SMUS Sweeps Poetry Competition

Our Writing 12 students recently won four of the six awards in the senior category of the National League of Canadian Poets 2010 Poetic License Contest for young poets. Lyn Li Che won first place, Ali West won second place and Kelly Twa and Lincoln Welsh won two of the three Honorable Mentions.

1st place – Lyn Li Che, “The Feather”

Poet’s statement: It came out of an in-class exercise that Mr Young had us complete in which we had to write a poem in the style of Robert Pinsky’s “The Shirt.” I chose to use the image of a feather not because of its immense symbolism or relationship to flight and human desire for freedom, but because I had tried writing about other objects that simply hadn’t worked. So I chose to write about this nondescript feather that was lying on my desk that had a moderately interesting story behind it, as per the second stanza of the photograph. And it really just came out of that.

The Feather
-Inspired by Robert Pinksy’s “The Shirt.”

The shaft. The barbules. The vane.
The milliner positioning a stuffed
kingfisher in mid-flight,
the centerpiece of a women’s
hat, sweat dripping down her nose,
royal-blue feathers winking in the dim light.

The barbs. The hooks. The calamus.
The rachis. The thudding sound of knife against
bone, Jorge hacking at a dead
ibis, neck broken, eyes glazed,
rainforest falling silent as he wrenches off a
feather, a muted black thing in his hand.

The leading edge. The lagging edge. The tip. The
look in Icarus’ eyes as he discovers
gravity, the sun glinting off his blond locks, the
seagulls screaming, sea soaring up to meet him
sky raining feathers, plunging towards
Hades.

2nd Place – Ali West, “Fraud”

Poet’s statement:“Fraud” is the demented offspring of winter melancholia and a teacher’s exhortation to ‘just write!’ I drew images and inspiration from a number of sources, ranging from plays to photographs to the actions of people in the world around me. The poem started out purely as description and evolved through a slow process, which culminated with the eventual addition of the title. I was pleasantly shocked to learn of its recognition and forthcoming publication by the League of Canadian Poets, as my own opinion of it was rather less glowing, so to speak.

Fraud

Clad in all that’s left, you’re staring
at the contrast of your bare feet on the asphalt,

swallowing your own inability to poetically
rescue something from the flames.

The air bends and shimmers, grows wings
the building’s crass lines soften into grey snow.

Inside, your pictures ignite in their frames,
The kettle boils and sings, harmonizes with the fire’s roar.

The whole house a disorderly symphony
A complement to

The rain’s upbraiding patter on your exposed neck,
and the gentle snakeskin

edge of the matchbox,
innocent in your hand.

Honorable Mention – Kelly Twa, “Wonderful”

Poet’s statement: My poem “Wonderful” was inspired by a poem called “Vowels” by Christian Bök, which he constructs using only the letters from the title. Like him, I wrote my poem using only the letters derived from the word “wonderful.” After spending three hours methodically flipping through a dictionary to write out each possible word, beginning with each possible letter, and organizing them into verbs nouns and adjectives—stopping often to wish I had chosen a word with an ‘s’ or an ‘a’—I found myself with three pages of raw material. From there, the poem fell in place into what is now one of my most successful poems. I believe that the possibilities are endless, and often “wonderful,” when one borrows ideas from other poets. Like T.S. Eliot once wrote “Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal; bad poets deface what they take, and good poets make it into something better, or at least something different.”

Wonderful

Under-done,
we redo.
Old,
we re-new.

We defend dull:
we fondue,
we doodle,
we do weed,
we order wool.

We lower low:
fool, offend, flee.

We feel worn,
feel down,
frown,
erode.

We run well,
fondle well,
woo well.

Unwell, we endure.
Offended, we defend.
Flooded, we defer.

Wounded,
we dwell
or we refund.
We row row row
on on on.

We rend one dude
fool one nerd
feel one eel
wed one loon.

Offered one fold, we need four,
fennel we need flower,
on we need off.

We found
one red deer
one odd elf
one fun euro
one lone felon.

No one found
one free word
or one free world

Done. End.

We followed,
we won,
we rule,
we wonderful.

Honorable Mention – Lincoln Welsh, “Rumble”

Poet’s statement: I wrote “Rumble” as a forced attempt at seriousness that resulted in the creation of one of my favourite poems. As a departure from my usual demographic of performance-centric spoken word pieces, I was pleasantly surprised to have a melancholy “rainy day” piece become so well-received. I’m glad to have been awarded for “Rumble” as it reflects both a serious time in my life and my evolving writing style. Maybe one of these days, I’ll be able to convey serious emotion without a conscious effort.

Rumble

Behind him, the sky— a brickdust scab,
belts of thunder.
He kicks gravel out of his shoes,
throws a torn canvas backpack into the
box of the truck and stitches his memory shut.

His back— raw, scraped
by pavement when his
feet were pulled from beneath him.
His father’s fist—a cattle brand lashing his jaw.

The truck lurches,
cracked rubber treads scrabble to
gain purchase on
spackled venules of country roads
that trickle from the heart of the city,
lead the way to ponds, farms—
cattle gulags.

Rain starts to fall as the
salmon-stucco walls of his house
are lost among finger-bone poplars.
Guitars twang weakly from
the hanging wires of his stereo
He flings his arm out the window—
hand surfing waves of dry, thunder wind.

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