Literary Prizes·CBC Literary Prizes

If You Are Silent by Kyla Jamieson

Kyla Jamieson has made the 2019 CBC Poetry Prize longlist for If You Are Silent.

2019 CBC Poetry Prize longlist

Kyla Jamieson is the author of the poetry chapbook Kind of Animal. (Kyrani Kanavaros)

Kyla Jamieson has made the 2019 CBC Poetry Prize longlist for If You Are Silent.

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 Kyla

Kyla Jamieson lives and relies on the unceded traditional territories of the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh Nations. Her poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Poetry Is Dead, Room, The Vault, Guts, Peach Mag, The Maynard, Plenitude, The Account and others. In 2018, she was selected as the third place winner in the Metatron Prize for rising authors. She is the author of Kind of Animal, a poetry chapbook about the aftermath of a brain injury. Body Count, her debut collection of poems, is forthcoming in spring 2020.

Entry in five-ish words

When writing can't heal us.

The poem's source of inspiration

"I wrote this after a brain injury that drastically altered my relationship with language and forced me to reconsider how far along the path of my healing — from sexual violence and other traumas — writing could and could not take me. Reflecting on the public dialogue around #metoo and #timesup, I wanted to complicate the idea that sharing our most personal stories is inherently healing, to reconsider what a trauma story can look like and who gets to access it, and to suggest that maybe there are ways this imperative to share can fail us or an over-belief in the healing power of sharing stories can leave us wanting. In this poem, I wanted to acknowledge the silences I have lived with and through and to direct attention, love and care to people who had stories they didn't want to tell or couldn't."

First lines

At the two-day sexual assault conference we discussed terminology: should the policy read survivor, victim, or person who has experienced sexual assault?

Last summer, I timed my drive home from camping next to a river so I could arrive before the sun began to set. That's when it really kills you, my father says, when it's low in the sky. Not when it's hottest, or brightest. In this way, all harm seems like a matter of angles—where you're exposed, how it hits you, what you need most.

In the aftermath of a brain injury, I lost my ability to communicate. To read. To write. I was more silent and in more pain than I've ever been, and that my pain and silence coincided was no coincidence.