Literary Prizes·CBC Literary Prizes

5 writers make 2017 CBC Poetry Prize shortlist

Read the poems shortlisted for the 2017 CBC Poetry Prize. The winner will be announced Nov. 22, 2017.
From left: Cornelia Hoogland, Laboni Islam, Sarah Kabamba, Alessandra Naccarato and Harold Rhenisch. (Brick Books/Laboni Islam/Rachel Kabamba/Jacklyn Atlas/Diane Rhenisch)

Five poets from across Canada have been named to the 2017 CBC Poetry Prize shortlist.

The shortlisted poems were selected by the 2017 CBC Poetry Prize jury, which was comprised of Humble The Poet, Rosanna Deerchild and Gary Barwin.  A team of readers made up of writers and editors from across Canada were in charge of compiling the longlist

The winner will be announced on Nov. 22, 2017. They will receive $6,000 from the Canada Council for the Arts, a 10-day writing residency at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity and will have their story published on CBC Books and in Air Canada enRoute magazine. The four remaining finalists will each receive $1,000 from the Canada Council for the Arts and will have their story published on CBC Books.

Here is the 2017 shortlist, with links so you can read their poems:

Tourists Stroll a Victoria Waterway by Cornelia Hoogland

Cornelia Hoogland is a poet and author based on Hornby Island, B.C. She has released numerous books and has been published in many notable anthologies. (Hennie Aikman)

​About Cornelia: Cornelia Hoogland was shortlisted for the 2012 CBC Creative Nonfiction Prize. She was also a finalist for the Stephen Dunn Prize in Poetry, The Malahat Review's Long Poem Prize and the Winston Collins/Descant Prize for Best Canadian Poem. Trailer Park Elegy, a book-length poem, is her seventh book.

Why she wrote Tourists Stroll a Victoria Waterway: "Reena Virk was murdered by someone she'd never met in November 1997. Around that time, I was visiting my sick father at Victoria General Hospital in B.C., travelling from London, Ont., where I'd moved a few years earlier to teach at Western. For years, my mother sent me all the newspaper clippings surrounding Reena's death. I still have them. Fast forward 20 years to this past spring, when the parole board granted the convicted killer escorted passes to take their infant son to medical appointments and to attend parenting classes. I imagined them pushing the baby stroller, and along with many tourists, strolling along the very beautiful, manicured Gorge waterway."

Lunar Landing, 1966 by Laboni Islam

Laboni Islam is a poet and arts educator. She teaches at the Art Gallery of Ontario and Aga Khan Museum. (Courtesy Laboni Islam)

About Laboni: Laboni Islam's poetry has appeared in canthius, echolocation, FreeFall, (parenthetical), Popshot Magazine, Spiral Orb, wildness and anthologized in The Unpublished City.  She is an alumna of the University of Toronto's School of Continuing Studies creative writing program, through which she was honoured to receive the Janice Colbert Poetry Award (2014) and Marina Nemat Award (2016). Laboni teaches at the Art Gallery of Ontario and Aga Khan Museum, animating the gap between art and young audiences. Born in Canada to Bangladeshi parents, she lives in Toronto. 

​About why she wrote Lunar Landing, 1966: It is "a memory that became a riddle."

Carry by Sarah Kabamba

Sarah Kabamba is a graduate student at Carleton University and is working on her first collection of poetry. (Rachel Kabamba)

​About Sarah: Sarah Kabamba loves storytelling in all its forms, and believes it is one of the most powerful tools given to artists. Her work has been published in Carleton Now, Room Magazine, In/Words Magazine & Press and The New Quarterly. She currently resides in Ottawa, where she is completing her Masters degree at Carleton University and working on a collection of poetry.

Why she wrote Carry: "My parents. I don't think they even realize it, but they say so many things that strike me and just stay with me. When this poem started coming to me, we had friends over, and I was in the kitchen listening to them talk. In that moment, I just felt this sense of peace and belonging, and that's what I wanted to capture."

Postcards for my Sister by Alessandra Naccarato

Alessandra Naccarato is on the shortlist for the 2017 CBC Poetry Prize for Postcards for my Sister. (Jacklyn Atlas)

​About Alessandra: Alessandra Naccarato is a poet, essayist and arts educator. She was the recipient of the RBC Bronwen Wallace Award for Emerging Writers from the Writers' Trust of Canada and was a finalist for the 2014 CBC Poetry Prize. Her writing has appeared across Canada and the United States. She has toured as a spoken word artist, worked with thousands of youth across the country and holds an MFA in creative writing from the University of British Columbia.

Why she wrote Postcards for my Sister: "The last time I saw my grandmother, she had left her husband and taken the Greyhound bus to Toronto to start a new life. She was in her 70s, spoke blended English, and had come to Canada for an arranged marriage. I carry this story with me and it has become a personal mythology, an epigraph for the life I am living and the work I create."

Saying the Names Shanty by Harold Rhenisch

Harold Rhenisch is an editor and poet from British Columbia's Okanagan Valley. (Diane Rhenisch)

About Harold: Harold Rhenisch is an editor, poet and fruit tree pruner from British Columbia's Okanagan Valley. He is the father of two daughters, an apple collector, a gardener, an outdoor photographer, a cook and an explorer of the history of the Old West. In 2008 he travelled the Northern Camino through the former East Germany. In 2013, he was the artist-in-residence at Klaustrid in East Iceland. He once played Puck in A Midsummer Night's Dream. It was typecasting.

Why he wrote Saying the Names Shanty: "The poem is modelled after Al Purdy's great Canadian poem Say the Names, his early poetry about driving west across the prairies, and Stan Rogers' song The Northwest Passage, about travelling west after both Al and Franklin. I am from the valleys these men travelled to, and wanted to honour them, and the land, by singing the land's first and most beautiful names. I imagined I was making a road trip with Al, but quickly discovered that the car was full! Al was there, but Franklin and Stan as well, and Al's good friend from Victoria, the poet and singer Linda Rogers, who read Al's Say the Names to me once in her kitchen then laughed with joy."

To see the finalists for the French competition, go to

The CBC Literary Prizes have been recognizing Canadian writers since 1979. Past winners include Michael Ondaatje, Carol Shields, Michael Winter and Frances Itani.​

Michael Fraser won the 2016 CBC Poetry Prize for African Canadian in Union Blue.

If you are interested in entering the CBC Literary Prizes, the CBC Nonfiction Prize will open on Jan. 1, 2018.