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.

from birdsong and wind.

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

In the heat of an August afternoon

not to think of 
long muscle
elbows and ankles

you stroke
my smooth limbs
like a lover. 

A sound like paper, the first

Year after year

I split open 
your binary obsessions
naked  clothed
pure  indecent

the colour of a skin.

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

I split open 
to strip 
your mind

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

another skin
green as innocence.

iii. Thuja plicata 
Western Red Cedar Stump

Not a dressing
this woven root
that binds
the old springboard

this amputation
fresh in ring time. 

Not an ascension
no crown this tasseled
hemlock head dress
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
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

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 

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

singing with urgent

No ruffled
coming out
for greedy bees.

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

into light 

where everything falls
from above

into the soft lap 
of duff 

into forest air

my virtuous
already bruising

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.

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