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2015 Contests

The Banff Centre Bliss Carman Poetry Award

Judge: Ken Babstock

Jason Stefanik – First Prize

Letter to Leonard Peltier

It’s true, Leonard, construction workers dig up the bones
of your ancestors, voices in the river scream
through turbines, and the hymnals, native mysticism,
nor medical science couldn’t save your Nookum

on life support. The burning spoor of cancer
is through her now. Fuck the muthafuckers.
Fuck us, too, we’ve lost track of all land settlement claims
and are the wheels and pulleys of wastewater plants.

Jason Stefanik is a Winnipeg-based poet and publisher. His poems have appeared in Tart, Misunderstandings Magazine, Grain, CV2, Nashwaak Review, Arc, and as low-run chapbooks. His interests include books, travel, history, hockey and art.

David Alexander – Second Prize

You taught me a nifty party trick

Last year I did a card trick
for a six-year-old: he cut the
deck and I foretold his tax-free
savings contribution. I farted and
balloon animals were born. When
I sneezed they shook and tied their
stretched skin becoming elephants,
giraffes. I never bring my trunks –
the last pool I touched turned to ice.

David Alexander is the author of two chapbooks – Chicken Scratch from Puddles of Sky Press and Modern Warfare, forthcoming from Anstruther Press in 2016. His poems have appeared in Lemon Hound, subTerrain, The Week Shall Inherit The Verse, and The Steel Chisel. New work is forthcoming in The Malahat Review, CV2, The Rusty Toque, and Poetry is Dead. He lives in Toronto.

Sandra Ridley – Third Prize


Our dead call out our dead / you show your filthy face

You useless tit / you runt / you piece of shit / a shame

Unfettered by plain-talk / begging before a threshing

From the old butcher / your leather strap / unbelted

Crescent buckle for a skinning / hiding / each of us /

Slickened with blood / held down in your hinterland

Each barren mile unabating / say mercy.

Sandra Ridley is the author of three books of poetry: Fallout (Hagios Press), Post-Apothecary (Pedlar Press), and most recently, The Counting House (BookThug). She has taught poetry at Carleton University and has mentored poets through Salus Ottawa (Supportive Housing and Mental Health Services) and Artswell’s “Footprints to Recovery,” a partnership program for people living with mental illness.

Corina Gugulus – Honourable Mention

Sour Cherry

From the top of the tree with eyes wide open
I dreamt about imaginary places and people,
resting all day long, in the blooms of the sour cherry.

Corina Gugulus is a graduate of University of Bucharest (2004) and York University (2011), and is currently working toward a Certificate in Creative Writing at the University of Toronto. She writes in English and Romanian, and a collection of her poems will be published in the summer of 2016 in Romania.

Fiction Contest

Judge: Diane Schoemperlen

Patricia Young – First Prize

Eden Redux

It’s an old story. We’re an old story. And the sound of God roaming the garden was like a man ascending and descending a staircase in an empty house. And, yes, the animals could talk. Speak. Parler. In those days Eden had its share of wily actors. All the legless reptiles excelled in verbal chicanery. While the man was off naming the animals I’d lie flat on the ground and watch the slippery thing the serpent did with its tongue. Only the finest artists can kiss their own words.

Patricia Young’s short story collection, Airstream, won the inaugural Rooke-Metcalf award and was included in the Globe and Mail’s list of best books of the year. Her eleventh collection of poetry was published in the spring of 2016 with Biblioasis.

Elisabeth Harvor – Second Prize

An Animal Trainer Urging a Big Cat out of Its Cage

Low lamps were illuminating a band of bellies, hands, napkins, notebooks. A hand, pale as the hand of a marquise, drooping over the arm of a chair, a hand held in a fist at a crotch, the hand of a woman in her early twenties trying to tug her short skirt down to her bare knees. The fingers of the left hand of the chairman of the Committee, meanwhile, seemed to be tapping an irritable little tune on one of his own knees as he was saying words like thus and therefore and “Why can’t we just say that it’s an affront to the conscience of mankind?”

Elisabeth Harvor’s work has appeared in many Canadian and American periodicals and anthologies, as well as in anthologies in Mexico and Europe. Her first novel, Excessive Joy Injures the Heart, was named one of the ten best books of the year by the Toronto Star in 2000, and in 1996 her third story collection, Let Me Be the One, was a finalist for the Governor-General’s Award for Fiction.

