P.E.I. writer Bren Simmers wins 2022 CBC Poetry Prize for work inspired by how Alzheimer's affects language
Simmers will receive $6,000, attend a writing residency in Banff and have her work published on CBC Books
Simmers is the author of four books, including the wilderness memoir Pivot Point and Hastings-Sunrise, which was a finalist for the Vancouver Book Award. Her most recent collection of poetry is If, When. She was previously longlisted for the CBC Poetry Prize in 2013 for I Blame MASH For My Addiction To MLS and in 2012 for Science Lessons.
LISTEN | Bren Simmers' interview on On The Coast with Gloria Macarenko
"My mom was diagnosed with Alzheimer's in 2017. As I started writing about her deterioration, I became interested in how language is affected by the disease," she said.
LISTEN | Bren Simmers' interview on As It Happens:
"In this series, I try to mimic some of the looping, nonsense words and holes in her speech. As she progresses into late-stage Alzheimer's, it has become increasingly difficult to communicate with her, outside of touch. She still loves to dance though!"
"Spell World Backwards is a moving sequence of poems that unflinchingly addresses the complexities of dementia, kinship, and grief, and reaches the core of our common humanity. Told in a set of incomplete block-shaped stanzas with deliberate textual omissions, the sequence sets into motion a narrative that draws upon themes of mother and child, love and separation, memory and forgetting," the jury said in a statement.
The 2022 CBC Poetry Prize jurors were Armand Garnet Ruffo, Megan Gail Coles and Hoa Nguyen.
LISTEN | Bren Simmers on Spell World Backwards:
Simmers' winning poetry collection was selected from over 2,200 entries.
"I am incredulous and so grateful! I've always wanted to win the CBC Poetry Prize, but never thought it would happen. I know my mom would be proud too. She used to carry my poems in her purse and show them to people in the grocery store," Simmers told CBC Books.
The other four finalists are Rachel Lachmansingh of Toronto for From the Mouth, Brad Aaron Modlin of Guelph, Ont., for To the Astronaut Who Hopes Life on Another Planet Will Be More Bearable, Luka Poljak of Vancouver, for Mouth Prayers and Kerry Ryan of Winnipeg, for Grief white. They will each receive $1,000 from the Canada Council for the Arts.
LISTEN | Bren Simmers on winning the 2022 CBC Poetry Prize:
The CBC Literary Prizes have been recognizing Canadian writers since 1979. Bren Simmers is the first ever CBC Literary Prizes grand prize winner from Prince Edward Island.