CBC Literary Prizes

Breaking variations: on the death of the eldest sibling by Lily Gontard

Lily Gontard has made the 2019 CBC Poetry Prize longlist for Breaking variations: on the death of the eldest sibling.

2019 CBC Poetry Prize longlist

Lily Gontard is a Whitehorse-based writer. (Mark Kelly)

Lily Gontard has made the 2019 CBC Poetry Prize longlist for Breaking variations: on the death of the eldest sibling.

The winner of the 2019 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 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 shortlist will be announced on Nov. 14, 2019. The winner will be announced on Nov. 21, 2019.

About Lily

Lily Gontard is a settler writer grateful to be living in Whitehorse, the traditional territories of the Kwanlin Dün First Nation and Ta'an Kwäch'än Council. Her fiction, poetry and nonfiction have appeared in magazines such as Geist, The Puritan and Uphere. She recently had a novel manuscript longlisted for the 2019 Guernica Prize for Literary Fiction. Her book Beyond Mile Zero is a collaboration with Yukon photographer Mark Kelly that explores the vanishing Alaska Highway lodge community. It won the 2017 gold Foreword Indies Award for travel writing and the silver 2018 Independent Publisher Book Award (IPPY) in the travel essay category. Lily loves lists of all lengths.

Entry in five-ish words

 A story of two sisters.

The poem's source of inspiration

"My eldest sister died one year after being diagnosed with cancer. The year she was sick was traumatic for our family. Since her death, I've been trying to write my way out of grief. It's been working."

First lines

I.
This after, all
this.

II.
One year after I was born, 
she had an abortion.
Decades later, when she stopped
dying her gray hair shades of fire
— fuchsia, red, auburn — people mistook
us for mother-daughter. The same
sad eyes, our grandmother's mouth,
narrow-angled jaw, our teeth slanted inwards.
She told me about the abortion, 
on a roadtrip
on a wide stretch of road
cut into Yukon scrubby spruce forest.
She said, I didn't want to 
make the same mistake. I said 
the same when I had my abortion.

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