Poetry 2019: The Winners!

Posted by 
Kayi Wong
Black and white image of two persons sitting opposite one another and discussing a piece of writing

Photo credit: Carissa D'andrade

Huge congratulations to the following three poets, whose works have been selected by our esteemed judge, Pamela Mordecai, as the winners and honourable mention for our 2019 Poetry Contest!

Room's 2019 Poetry Contest: The Winners

First place: “Weaponry of Wives” by Callista Markotich

Callista Markotich has been a teacher, principal and superintendent of education in Eastern Ontario. Retired, she lives and writes in Kingston with her husband, Don. Her current poetry appears in The Nashwaak Review, Riddlefence, Wax Poetry and Art, The New Quarterly, and Saddlebag Dispatches.

“Weaponry of Wives” is the quintessential example of a poem that makes an ordinary event—Shall we watch a war documentary?—extraordinary. The domestic scene that contextualizes this literal tug-of-war between the values of men and women as expressed in their attitudes towards weapons of destruction becomes a staging area for a battle of a different kind. A poem that seems at the start to be a meditation, complaint or even lament explodes in the end into an unspecified threat as the poet persona proclaims and rattles the contents of the arsenal accessible to wives. It is a terrible “Beware . . . ”—Pamela Mordecai

Second place: “Saweyimikowisiwin / Cree ; the act of being favoured by the spirits” by Ashleigh Giffen

Ashleigh Giffen is a 21-year-old, Oji-Cree/Pueblo/Icelandic artist. She was raised in Squamish territory but now lives in Syilx Territory. She is a multi-disciplinary artist/musician exploring dream state, realm travel, and fragmented histories through lenses of critical indigeneity and discouraging genre.

“Saweyimikowisiwin / Cree ; the act of being favoured by the spirits” is a poem in which wholeness is achieved, because, to borrow from Nobel Laureate, Derek Walcott, everything that is said is contradicted. The one favoured by the spirits affirms a plural self, prismatic, made of earthly and stellar elements; it is a persistent, pervasive self, sardonic in its dismissal of what pretends to understand the ancient and indigenous, at once playful and deadly serious in its insistence that “there is a Cree behind every tree”. It is a self, absorbing its isolation, duplicitous in its badness, triumphant in the resurgence of a Tradition that Was, in the Beginning.—Pamela Mordecai

Honourable Mention: “Dead spider frozen in ice are you dead.” by Kari Teicher

Kari Teicher writes fiction and poetry. She is a graduate of the MFA at the University of Victoria. She was on the 2019 CBC Short Story Prize longlist and 2018 CV2 Young Buck Poetry Prize longlist. She was also the Saltern Magazine Short Forms Contest winner in 2017. Kari lives in Toronto and is at work on her debut novel. You can find her on Twitter @kariontheweb.

“Dead spider frozen in ice are you dead.” is a muted, mad meandering, a toe of rambling words poking about a dead, or maybe not dead, not-insect, with many significations. The persona in the poem is overcome by a quiet raving, jumping childlike from reaction to other reaction, perhaps the last human being contemplating the last once-living creature on a frozen, deserted earth; perhaps a mad youth strayed in winter from a low-security institution; perhaps a dream creature in a dream landscape mesmerized by tame and/or terminal possibilities. This is William Blake's “Tyger” run amok, it and his “Lamb” endlessly, crazily teased out in the modern moment, confounding and at the same time summoning the reader back for further contemplation.—Pamela Mordecai



You can find Callista and Ashleigh's poems in the upcoming Room 43.2, which will be published in the Summer of 2020. As for the honourable mention, you can read Kari's poem right now via the link above. We would like to thank every poet who shared their work with us and our judge. And, of course, we couldn't be more grateful to Pamela Mordecai for the time and care she put into judging the contest. In case you missed the previous announcements, you can click through the links for the longlist and shortlist.

Room's annual poetry contest will open again next year on June 15.




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  • Devour cover: Pink background with 3 arms. One each lighting a candle, holding a vibrator, holding a tea bag over a cup
    Room 43.2, Devour
    Edited by Jessica Johns

    In this issue:

    Manahil Bandukwala, Dessa Bayrock, Megan Beadle, Brandi Bird, lue boileau, Rachel Burlock, Justina Chong, Mollie Cronin, Marilyn Dumont, Edzi'u, Ashleigh Giffen, katia hernandez velasco, erica hiroko, Jessica Johns, Shaelyn Johnston, Yume Kitasei, Mica Lemiski, Jessie Loyer, Annick MacAskill, Callista Markotich, Sonali Menezes, Kai Minosh Pyle, Natasha Ramoutar, Carmina Ravanera, Rohsni Riar, Jessica Rose, Rowan Siah, Eli Tareq El Bechelany-Lynch, Kelly S. Thompson, Arielle Twist, Phoebe Wang, Yu-Sen Zhou