CBC Literary Prizes

Addendum — "Flora of a Small Island in the Salish Sea" by Alison Watt

Alison Watt has made the 2021 CBC Poetry Prize shortlist for Addendum — “Flora of a Small Island in the Salish Sea."

2021 CBC Poetry Prize shortlist

Alison Watt is a painter and a writer who lives on Protection Island in Nanaimo, B.C. (Submitted by Alison Watt)

Alison Watt has made the 2021 CBC Poetry Prize shortlist for Addendum — "Flora of a Small Island in the Salish Sea". 

She will receive $1,000 from the Canada Council for the Arts and her work has been published on CBC Books

Lise Gaston has won the 2021 CBC Poetry Prize for James.

You can read Addendum — "Flora of a Small Island in the Salish Sea" below.


i. Quercus garryana
    Garry Oak

Burrowed out of dark
climbed the ladder of myself 
until my bark itched 
and I forked the air.

First leaf fall
rain poured grief through the sudden sky 
sap slowed in my veins.

Two hundred summers 
locked in my airless archive.

I've seen everything on this rock hillside
come and go.

Mud clot root feet sunk deep.

Deaf 
from birdsong and wind.

Exhausted 
by mast years
the million buds, the thousand nestlings

weight of my limbs

pale green lichens
still bursting wild
from their furrows.

ii. Arbutus menziesii
    Arbutus

In the heat of an August afternoon

impossible
not to think of 
long muscle
elbows and ankles

you stroke
my smooth limbs
like a lover. 

A sound like paper, the first
tear. 

Year after year

I split open 
your binary obsessions
naked  clothed
pure  indecent

the colour of a skin.

Red bark curls back 
and falls
carelessly 
on a bed of tinder.

I split open 
shame
to strip 
your mind

undress
your haute couture, fast fashion, thrift store glad rags
sackcloth and ashes

reveal 
another skin
green as innocence.

iii. Thuja plicata 
Western Red Cedar Stump

Not a dressing
this woven root
that binds
the old springboard
scars

this amputation
fresh in ring time. 

Not an ascension
no crown this tasseled
hemlock head dress
seedling 
sprung from 
my once vast
fortune of cellulose
reduced to common nurse log.

Not an interment
this sarcophagus
assembling itself
around me.

Not death.
Not birth.

iv. Camas leichtlinii
    Great Camas

Where were you when I was 
knee deep in the fields
at the end of the street
royal-purple-strewn-2000-count
green satin
waiting for you to stretch full length?
Slipped your mind
while you were calculating your taxes
painting the spare room Balboa mist.

Never mind
I've withered time and time
again. Dig for sustenance
don't give me up for dead 
or that imposter
Zigadenus.

I'll be 
two thumbs under
doing my figuring
only as far as spring.

v. Russula fragilis
    Fragile Russula Mushroom

More to me than
this slow rise to rain's 
knocking

my buried
body's vast white mycelium
threading the dark 
necropolis
of beetle and worm

singing with urgent
underground
traffic.

No ruffled
perfumed
coming out
for greedy bees.

I lift my rag and bone
up
cycled
sexless flesh
smelling of mould and dry spores 

into light 

where everything falls
from above

into the soft lap 
of duff 

into forest air
stirring

my virtuous
already bruising
pleats.


Read the other finalists

​​About Alison Watt

Alison Watt is a painter and writer who lives on Protection Island in Nanaimo B.C. Her first book, The Last Island, a Naturalist's Sojourn on Triangle Island won the Edna Staebler award for Canadian nonfiction. She has published a book of poetry, Circadia, and a novel, Dazzle Patterns, which was shortlisted for the Amazon First Novel Award.

The poem's source of inspiration

"As a naturalist, I often turn to field guides. Since I trained as a biologist, over the years I have come to understand that the scientific paradigm has left us estranged from other living things. In the effort not to anthropomorphise, the emotional content has been stripped from the natural world. These poems are a response. Imagine a field guide with not only a scientific description but also a poetic one."

About the 2021 CBC Poetry Prize

The winner of the 2021 CBC Poetry Prize will receive $6,000 from the Canada Council for the Arts, have their work published on CBC Books and attend a two-week writing residency at the Banff Centre for the Arts and Creativity. Four finalists will each receive $1,000 from the Canada Council for the Arts and have their work published on CBC Books.

The 2022 CBC Nonfiction Prize will open in January. The 2022 CBC Poetry Prize will open in April.

Add some “good” to your morning and evening.

A variety of newsletters you'll love, delivered straight to you.

Sign up now

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Member

Join the conversation  Create account

Already have an account?

now