PRIZES

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. 

The names of our contest winners will be listed in an issue of Quill & Quire, Canada's Magazine of Book News and Reviews. 

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", www.allysonlatta.ca, recommended by The Writer magazine in the 125th-anniversary issue as one of "16 of Our Favorite Writing Blogs and Websites" (March 2012). Allyson is also our contest's Editorial Consultant. To read our interview with the 2015 first-prize winner, click here.

To develop talent, $1,000 in contest prize money will be directed to online private mentoring with our contest judge (for his/her biography, see Contest Judge). 

Contest winners will receive as follows:
1st place:  5 private online mentoring sessions
2nd place: 4 private online mentoring sessions
3rd place: 3 private online mentoring sessions

Online mentoring sessions create an opportunity for these aspiring poets for private instruction and to have a selection of their poems closely reviewed. The contest winners for 2015 were announced in early October 2015.


2015 WINNERS

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?



2014 WINNERS

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
searching
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
raw
stripped bare
naked
pulsing
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.


2013 WINNERS

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:

Maroon

Impossible the hue
of a childhood sky
Blue
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

Wait
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
Me
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.


Blue

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. 


2012 WINNERS

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

still

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


Vulture

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 
stop.

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