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CBC Poetry Prize

Finding joy in humour and unexpected rhymes

There are five names on the shortlist for this year's CBC Poetry Prize. Before we announce the winner, we want to introduce you to the finalists and their poetry. 

Cassidy McFadzen talks about growing up in a writerly family, and how she finds joy in humour and unexpected rhymes. 




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Tell us about yourself.  
I’m 24 years old and I grew up in North Central Regina, an inner city neighbourhood with beautiful old trees, some of the friendliest people I’ve met, and a bit of a negative reputation. After finishing university I worked a little while at the local library, then spent some time travelling in Europe. This August, I moved to Iowa City, a UNESCO City of Literature filled with bookstores and frat houses.  I write mainly poetry, but am also interested in short stories and novels. 

What are you currently working on? 
I’m working on individual poems to go towards my first manuscript. One poem in-progress is about the noisy cicadas in Iowa City. Another started with the sound of the clinking hardwood floors at the Capitoline Museum in Rome. 

What inspired you to write this poem? 
I thought about a boy I had known and had an image of him swimming in water, which I’m not sure I ever saw. I consciously set out to write a narrative poem, which I hadn’t been doing too much at the time. 

How long did you work on the poem? 
I completed a version of this poem I was happy with at the Sage Hill Writing Experience in Lumsden, Saskatchewan. I attended Sage Hill in 2012 and it was a great opportunity to meet other writers and do some writing. I tinkered a little more when the competition deadline approached this past spring. So maybe three drafts in total. 

What do you like most about poetry? 
When writing, I like the possibility that a poem can be anything, and the challenge of working in a form. When reading, I love language that makes me see the world in a new way, and laughing when I read a funny line. My love for poetry is never greater than when I read an amazing pun or unexpected rhyme. 

When did you know you wanted to be a writer? 
I’ve always been obsessed with writing and I’m very lucky to have a family who encouraged it. My father writes poetry and I was always surrounded with books, which is maybe where I got the idea. I also have three brothers and we are all writers and artists.

What other poets inspire you? 
Karen Solie and Ken Babstock are masters of narrative lyric poems. Jeramy Dodds and Heather Christle have shown me the possibilities of imagination and sound. Dave McGimpsey and Michael Robbins write some of the funniest poems I’ve read in some of the tightest verse. 

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Cassidy McFadzean grew up in Regina, Saskatchewan. She received her MA from the University of Regina and was a 2013 recipient of the Governor General’s Academic Gold Medal. She has published poetry in CV2, Vallum, Arc, and The Fiddlehead and collaborated with her brother Jonah on a chapbook, Farwell (JackPine Press, 2012). Cassidy currently lives in Iowa City with her husband Nathan and is an MFA candidate at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. 



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