebecca Gismondi, can be found below.

Your Voice is Yours for a Reason ~ My Interview with Rebecca Gismondi
Heidi Stock

Heidi: Why did you decide to submit this particular poem to the contest?
Rebecca: It's my favourite piece that I've written so far. I think it accurately reflects who I am both as a person and as a writer and I think it showcases my style appropriately. It's always important to submit your best work and I believe this reflects that!

Heidi: What's the backstory to this poem?
Rebecca: This poem is based off of a painting by Paula Rego, who is one of my favourite artists. It's called "The Loving Bewick", and it's of a woman sitting down and a pelican perched above her with its beak in her mouth. I first saw this painting in Lisbon and fell in love with both Rego's work and this particular painting, and was inspired to write this piece! I think it also came from me reflecting on who I am when I am in love with someone, and how one often throws themselves into another person and becomes lost in them and the idea of being in love.

Heidi: When did you start writing poetry?
Rebecca: I think I was 9. I remember in elementary school we had to make a poetry book for an assignment and I was hooked from then on. Poetry has always been something constant in my life and has always been that one thing that I can walk away from for a while, but always come back to and feel the most at home.

Heidi: Do you remember your first poem? Care to share a couple of lines? What inspired that first poem or your first piece of creative writing?
Rebecca: I think it was about candy. I wish I remembered a few lines! It was from that poetry book I had to write in school, and I wrote about things like candy, my parents and life as a 9-year-old. I used to write short stories and "novels" when I was younger, and they were all just amalgamations of events that were happening in my life: growing up, making friends, liking boys. I wrote a poem as well when a friend of mine passed away when I was 10 from cancer, and from then on I realized that it could really be an important outlet for me.

Heidi: Was poetry your first creative outlet, or was it another style of writing? Or another art form? 
Rebecca: I was involved a lot in acting when I was very young up until I got out of university, but writing was always hiding there the whole time. It took a few different experiences for me to bring it out a little more, but I wrote a lot of short stories, plays and screenplays as I got older. I only became really serious about poetry specifically a few years ago.

Heidi: Do other forms of artistic expression and/or life experience influence your writing? 
Rebecca: Life experience is the basis of all of my work! Everything I write, whether it be screenplays or poetry, comes from events that have happened to me or to those I love. I feel a stronger connection to my writing and I feel that my style emerges more effectively when I write from a personal place. But that being said, I am incredibly influenced by art as well. I often will go to galleries and just sit in front of a painting and write, and I can always find myself in whatever piece I am looking at, which I think is so beautiful.

Heidi: Who has influenced or encouraged your writing - which writers/authors, other artists, teachers/mentors, loved ones?
Rebecca: I absolutely adore Sylvia Plath. I'm a huge fan of Charles Bukowski, Ben Ladoucer, Ocean Vuong, Sara Peters, Ada Limon. Paula Rego, as I mentioned, is a big inspiration of mine. And beyond that, any person that is in my life, or has come into my life at one point that I've connected with, or who has shown me their heart has influenced my writing in some way. I am lucky to have met and interacted with people who have only inspired and encouraged my writing more, even if the outcomes may not have necessarily been positive. Any event, good or bad, is the best source of inspiration for a writer in my eyes.

Heidi: What do you do to develop your craft?
Rebecca: I read a lot - poetry, screenplays, novels, articles. I write. And I write. And I write. It is the most important thing - to actually do the work! I've had so many mentors tell me that you cannot call yourself a writer if you don't write, so I have taken that to heart and I make sure to set time aside, even if it's only a few times a week, to work on my writing. And I immerse myself in various different art forms like plays, films, galleries, museums. Going out and experiencing different art forms and just having interesting experiences in general help you hone and develop what you want to write about and what influences you. And I love to travel. Planting yourself in a new environment with new people and new surroundings shakes you up and forces you to look at things differently.

Heidi: What advice do you have for fellow aspiring poets?
Rebecca: Write! Make time for it. If it is your passion and what you love, take as much time as you can out of your day or week to work on it. Read poetry and even go out and listen to poetry as well! There are so many amazing poets out there (even right here in Toronto!) and we have such a wonderful community who are so warm and welcoming. And if you happen to go to a reading and are inspired by someone, go up to them and say hi! Connecting with other writers is so great, and I can guarantee they will love to talk about writing with you. And finally: be confident in your work. I know it's easier said than done, but don't try and compare yourself to other writers. Your voice is yours for a reason, and don't be afraid to share it.

