Water is an ever-present theme for a Vancouverite such as myself. In the winter and spring months, when the clouds descend to roof-level and shower a continuous sprinkle of the wet stuff onto my perma-moist head (in record-setting amounts this year), alongside the liquid background that ebbs and flows from its shores at the bottom of my street, it’s hard to dissociate water from the landscape of my life. And so it seems for many of the contributors to this issue of Room of One’s Own, whose depictions of water as either a central or secondary character in their works reinforce its enormous role in all aspects of our lives: the ravaging late spring ice storm that destroys the beginnings of a precious garden (Seedlings, page 7), the steamy and revealing cleanse in the shower room at the local gym (flesh, page 26), the summer family picnics at river’s edge (Sundays, page 21), the refreshing dip in the lake that turns deadly (That Solid State of Things, page 29), and even the routine nightly hand dunk into the hot sudsy dish water after dinner (Queen Liz, page 52). Some of my most peaceful moments come when I am submerged in water? lap swimming at the local pool, which clears my mind as it soothes my body,or floating on my back in the lake and watching clouds float by, which is about as close as I get to meditation. Artist Andra Simionescu captured this feeling in her cover image Underwater Dream–Modern Ophelia, where the noise of daily life becomes muffled underwater as it gives way to the serenity of nature’s flow. This issue also features the winners of our 2005 annual fiction and poetry contest. Our judges comment on the winning entries:
Fiction judge Nancy Richler
The dilemma facing the judge of any short story contest is well summed up in one line from this year’s winning story. The plot of the story is familiar, the narrator of “Seedlings” tells us in one of the opening paragraphs of the story. But each story is special. Unique. And so it was with each of the ten stories I read as the judge of this contest. The theme of each story was familiar: the loss of a loved one, a relationship gone wrong, the coming of age . . . but each writer, through voice, language and narrative structure, made the story unique. “Seedlings”, though, went further than that. It captured the uniqueness of the story it told and then transcended it. In “Seedlings” a depiction of a familiar ritual that so many of us undertake each spring–the planting of our summer garden–soon moves the reader beyond the realm of the particular details and circumstances it describes so well. The mundane begins to evoke the spiritual, the seemingly small dramas of a fledgling garden evoke a larger tale of life and death, loss and renewal, hope and despair. The images and emotional impact of this story remained with me long after I finished reading it.
Poetry judge Carla Funk
Poetry is about the unexpected. A poem should take us aback, wake us up, and transform the ordinary world into an experience that engages the senses and fires the mind. The winning entries in this year’s poetry contest are built from the beauty of collision, where unlikely elements come together to make something new, something that surprises. “Overwintering” is this year’s first place winner. Dormancy and desire collide in this poem, as do the ethereal and the mundane, the natural and the human. The poet’s attention to the poetic line, to rhythm, to musicality in the diction, and to imagery that shocks the senses awake make “Overwintering” a poem that shimmers. Its final stanzas explode from stillness into “some kind/ of radiance”, and show us what a poem must do, giving us language like a gift, and such pleasure from the unexpected. In second place is “Into Grains of Sand”, a poem in three parts that takes the reader on a road trip through desire and grief. Through the elements and the imagery of place–ocean, beach, forest, and sky–the poem doubles back through memory to make meaning of loss. What surprises in this poem is its emotional frankness, its willingness to drive headlong into hopelessness and make art out of pain. The honourable mention, “Page 5 Girl Next Door!”, takes its title from a Weekly World Newsheadline, and maintains this ironic tone throughout the poem’s exposé of the quiet, lonely girl next door. Humour, a difficult art in poetry, meets the threat of danger in this poem?s ending, giving tension to a seemingly ordinary life.
Congratulations to all of our contest winners and thanks to our judges, Nancy Richler and Carla Funk, as well as all the writers who sent entries. A reminder that the entry deadline for the 2006 fiction and poetry contest is May 15. Enjoy the issue!
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