CBC Literary Prizes·Updated

7 writers make the 2019 CBC Poetry Prize shortlist

Read the poems that are shortlisted for the 2019 CBC Poetry Prize. The winner will be announced on Nov. 21, 2019.
From left: Faith Arkorful, Stephanie Bolster, Catherine Greenwood, Alycia Pirmohamed, Sarah Tsiang, Cara Waterfall and Erin Soros. (See individual author pages for photo credit)

UPDATE:  An earlier version of this story omitted two entries that had been selected by the jury. The original list has been revised to include the additional pieces.   

The finalists for the 2019 CBC Poery Prize are:

Each of the finalists will receive $1,000 and have their work published by CBC Books. You can read their poems by clicking the links above. 

The winner will be announced on Nov. 21, 2019.

They will receive $6,000 from the Canada Council for the Arts, attend a two-week writing residency at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity and have their work published by CBC Books

The 2019 CBC Poetry Prize jury was comprised of Lynn Crosbie, Olive Senior and Billy-Ray Belcourt.

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

Get to know the finalists and read their work below.

Family Affair by Faith Arkorful

Faith Arkorful is a poet from Toronto. (Hannah Arkorful)

About Faith: Faith Arkorful has had her work published in Guts, Peach Mag, Prism International, Hobart, Without/pretend, The Puritan and Canthius, among others. She was a semi-finalist in the 2019 92Y Discovery Contest. Faith was born in Toronto, where she still resides.

Why she wrote Family Affair: "My beautiful friend Sanna Wani asked me to write a response poem to her poem The Earth is Soft. I was struck by the image of someone digging their own grave and from that idea emerged my own, the image of ghosts leaving their graves to attend a party."

Shelter Object by Stephanie Bolster

Stephanie Bolster won the Governor General's Literary Award for poetry for her first collection White Stone: The Alice Poems. (Thomas Bolster)

About Stephanie: Stephanie Bolster has published four books of poetry. The most recent one, A Page from the Wonders of Life on Earth, was a finalist for the Pat Lowther Memorial Award. Work from her current manuscript, Long Exposure, was a finalist for the 2012 CBC Poetry Prize and made the 2017 CBC Poetry Prize longlist. Her first book, White Stone: The Alice Poems, won the Governor General's Literary Award for poetry and the Gerald Lampert Memorial Award in 1998 and was translated into French by Pierre Blanche. In 2008, she served as the editor of The Best Canadian Poetry in English. She was born in Vancouver and teaches creative writing at Concordia University in Montreal.

Why she wrote Shelter Object: "The impact of Chernobyl has reverberated in me since it was first a news item on The National when I was in high school. But my true inspiration came through artistic sources: Robert Polidori's photographs (Zones of Exclusion: Pripyat and Chernobyl), Svetlana Alexievich's nonfiction book Voices from Chernobyl and Andrei Tarkovsky's film Stalker, which, though released seven years before the accident in 1986, may have shaped the mood of this poem more than any documentary source. (To date, I've resisted seeing the HBO series.)"

The Grolar Bear's Ballad by Catherine Greenwood

Catherine Greenwood has made the 2019 CBC Poetry Prize shortlist for The Grolar Bear's Ballad. (Thomas Ogier)

About Catherine: Catherine Greenwood has lived in British Columbia, New Brunswick, China and southeast England. She recently moved to South Yorkshire where, as a PhD candidate at the University of Sheffield, she is pursuing an interest in Scottish Gothic poetry. Past jobs include publications analyst, foreign expert, financial aid adjudicator and pet sitter. Her poetry has appeared in many literary journals and anthologies and has been recognized with several prizes, including a gold National Magazine Award and the Banff Centre Bliss Carman Poetry Award. Along with Gothic poetry, she has been working on a neo-Gothic novel.

Why she wrote The Grolar Bear's Ballad: "Back in 2006, I read a newspaper account of a bear shot in the Arctic identified as a hybrid of polar and grizzly. There was speculation that cross-species breeding had occurred as a result of global warming which caused the polar bears to range further south, and in the case of the grizzly, north, of their usual territories. I kept the clipping with a photo of the slain bear and only years later found an approach to writing about it."