Rebecca's contest winning poem and the names of our 2016 top three contest winners are listed below!


1st place:   Rebecca Gismondi

2nd place:  Alexander Doro

3rd place:  Darian Rose Selander

Here are the winning poems in 2016 as selected by contest judge, George Elliott Clarke:

the pelican (1st place, Rebecca Gismondi)

He would feed me sardines perched above me
every night before we fucked in the big white lighthouse

I never bled more than I did that summer;
his beak digging into my back as I pulled handfuls

of feathers – but I loved the thrashing of his wings
and the uneven wood beneath my arched back.
He covered me when

we finished and I could smell the oceans he had flown
over on his neck. In the morning, he would open his gull and I

climbed inside as he flew me back to the city.
He would never let me sit atop his back to see
the flush of green or the meeting of mountains. Only inside

his mouth did I belong. I wished more than anything to be
a sardine – to be dangled above others, to have their adoration
proved to me before I slid between their teeth forever.

​If These Walls Could Talk (2nd place, Alexander Doro)

When the pipe in the kitchen burst, the remnants of my family gathered
      around the surge of blasting water,
      only a mother, son and daughter.

The walls that had been stoic
through a thousands fights and watched while we grew up
and apart, began to cry. The drywall had dampened
and swelled with stress, about to collapse
      above the table where we once sat,
      like a scab which we pried and picked at.

My mom had plucked the plaster
Letting loose the rush of memories while stopping the water
Sobbing suddenly
much faster.
Me and my sister wiped the tears of streaming water,
An art which
We’d mastered.

My dad could have fixed the fissure,
The wound in the wall.
Except he was the piece of plaster missing,
Leaving the house shattered, and us
Painfully reminiscing.

Cold Knees (3rd place, Darian Rose Selander)

​We’ve got cold in our knees Brother
What are you doing up so late
What’s the difference between deer hide and the back of your neck
I was born fifty years too late
To hold your hand
Brother and now I sit
Watching new gulls
Migratory paths
As complex
As the lines in your hands
The lines on your face
The lines etched into your back.

​Brother I’m worried about your eyes
The scabs that form around them
Why don’t you ever do anything
I like to blame the victim
Before anyone else can
I claim all the shame for myself
Like a fat cat
Lapping up another fat cat’s blood.
There will be time enough
To find fault, but until then
I’ll pile it high like a high pile of bones
A high pile of bones that melt into the sky
Then I will be able to see
Through your wolf eyes
Your jackal slits
You would slit your own mother
Stem to stern
With those sharp eyes

I feel like I’m doing a dirty thing writing this down
But Brother if one of us dies
Then only one of us will be left
With the truth
And you haven’t looked well
For centuries

I’ll wrap you in a blanket
Or will I smother you
I’ve forgotten,
It’s been so long since I have held anyone

And just like red dye,
You’re all over my arms
And I’m so desperately trying to hide
That I want to be you, Brother,
I know hard times is just another word
For memories
And watching it all go to shit
Is what you’re used to
You’re skinny all over,
But big, like a raven
If anyone can survive this
It's you Brother.
Cold knees come from praying.


1st place:  Chloë Catan

2nd place: Basia Gilas

3rd place:  Marina Black

Here are the winning poems in 2015:

Uprush (1st place, Chloë Catan)

I’ve always been attracted to what’s in the distance,
and the hazy aqueducts.   Fernando Pessoa

In my book of disquiet
there’s a chalk glare,
the tail end of a country
I can’t catch across the gap,
then again a rush of flint shingle
breaks against the parapet.

There’s a sea lion I didn’t see
swim to the surface, through
the ashes we’d strewn
with butterflies we thought would float,
but were now sinking with him.

There’s a lion with a monkey’s face
and a lady, slim as a question mark
holding a mirror in her hand,
and I cannot eat for looking
at the strange beauty of it.

There’s walking the tight,
the rope, the stalag.
There’s a slap and its sting
and I rain from the ground up.
There are suitcases, many of them
and rubble, furniture, toys
heaped in pyres on a ship—
a box, or is it a saw-in-half.
There are whales from the porthole.

Negative Curvature  (2nd place, Basia Gilas)

Brain matter crenulates inside the skull
making more surface area for neurons
like sea slugs anatomical frills provide
more surface area for them to filter feed.