Bill Stenson – Third Prize

Apache Junction

Evelyn Woolf was old enough to know better, but age didn’t seem to matter. She had said yes even though she felt put on the spot and could have said no, but once you commit to something like that there’s no turning back, and now her yes was contained inside a one-page letter sealed in a blue envelope, equipped with a stamp and addressed to her sister. The letter hadn’t been mailed yet. Her intention was to make her way to the mailbox before it got too hot and post the letter to Cambridge, Ohio.

Bill Stenson is a fiction writer who lives in Victoria, BC and Mesa, AZ. His new novel, Hanne and Her Brother, will be out with Thistledown in the fall of 2016.

Traci Skuce – Honourable Mention


Nothing moved much. Not the water, or the air, or the people on the beach. The hippie with ropey dreadlocks lay spread-eagle without a towel. He looked like every other hippie Drew had seen—macrame necklace, Thai fisher pants—and Drew had even heard him speak to Zoe, saying he’d been here so long, man, like I don’t even remember when I arrived.

Drew crouched in the shallows, tepid water weighting his swimming trunks, and the tide either ebbing or flowing. Difficult to tell.

Traci Skuce lives in Cumberland, BC, where she roams the forest, raises boys and writes. She is currently working on her first short story collection.

Creative Non-Fiction Contest

Judge: Fred Stenson

Benjamin Hertwig – First Prize

The Burn

It’s like this: the suicide bomber was there, then he wasn’t. He was swept out of the scene, leaving behind the burned and the dying, the whole mass writhing in the animal pain of the damned in a Doré woodcut. A man clutches at his bleeding face and falls to the road. It’s suddenly quiet. You hear yourself breathing, and this is what you remember: you are twenty years old, squinting into heat and sun, wanting to go home, wanting nothing more than the extension of metre sticks onto time and life.

Benjamin Hertwig has spent time as a soldier, a student, a bike courier, a tree planter, an inner-city housing worker, and a university professor. He has fiction, non-fiction, and poetry published or forthcoming in The Literary Review of Canada, Pleiades Magazine, The Glass Buffalo, and Geez.

Shannon Rayne – Second Prize

Prairie Girls and Spring Rituals

All my friend Ethan has told me about the pool party is that hot DJs will be spinning psytrance in the basement, and to bring a towel, bathing suit optional.

I’m much too shy to swim naked, or even topless, so I’m sporting a black two-piece beneath my blouse and jeans. Not a bikini exactly, but more like a tank top with a high-waisted bottom. Maybe one day I’d be the kind of woman who is comfortable enough with her body to flaunt it, but certainly not in late winter, not three months after I have moved to the west coast from Winnipeg – a city synonymous with ski-pants, parkas and perogie dough thighs.

Shannon Rayne is completing a MFA in Creative Writing at UBC, where she is thrilled to be writing scripts and a creative non-fiction manuscript that focuses on vulnerability and sexual self-confidence. Her poetry has recently appeared in Arc Poetry, Room Magazine, and Poetry is Dead and she frequently collaborates with musicians and mixed-media artists.

Jane Edey Wood – Third Prize


When I was 46 years old, I starved myself down to 96 pounds.

“Is someone making you do this?” the psychiatrist asked me.

I shook my head.

“Do you want to die?” he shouted. I didn’t answer. “Because you will. How long can you keep pushing a race-horse before it has a heart attack? You are not young. You will die if you keep this up.”

I shrugged.

Jane Edey Wood lives in Ottawa.  Her writing has appeared in The Ottawa Citizen Newspaper and The Globe and Mail, as well as online in Catapult.co and Intrinsick.com.  She is in the online MFA program in Creative Writing with University of British Columbia, and she is on the editorial board of Prism International.

Joan M. Baril – Honourable Mention

The Art of Housebreaking

“The arch,” said Rose Garton, “is powerful. That’s what my father says.”

My sister and I moved closer. “Why’s it powerful?” I asked.

“I don’t know, but now we’ve got an arch over the kitchen sink.”

Rose and Hyacinth Garton, newcomers to the neighbourhood, were the same age as my sister and I, nine and eleven years old and just as ragged. The mother looked pale and tired which I attributed to the weirdness of the father.

Joan M. Baril is a Thunder Bay native whose stories have been widely published in Canada, mainly in literary magazines. Recently, she placed her forty-fourth piece. She blogs at Literary Thunder Bay http://literarythunderbay.blogspot.com.