CBC Literary Prizes

The Tug of War by Leah Callen

Leah Callen has made the 2020 CBC Poetry Prize longlist for The Tug of War

2020 CBC Poetry Prize longlist

Leah Callen is a poet living in Regina. (Submitted by Leah Callen)

Leah Callen has made the 2020 CBC Poetry Prize longlist for The Tug of War.

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 Leah Callen

Leah Callen is an emerging poet with her MFA in creative writing from the University of Victoria. Her verse has appeared in Canadian and American literary magazines including The Malahat Review, Vallum Magazine, Contemporary Verse 2, Kissing Dynamite, The Scrivener Creative Review and Barren Magazine, where she was a contributing poetry editor. Her words can even be found in a Twin Peaks poetry anthology called These Poems Are Not What They Seem. Callen has always loved the sea, but after falling hard for the prairies at a Sage Hill Writing retreat, she now calls Regina home.

Entry in five-ish words

"Authentic human connection transcends dogma."

The poems' source of inspiration

"Each poem appeared in its own way. Them and Us was inspired by actual news stories that deeply upset me with their fire and ice opposites, yet shared tragedy.

"At Ease is a darkly ironic, anti-fascist, love poem from the POV of someone attempting to defuse a soldier. This likely springs from my love/hate relationship with men in uniform, being raised in a loving military family, but also eternally struggling in my soul against ongoing systemic injustice.

All three poems interpret the polarizing beliefs at war within and without us, about others and ourselves, and how (I believe) authenticity and truth smash these false walls.

"And God's Eye comes somewhat from my own exploration into the divine feminine and all its taboo territory.

"All three poems interpret the polarizing beliefs at war within and without us, about others and ourselves, and how (I believe) authenticity and truth smash these false walls. In fact, we are more interconnected and complex as humans than we know or wish to accept."

First lines

Them and Us

Today, a baby was hurled in a fire
and burned alive by a Burmese soldier.

You try to forget the hot headline
as you stir in some milk. How can anyone
out there be so barbaric.

You try to forget the newborn
scream burned into your throat
as you swallow your blackened toast.

You think about how Joan of Arc's heart
survived the fire
whole. It stays with you

for months like a stray pain that found you
and just won't let go and maybe
you even nurse it a little.

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.

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