At one time cosmologists speculated the
Universe might be shaped like a Pringles
potato chip, the geometric opposite of a 
sphere, like Jimmy’s flipped eyelids. 

The Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropic Probe 
however, in showing off the Universe’s baby 
pictures, proved it’s flat within .4% margin 
of error. I was hoping it was shaped like a saddle. 

In hyperbolic geometry things aren’t as we 
know them. For instance, the sum of a triangle’s
angles can equal zero! It took math nerds 2000 
years to find a flaw in Euclid’s parallel postulate.

Jonas Bolyai’s father, Wolfgang, said to him:
For god’s sakes please give it up. Fear it no less
than sensual passion because, it too, may take
up all your time and deprive you of your health
peace of mind and happiness in life.

My mother’s plea with equal urgency:
Don’t get pregnant.
She taught me how to crochet and thereby
some mysteries of the hyperbolic plane,

which hid in Barbie’s hoop skirt ruffles, 
curving away from themselves atop the 
toilet tank. Each row of stitches increasing 
by one; an algorithm for exponential space. 

Dr.Taimina, in 1997, was the first person 
to crochet a hyperbolic plane. She took 
what women do when they have nothing 
else to do and gave her students the ability 
to handle the impossible. Sometimes hard 
questions ask from us too much imagination. 
For instance, I’ve never held a newborn. 

Forget the Colour of Wheat  (3rd place, Marina Black)

Forget the colour of wheat alongside the tracks.

The train Vyborg – Leningrad rushes past villages with bullet’s velocity. Past

the twilight of twitching eyelids - the cataracted eyes in whiteness, not in history. Past

Finland Bay. Ten times the trees. Endlessly. Finally. The city. Everything. Ceaseless air. Idle

in low temperatures. And the childish snow falls sidelong

onto mansard roofs. Past

spell silver-laced windows that are partly faces. And suddenly

the colonnades of Nevsky prospect are overturned by Akhmatova’s funeral. Drone dull buzzing folding into

the traffic of legs stiffened in numbness trotting their way.

One step.

Two steps.

And steps.

You were holding the coffin over the wound

ached on the lovelorn paper. Clucking

jaws. There is, it seems, no heresy like the heresy

of saying good-buy. All I do now

is listen to your music. For nobody,

for no living ears: as I am

your syllable. I am 

an animal

and I - am poem

in the midst of matrons in furry hats, crows, cobblestones, wide open mouth of bridges and clumsy jackets. 

As if a traveller seized by the dark thirst. The North is driving herd

into the Baltic, heads down whining in sorrow.

The Savior on the Blood is ink-bleeding its tower-knots of fire, licking

your shivering body with tongues whose blood is not your own. How fathomless

it is to be embedded in glacial light. How fragile

the winter light is after all, perched precariously. How always

on the verge of disappearing. And then

you are no more either. And I

remember things that have been said lead-onto-white, pain-onto-wire,

sinews, tautology – the knacks for catching dying life’s moth or

violated pale virgin flakes with their busted gills –

bitter wad of silence.

Just letters left, preserved

by wonder. If yes -

in what language?


1st place:   Shayne Golosky-Johnston, water ghosts

2nd place:  Isabella Aidar, Ghosts, Animals & Tattoos

3rd place:  James Hinds, Make Your Poetry Suffer

The winning poems in 2014:

water ghosts (1st place, Shayne Golosky-Johnston)

your last word was water,
which I poured from a hospice
plastic cup  

a good last word, i think,
that was our favourite place:

the water-house at the edge of
town that some delinquent sunk
out of boredom and desperation

we made it our home
lived in it for years

spent our moons
finding Jesus in plywood
and our suns sharpening
ballpoint pens  until
they forged swords
from words scrawled in red

we carved ohms
on the empty holy
altar of our ark
for meaning

tied prayers
to angel fish
and watched the
exchange of lost
souls on the seas

your glass bottle
floats downward
containing a human
sense of being

Ghosts, Animals & Tattoos (2nd place, Isabella Aidar)

“& all night I bathed, you & your ink, you and your
breath: drawing ghosts on the glass like the softest tattoos.

But was it only a dream? In the morning your nudity
next to mine, answers: no animals, no ghosts, no tattoos.”

-Chen Chen

An etched badge lives in my skin- 
a certificate of a risen phoenix.
It moves with my curves, bends with my folds.