Love Poem with Elk and Punctuation, Prairie Storm and Tasbih by Alycia Pirmohamed

Alycia Pirmohamed is a Calgary poet based in Scotland. (Tim Phillips)

About Alycia: Alycia Pirmohamed is a doctoral candidate at the University of Edinburgh, where she is studying figurative homelands in poetry written by second-generation immigrant writers. She is the author of Faces that Fled the Wind and a recent recipient of the Calgary Arts Development's project grant program. Alycia received her MFA from the University of Oregon.

Why she wrote Prairie Storm, one of the poems in the collection: "The poem is a landscape that weaves together multiple aspects of my upbringing: culture, location, language, (un)belonging. After recently visiting the country where my parents were born for the first time, I found myself reflecting on the different rural towns/cities where I spent some of my childhood in Alberta. I was interested in building a scene that held together the prairies with aspects of my ancestral heritage — but also wanted to illustrate the complexity of belonging through the image of a storm."

You Left Something by Erin Soros

Erin Soros is a Toronto-based writer of fiction, nonfiction and poetry. (Sanny Leviste)

About Erin: A settler from Vancouver, Erin Soros has published fiction, nonfiction and poetry in international journals and anthologies. She is a past CBC Short Story Prize and Commonwealth Short Story Prize winner. In 2019, her essay in The Fiddlehead was a finalist for a National Magazine Award and her poem Weight received the Malahat Review's Long Poem Prize. Soros has been a visiting writer at four universities, most recently the University of Cambridge. She is a postdoctoral fellow in the Society for the Humanities at Cornell University.

12 by Sarah Tsiang

Sarah Yi-Mei Tsiang is the author of 10 books including poetry, picture books and fiction. (Bernard Clark)

About Sarah: Sarah Yi-Mei Tsiang is the author of 10 books including poetry, picture books and fiction. Her 2013 book Status Update was nominated for the Pat Lowther Memorial Award and her 2011 book Sweet Devilry won the Gerald Lampert Memorial Award. She has been anthologized in collections such as Best of the Best Canadian PoetryPoet-to-Poet and the Newborn Anthology. Her poem My Boy made the longlist for the 2018 CBC Poetry Prize. She currently teaches poetry through UBC's optional residency MFA program.

Why she wrote 12: "This long poem in 12 sections is about my daughter when she was 12. It's a complicated time and I wanted to capture the beauty and danger of that age."

Caribou in the Anthropocene by Cara Waterfall 

Cara Waterfall is a poet currently living in Costa Rica. (Jessica Antista)

About  Cara: Cara Waterfall was born Ottawa and lives in Costa Rica. Cara's work has been featured or is forthcoming in Best Canadian Poetry, CV2, The Maynard, The Fiddlehead, SWWIM, Rust + Moth and Tinderbox Poetry Journal. She won Room's 2018 Short Forms contest and second place in Frontier Poetry's 2018 award for new poets. She has a postgraduate diploma in poetry & lyric discourse from the Writer's Studio at Simon Fraser University and a postgraduate diploma from the London School of Journalism.

Why she wrote Caribou in the Anthropocene: "I read a phenomenal poem called The Antler Tree by Paul Zarzyski and was struck by the beauty of the shed antlers being assembled into a monument of 'grace / a sculpted substance / textured, with heft.' It made me think about the ways in which the caribou embody grace in nature and how we affect that grace in the way we live and consume."

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

The 2018 CBC Poetry Prize winner was Natalie Lim for Arrhythmia

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

Interested in entering the CBC Literary Prizes? The 2020 CBC Nonfiction Prize will open in January, the 2020 CBC Poetry Prize will open in April and the 2021 Short Story Prize will open in September.

For writers in Grades 7 to 12, The First Page student writing challenge is now open for submissions until Nov. 25, 2019.

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