CBC Literary Prizes

Nancy Ajram Made Me Gay by Eli Tareq El Bechelany-Lynch

Eli Tareq El Bechelany-Lynch has made the 2019 CBC Poetry Prize longlist for Nancy Ajram Made Me Gay.   

2019 CBC Poetry Prize longlist

Eli Tareq El Bechelany-Lynch is a mixed-race Arab poet working in Montreal. (Submitted by Eli Tareq El Bechelany-Lynch)

Eli Tareq El Bechelany-Lynch has made the 2019 CBC Poetry Prize longlist for Nancy Ajram Made Me Gay.

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 Eli Tareq

Eli Tareq El Bechelany-Lynch is a mixed-race Arab poet working in Montreal. Their work has appeared in The Best Canadian Poetry 2018 anthology, Guts, The Puritan, Carte Blanche, The Shade Journal, The New Quarterly and elsewhere. They participated in the Centering Ourselves BIPOC residency at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity and currently work as the publicist at Carte Blanche.

Entry in five-ish words

Musical Arab reclamation of queer identity.

The poem's source of inspiration

"This poem is a blending of so many ideas and thoughts about gender, language, drag, performance and the Arab world. Nancy Ajram is a famous Lebanese singer, whose performance of femininity is so intense that it feels like drag. Gender is so interesting in the Arab world. I wanted to work through the kinks and the performance, but also allow space for my own mixed gender identity to live through one of Nancy Ajram's songs and my own experiences as a child dancing to her music. I also wanted to talk about the gendered and ungendered ways the Arabic language works  — and works differently depending on the dialect — and everything came to culmination in this poem."

First lines

Could be a woman. Could be a man. Could be someone floating
in between, or somewhere else, someone in a different country
a different plain, a different part of the earth's tectonic plates
a space right in between two of them, two men sharing a bed
but no ones knows, a shattering
earthquakes so normal we all know the drill, we all know
to keep the good plates strapped in
know that sometimes you wake up to shaking
you wake up to floating
those minutes in between sleep and a shake endless
until they're not. You're up and out
of the apartment building, pants still hanging
Between your legs, you pull them up running down the stairs
hoping no one sees, but someone always does

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