The wings spread as flames; the tail traces my spine
like a tongue, while the moon wanes on your shoulder.
The mandala over my heart tells a story. And yours- 
the skull tells me of your dead father.
One rose for each fallen pet unfolds on your back.
Even the goldfish, you say.
We sit in the tub as though resting on shore,

& all night I bathed you, you & your ink, you and your

hands grazing the Maori lines contouring my arm.
You give me a different kind of sugar.
Line after line, our noses snuff;
fingers interlace against the glass wall.
In your grasp I’m a muse
who wears bubbles and finger paints with steam.
Black pupils expand; wings of a bat.

I draw my lips close onto your blue
breath: drawing ghosts on the glass like the softest tattoos.

We trace the metal bumps of each other’s rings

on noses, lips, nipples and tongues.
Roar and growl as jungle cats, I claw your back,
only to lie down. Big spoon, little spoon.
We’re kittens now who stretch and purr.

I tug your lips with my teeth, tiger and tigress,
roll ourselves as joints in a blanket foolishly.
In the morning, your nudity

lingers as a clammy draft in my room. The note

you left on my dresser, crinkled, 
like the tissue from the nose bleed you had.

Flashbacks of spirals and polygons on your chest,
the moon waning on your shoulder, roses on your back. 
Flakes of dirt; the sole remnants of your ghost shoes.

My fingers still pruned - reminder of a 
soak in the tub when we thought we were felines. 
The empty crease where your body laid bruised
next to mine, answers: no animals, no ghosts, no tattoos.

Make Your Poetry Suffer (3rd place, James Hinds)

Does your poetry suffer?
Do your rhymes bleed?
Do your words ask your syllables to love?

I tell you! this poetry really does suffer
to love -
that's why it writes.

Vulnerable speech: my humble offering.

I easily,
without pride,
prostrate to broken, raw, suffering poetry; a real and edgy life tide.

These beautifully fractured words speak my truth!
and it's real - even though I'm deluded.

Does your poetry suffer?

Can your Inner Massa express 400 years of slavery with that willful tongue - a - whipping?
Please do -
all your ancestors watch, wait, and weep -
celebrating your cotton-picking tune.

Hearts split open when your words are heard; eyes stream! with our shared vision.

So if I'm stuck,
if I'm paralyzed by my own self-piteous mental rhymes,

this poetry will joyfully suffer,
for us.

Does your poetry suffer?

Can your inner Fuhrer capture the suffering of concentration camps with your chambered words?
Zyklon B - a - foamin' from your lips,
Zundercommando's lies through your stained, unbrushed teeth.

From the Promised Land they watch and ask us to remember,
they ask us to change -
they ask us to
let go.

My poetry suffers, because it is so.
My words lie,
my stanzas cheat,
my presence steals -
and my onomatopoeia's just ain't buzzin' no more.

All pretense thinned,
no censorship to buffer;
my heart cracks open as this poetry suffers.

Does your poetry suffer?

These words pulse, beat and shake with the pain of its truth -
one does not get any more forthcoming than this.

We are exactly what we are looking for and
it is ourselves we must keep,
but still - we seek.

This poetry anguishes with a purpose
to break free of its iambic chains;
to escape the prison of its own expressions.

If your poetry is
stripped bare
like this wildly beating heart,
then it suffers for joy;

your poetry suffers to be whole.

Does your poetry suffer?
Do your rhymes bleed?
Do your words ask those syllables for love?

Make your poetry suffer.


1st place:  Natalia Darie, Maroon

2nd place:  Whitney Sweet, Brass Plaque and a Bottle of Beer

3rd place:  Bria Lubiens, Blue

The winning poems in 2013:


Impossible the hue
of a childhood sky
Holds the gaze steady
over lands and lands
strung round your collar;
Churns motion thick
inside the pallor of your true hands
And you are taller than
I remember.

Only a few years; within their stubborn curves
have sprouted
Dug trenches between us;
Already now my unhinged voice seeks
refuge in your sober mouth.
Tighter and tighter you wrap
skin of a still lake
over water, my body
a drum against yours
lies quiet as a leaf.

No longer do the eyes
skim merely
past our accidental kingdom
of patient stones;
Sweet ruins run their course
and settle on the tongue like rust red
Dust of a dead beautiful
winged thing.

