CBC Literary Prizes

Tucson Boots by Kathleen McCracken

Kathleen McCracken has made the 2020 CBC Poetry Prize longlist for Tucson Boots.

2020 CBC Poetry Prize longlist

Kathleen McCracken is a poet living in Greenisland, Northern Ireland. (John T. Davis)

Kathleen McCracken has made the 2020 CBC Poetry Prize longlist for Tucson Boots.

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 Kathleen McCracken

Kathleen McCracken is the author of eight collections of poetry including Blue Light, Bay and College, which was shortlisted for the Governor General's Literary Award for poetry, Mooncalves, Tattoo Land and a bilingual English/Portuguese edition entitled Double Self Portrait with Mirror: New and Selected Poems. She was a finalist for the W.B. Yeats Society of New York Poetry Competition, the Montreal International Prize for Poetry, The Walrus Poetry Prize and the Grist ProForma Poetry Prize. In 2019, she won the Seamus Heaney Award for New Writing. Kathleen is currently a lecturer in creative writing and contemporary literature at Ulster University in Northern Ireland.

Entry in five-ish words

"A hymn for the border-crossers."

The poem's source of inspiration

"Tucson Boots was written after spending time in Arizona and New Mexico, and in the wake of reading dozens of reports about illegal immigrants, the wall, border patrols, detention camps and Dreamers. I did buy a pair of red boots in Tucson, and as we travelled east to Las Cruces and El Paso, and looked across the Rio Grande to Juarez, the distance between our journeying and the painful, courageous struggles of so many people trying to make their way to new and better lives in the U.S. could not have been more keenly felt.

Tucson Boots was written after spending time in Arizona and New Mexico, and in the wake of reading dozens of reports about illegal immigrants, the wall, border patrols, detention camps and Dreamers.

"Back in Belfast, I watched the starlings do their sundown murmurations over the River Lagan. The poem began with that image of collective flight, and with a wish for safe passage to liberty for migrants everywhere."

First lines

We bought the red boots
                                  in Tucson

the pearl grey Stetson
                                  in Oklahoma City

the beaded buckskin jacket
                                  in Casper

the hand-tooled wild rose billfold
                                 in El Paso

No receipt            Paid cash            We were at liberty

Wearing those red boots I think about
                      how cold the desert is at night

and what it must be like to hole up under spikey creosote —
                      no coat or shoes or water

When you put on the Stetson
                      do you consider roiling rivers

coyotes or the implications
                       of summer snow on the baranca?

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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