CBC Literary Prizes

Origin by Kiana Rawji

Kiana Rawji has made the 2020 CBC Poetry Prize longlist for Origin.

2020 CBC Poetry Prize longlist

Kiana Rawji is a writer from Calgary. (Submitted by Kiana Rawji)

Kiana Rawji has made the 2020 CBC Poetry Prize longlist for Origin.

The winner of the 2020 CBC Poetry Prize will receive $6,000 from the Canada Council for the Arts, have their work published on CBC Books and have the opportunity to 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. 5 and the winner will be announced on Nov. 12.

About Kiana Rawji 

Kiana Rawji is a Harvard College student concentrating in film, history and literature. As an Ismaili Muslim with Kenyan roots and Indian heritage, themes of identity, migration and diversity drive her work. A developing filmmaker, Kiana recently received a Calgary Arts development project grant for a documentary on essential immigrant workers. Her two TEDx talks promoting pluralism and the understanding of Islam helped earn her the 2017 Cadillac Fairview Youth of Distinction Award for advocacy. Kiana sees writing, filmmaking and public speaking as powerful tools to engage with social justice issues and tell diverse stories of human resilience.

Entry in five-ish words

"What we carry in our blood."

The poem's source of inspiration

"When people ask me, 'Where are you from?' and I say Canada, I often get a skeptical glance and sometimes even a follow up, 'No, but… where are you really from?' This poem is in part, my attempt to answer that question (though more for myself than for those who ask it of me). I wanted to write something that expressed how wrong it feels to say that I am from any one single place. I figured I would write a history set at sea — that transitory, in-between space that is the one place connecting the various lands part of my family's past.

In this poem, I sought to interrogate and complicate the very concept of a 'homeland.'

"I come from a line of wanderers who crossed many oceans and never really knew what land belonged to them or to which land they belonged. In this poem, I sought to interrogate and complicate the very concept of a 'homeland.' I also wanted to engage with the notion of intergenerational trauma, which I have studied in several classes in college; I have long yearned to find a way to visualize and visceralize that invisible but insidious form of violence that lives in blood. If intergenerational trauma defies the linearity and logic of both time and space, I decided I wanted to paint a personal history that did the same."

First lines

This is just the beginning.

As I stand here,
watching waves course between shores
like blood,

I think maybe there is a reason
that my skin is Indian brown
but my veins are Indianocean blue.

And I do not know why I am at sea,
what brought me to this vessel
and where I am going

but then maybe I never knew,
maybe I was born here,

maybe the salt in my tears
is proof that my body was made
from the salt in the sea,

maybe ocean is my origin.

About the 2020 CBC Poetry Prize

The winner of the 2020 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 2021 CBC Nonfiction Prize will open in January. The 2021 CBC Poetry Prize will open in April.

Add some “good” to your morning and evening.

A variety of newsletters you'll love, delivered straight to you.

Sign up now

In Partnership With

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

now