Ancient blood wakes, runs down the pillars
of temples, cakes on my soles
to keep the ground safe
from punctual mistakes.
Night groans, coils inside my chest;
From tip to toe a cocoon
in sleep I follow
to learn your color, maroon.
The animal sludge slumber
of absence
lifts from my bones.

Brass Plaque and a Bottle of Beer

7:00am flight to Montreal
Hôtel - Dieu
I don’t speak French
We sat watching you die
In English
I told you to

Until after lunch
Your sisters will be back

I held the baby
That wasn’t permitted inside
“Votre bébé est beau”
The nuns said smiling
He cried fat, hot and hungry tears
I could not feed him

The funeral was at a Catholic church
Performed by a French priest
In broken English
It felt strange I’d only met you twice before

Your family is immeasurable
An outsider
Grief initiation

They buried your ashes under a tree
Facing Covey Hill
Through a blue veined sugar bush
Over ankle breaker field stones
Past cedar scrub
By the elderberry field

They buried you with
A brass plaque
And a bottle of beer.


We stood in Lion’s park with the big yellow
swing on Saturday looking up when we
heard the Robin’s panicked
squawking. The golden nest sat against

the eave of the building
where a boy once flew off his
swing and broke his leg as a warning
to us all. We pictured vibrant

blue eggs up there between
power lines and the stucco and wanted
those treasures to remind of childhood
outdoors. I found a long leftover branch

from a summer storm to
lift the eggs from their perch
but I was scared and the girl who
dad dubbed the bird-chucker tried

with more force. What tumbled
down was not blue but pink and
fleecy and made the most peculiar
sound when they hit the ground

and as momma Robin scolded
I realized I was shaking
and the one in my hand was warm,
I may have even felt it flutter. 


1st place: Ana Rodriguez Machado, An Afternoon in Central America

2nd place: Nora Grove, Chirico #1

3rd place: Jill Talbot, Vulture

The winning poems in 2012:

An Afternoon in Central America 

The mountains danced with shades of cadmium and emerald.
The policemen came to thank us for coming from so far away.
We aimed their loaded M14s and posed for pictures.
Everyone laughed. Sand turned to stone.
Behind the girl with golden hair, a little boy ripped a worm in half.

Chirico #1

a dog yaps somewhere around the corner
its sound bounces like a batted racket ball
off stucco walls

Chirico paints
blocks of sunlight and deep shadow
on empty cobble stoned streets

is it siesta
or something sinister

a sense of menace
pervades this place

why does it feel familiar
I am a stranger here

perhaps Lorca knows
is that why he was shot
his poetry stifled by black boots
gun butts  keys  shovels

fear  an invisible gas leaks
through window sills
under bolted doors
it is not yet evening but close

after dark things happen
people disappear
some cry out
others cover their ears and wait
for silence


no one knows for sure
why or who is next or when

at dawn life resumes
in patterns of light and shadow
in houses and on streets
where a dog's bark is heard


I want to be a part of it—
outside my Georgia Strait window, the turkey vulture circles and circles, 
she goes to fetch her young and they take turns gnawing at a captured baby seal.

The lesson of the day is ruthlessness, selfish survival, a good eye.
I know it is a she because 
when every battle is ‘til death due us part and every piece of carcass— 
continental breakfast—true bonds require the right hormones.

I know it is a she because the default is ‘he’
Animals are all male, don’t ask me why. Stuffed animals, especially.
Whether I should refer to it as a she, as lesbian, gay or transgender,
half sea or half lion? (never half white) is something they’d never ask, 
in the wild. 

Locusts will travel thousands of miles, one by one, in great crowds.
Follow the leader, they frantically keep up with the pact, the locust in front being the guide, and possibly breakfast, if he dares 

We sit in classrooms discussing 19th century literature,
and I long for the mad waves on days
they tell me to bring an umbrella, I long for the grand entrance of wind, 
fighting the trees. I long for the Queen Ocean, powerful, unaffected by the politics of land. Uninterested but angry. 

You study DNA, forgetting about it when you go to the bar, chromosome shopping. Terrified that you may have your own mate call, terrified that you’d also fight to get your belly full.
Not knowing—somewhere there's a seal looking for its pup. 
Somewhere there is a youthful vulture showing off.

You clutch your copy of the APA manual (4th ed) as if it might save you. 
You are half man, half suit, and a bit iPad3, 
the vulture of the modern world 
... or the baby seal?  
Aspiring Canadian Poets Contest
 Recognizing and Developing Unpublished Canadian Poets