Literary Prizes

Family Affair by Faith Arkorful

Faith Arkorful made the 2019 CBC Poetry Prize shortlist for Family Affair.

2019 CBC Poetry Prize shortlist

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

Faith Arkorful made the 2019 CBC Poetry Prize shortlist for Family Affair.

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

Alycia Pirmohamed won the 2019 CBC Poetry Prize for Love Poem with Elk and Punctuation, Prairie Storm and Tasbih.

You can read Family Affair below.

Family Affair

they say we are a family that is good at death / i make a decision to hold
a seminar on how to live / i schedule this party for my uncles on the first

day of spring / my dead uncles play hooky with the afterlife
slipping out of their graves while the ground unthaws / the earth still soft

i could never play hooky myself / all my childhood my mother kept her
hand wrapped around my wrist / a lightweight shackle that held me

down all nights / a weight my mother gifted to me for my own sake
the taste of iron swirling in the mouth henceforth / there was no option
she had no other option / used a coconut shard to scoop out the pulp of the night.

my dead uncles arrive to the seminar an hour late / they hover above
the chairs in my backyard / my living uncles arrive after the dead ones
and the reunion is a big family affair / my uncles grabbing one another

grabbing me / grabbing all the seminar pamphlets out of my hands
papers with titles like / interactions with the police / explaining health
complications to your doctor / drugs and you?

my uncles hand me back this polite literature / they insist upon
an idea that in the afterlife / there is no time for posturing over

anything other than perhaps a garden / someone you love deeply
the truth of it they insist / is that most of living you never really learn

the police come through / as they always do / breaking the warmth
of the reunion / my uncles are squished together around a table playing dominos

the police lean over and ask to play / the police lean over to claim
that Someone has called about the noise / the police are leaning over

what noise, i ask. half of the people here are dead. / my dead uncles
do not speak in the presence of force / is that not what you wanted
this is the living of not knowing and wanting more / a scoop of survival at

the cost of pride  / now that the police have arrived the party
must end / my dead uncles / must return to the earth /
before night / when the ground hardens / and although the party

starts late / it ends late / if not as late as we wanted / but i still
i feel so loved / I hold all  my uncles together / they hold me
in the spring we get used to the sun / staying for long

my favourite void is from the valley of lateness / i love lateness /
i love it like i love my uncles / my late uncles / my late late uncles

both living and dead / oh, how i love / the suggestion that the earth
can extend / that there will always be room for more time.

Read the other finalists

About Faith Arkorful

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.

About the CBC Poetry Prize

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. The remaining finalists will each receive $1,000 from the Canada Council for the Arts and have their work published on CBC Books.