5 writers make the 2018 CBC Poetry Prize shortlist

Read the five works contending for $6,000 from the Canada Council for the Arts and a writing residency at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity. The winner will be announced on Nov. 14, 2018.
From left: Bola Opaleke, Julie Mannell, Natalie Lim, Neil Griffin and Sanita Fejzić. (Submitted by the writers, see individual pages for credit)

Five writers from across Canada have made the shortlist for the 2018 CBC Poetry Prize

The finalists are:

The winner will be announced on Nov. 14, 2018. They will receive $6,000 from the Canada Council for the Arts, a writing residency at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity and have their work published on CBC Books. Four finalists will each receive $1,000 from the Canada Council for the Arts and will have their work published on CBC Books

This year's finalists were selected by the jury, composed of Jordan Abel, Kai Cheng Thom and Ruth B. They will also select the winner.

The longlist was selected by a team of readers made up of writers and editors from across Canada. There were more than 2,500 English-language submissions.

Here are the 2018 finalists.

(M)other by Sanita Fejzić

Sanita Fejzić is a poet, writer and playwright based in Ottawa. (E.L. Photography)

About Sanita: Sanita Fejzić is an award-winning poet, writer and playwright based in Ottawa. Her novella, Psychomachia, Latin for "battle of the soul," was shortlisted for the Ken Klonsky Award and the ReLit Award. Her first play, The Blissful State of Surrender, a dramatic comedy about a Bosnian-Canadian family, was workshopped by the National Arts Centre in March 2018. Miro la girafe, her first children's story, is forthcoming in 2018. Fejzić is currently completing a PhD in cultural studies at Queen's University. Her second anthology, Dis(s)ent, was launched at the Ottawa International Writers Festival.

Why she wrote (M)other: "This poem was inspired by my lived experience. As my child's non-biological mother, I wanted to speak frankly about what's it's like to be constantly explaining to people that my son doesn't have a father. Even if gay marriage is legal in Canada, heteronormative scripts and policies persist. Case in point: on my son's birth certificate, I occupy the space of 'father/other.' The poem begins in medias res, with a caesarian. It then gives readers glimpses of painful confrontations my family has had with individuals who could not seem to accept the absence of a patriarch. The poem then shifts moods when I finally realize that I don't have to internalize other people's prejudices. This is a truth-telling poem. It's also a love note to my son."

Canadian Immigration Services Citizenship Exam by Neil Griffin

Neil Griffin is an author and poet based in Victoria, B.C. (Sonja Pinto)

About Neil: Neil Griffin is an award-winning writer. His work has been published in Canada in FreeFall and Don't Talk to Me About Love and internationally by the Lebowski Blog. He is currently studying writing at the University of Victoria. 

Why he wrote Canadian Immigration Services Citizenship Exam: "The obvious and immeasurable debt is to Lucie Brock-Broido's The American Security Against Foreign Enemies Act, published in the New Yorker in 2016. If poetry is a sort-of conversation across languages and time and distance, then this poem was my small effort to carry on Brock-Broido's discussion. I wanted to use the framework she established to think about race and immigration in Canada: how this is a country that preaches peacekeeping, but sells arms; talks a great deal about diversity, but turns away refugees. I'm not entirely sure poetry is a great tool for that  — since only eight people read poetry — but hey, it was worth a shot."

Arrhythmia by Natalie Lim

Natalie Lim is a Vancouver-based poet and musician. (Amanda Lim)

About Natalie: Natalie Lim is a poet, occasional musician, unashamed nerd and soon-to-be-graduate of the school of communication at Simon Fraser University. More than anything, she loves stories — whether told through a book, podcast or video game — and she hopes to keep writing them for the rest of her life.

Why she wrote Arrhythmia "As a third-generation Chinese Canadian, I often feel alienated from the 'Chinese' part of my identity. I was born and raised in Canada, just like my parents. I barely speak Chinese and I know almost nothing about Chinese culture. I wrote Arrhythmia as a way of working through what it means to lose a part of yourself  — or to never have known that part in the first place."

Phone Sex with a One Time Lover on the West Coast by Julie Mannell

Julie Mannell is a poet based in Toronto. (Sarah Bodri)

About Julie: Julie Mannell is an author of poetry, fiction and creative nonfiction. She holds an MFA in creative writing from the University of Guelph, where she received the HarperCollins and Constance Rooke scholarships. She has won the Lionel Shapiro Award for excellence in creative writing (fiction) and the Mona Adilman Prize in Poetry. In 2017, she was named one of the top 30 poets under 30 by In/Words Magazine. Her work has been featured in various publications. Mannell grew up in Fonthill, Ont., and spent nearly a decade in Montreal. She currently lives in Toronto.

Why she wrote Phone Sex with a One Time Lover on the West Coast: "In September of this year, two years after the fact, I went to trial against my rapist. This poem is composed of notes I wrote during those two years. It was originally several different pieces that were weak and fell apart. Writing a poem about rape is complicated. Rape is a loaded word: at once incredibly heavy, immediate, triggering and serious. Simultaneously, rape is so often trivialized as sensational or melodramatic that the assumption comes before the word itself. The word is as loaded as the concept. The concept is as loaded as the crime."

The Autobiography of Water by Bola Opaleke

Bola Opaleke is a poet based in Winnipeg. (Esther Opaleke)

About Bola: Bola Opaleke is a Best Of The Net and Pushcart Prize-nominated poet. His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in journals like Frontier Poetry, Rising Phoenix Review, Writers Resist, Rattle, Cleaver, One, Nottingham Review, The Puritan, Literary Review of Canada, Sierra Nevada Review, Dissident Voice, Poetry Quarterly, Indianapolis Review, Canadian Literature, Empty Mirror, Poetry Pacific, Drunk Monkeys, Temz Review and others. He holds a degree in city planning and lives in Winnipeg.

Why he wrote The Autobiography of Water: "It is hard to look at a people who would not stop moving and not think about water. When history forced pain and anguish on them; when their story is told mostly in tears because the land of their ancestors would not cease to burn; when the sea seems to be the only house with empty rooms for them, then that family album would be of rivers and streams. This poem was inspired by the many trials of an immigrant, from the point where his/her country of birth become a fire underneath his/her feet, to the one where the place of refuge misunderstood his/her grief and haul wet sand on his/her old wound scratched fresh. This poem is the history of immigrants told in the language of water."

To see the finalists for the French competition, go to Prix de poésie Radio-Canada.

The 2017 CBC Poetry Prize winner was Alessandra Naccarato for her poem Postcards for my Sister.

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

If you're interested in the CBC Literary Prizes, the CBC Nonfiction Prize will be open for submissions on Jan. 1, 2019. 

If you're a writer, you can join our Canada Writes Facebook group, a place where Canadian writers can connect and support each other.

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