The Federation of British Columbia Writers would like to congratulate Salt Spring Island poet, Christine Smart, winner of the 2020 Literary Writes Poetry Contest. Christine’s poem, “Hummingbird” was chosen by the judges from a field of nearly a hundred submissions and a short list of six finalists.
Christine grew up in rural Quebec. She studied, travelled, then settled on Salt Spring Island in 1989. Her book decked and dancing won the 2007 Acorn-Plantos Award. A book of poems, The White Crow, was published by Hedgerow Press. Christine’s poems have been anthologized in Refugium, Sweet Water, Beyond Forgetting and Love of the Salish Islands.
In selecting “Hummingbird”, contest judge, Jude Neale said: “We’ve all seen the small clutch of hummingbirds as they gather at the feeder. The rapture. The awe. This wonderful poem, “Hummingbird”, was able to give us a glimpse of what we already knew but had forgotten. In a few deft strokes the author paints a visceral picture so clearly that we are left to ponder this: Like the bird, enticed into flying/fast/we dash full force toward/ something glimpsed/some truth longed for/”
Jude Neale is a poet, vocalist and educator who lives on Bowen Island (www.judeneale.ca).
FBCW President, Keith Liggett said there was a tremendous response to the 2020 poetry contest, and substantial rise in the quality of the submissions.
“All of the finalists did a great job, placing on the short list. I want to wish them the best with their writing and thank everyone who submitted.”
The other finalists were Michelle Brown and Anne Hopkinson of Victoria, Alan Hill of New Westminster, Joanna Streetly of Tofino and Yuko Kojima of Vancouver. People wishing to see Christine Smart’s winning poem will be able to read it in the upcoming issue of WordWorks that will be mailed out in April and sent to every FBCW member’s email digitally.
The FBCW promotes excellence in writing with three contests a year. In addition to the annual Literary Writes Poetry Contest, the 4th Annual BC Short will soon be open for submissions (April 1) – re-named the BC/Yukon SHORT because Yukon writers will also be invited to submit (the Federation of BC Writers is moving to formally include Yukon writers as members). And later this year, in the Fall, we launch our annual Flash Prose contest.
The FBCW is a non-profit society and Federally registered charity that serves more than 800 writers across BC and the Yukon.
It’s always a treat to see our members in the news. Today we congratulate Literary Writes Judge Jude Neale for being featured in her local paper to celebrate her newest release and for receiving an honourable mention for her chapbook for The James Tate Poetry Prize with the Irish publisher Anatoly Kudryavitsky. Way to go Jude!
Literary Writes Judge Jude Neale has an innovative new poetry collection, Impromptu, with workshop prompts for writing groups and individuals. I got a sneak preview and have already written strong poems inspired by her suggestions. She hands us the tools to make writing easy 🙂 To get a copy hot off the press at the end of the month, contact Ekstasis Editions: http://www.ekstasiseditions.com
Cynthia: There are so many thoughts on what is or is not poetry. What is poetry in your view?
Jude: Poetry to me is the distillation of feelings, thoughts and ideas into the fewest words possible. A good poem does not lie. It is an imagist painting written equally from the heart and the brain.
Cynthia: You’ve published seven books of poetry, with your eighth forthcoming, and have already started work on your ninth. You’re an incredibly accomplished poet and performer, travelling around the province and world for readings. How did you become a poet? When did you first know the value of poetry in your life?
Jude: Thank you Cynthia for your kind words.
How did I become a poet, well it’s always been part of me, of my life. One of my earliest memories involves my grandfather, Herbert William Bilton. Grandpa and grandma lived in a village of 150. He was the Justice of the Peace, Postmaster and raconteur. I remember sitting with my twin on his lap and he would recite Robert Service to us. He memorized all of Service and did all the voices. I loved the meter and the dynamic language. I don’t know when poetry wasn’t important to me, as I was marinated in it.
Cynthia: You’ve mentioned that in some of your books like Splendid in its Silence, you’ve given each poem twenty or more hours of editing. Could you elaborate on the role of editing in securing your best work?
Jude: I was mentored by the great Canadian writer, Elisabeth Harvor. She took no prisoners when it came to editing. She would ferret out the cliches, the sentimental and the maudlin. Get rid of duplicate words, unoriginal language and uncreative metaphor. I still have her on my shoulder when I write today!
Cynthia:What can Literary Writes contestants do to take their work from a first draft to a solid, polished poem?
Jude: Write your first draft. Leave it for a day or two. Go back, listen for your voice. Concentrate on line breaks, the breath of a poem. Read it out loud looking for cadence and sound. Edit again. Don’t be afraid to chop! Repeat the process a couple more times.
Cynthia:What is the mark of a great poem?
Jude: A great poem will take your breath away. It will allow you to connect with another reality.
Cynthia:I love that you come from a collaborative arts background and in particular opera.What is the relationship between music and poetry in your experience?
Jude: I love this question, Cynthia. I first was an opera singer three careers ago. This attention to rhythm and silence has transferred over to writing. For me, breath is everything. My entire use of line breaks depends on this, which I believe makes my poems different. It gives the poem room to expand.
Cynthia:In your essay “Sum of all parts” for The League of Canadian Poets Feminist Caucus in their publication Women and Multimedia, you say that “Authenticity in collaboration is absolutely critical.” That really struck a chord with me, since you live authentically in all the ways that you work, both independently and with other poets and artists in performances large and small. How can poets bring authenticity to their voice and work?
Jude: I really do believe we should be writing from our own reality. Nothing is so insignificant it can’t be turned into a poem. Love, pain, loss, joy and death are not small and we all recognize this as the human condition. It is something we as poets need to affirm, that no life is so small it can’t be written about. That is what I shall be looking for in this competition.
Cynthia: Who are your favourite poets and influences?
Jude: My favourite poets are Gary Geddes, Leonard Cohen, Lorna Crozier, Rachel Rose, Sylvia Plath and Mark Doty, to name a few.
I was a child of the sixties and because of this I was able to hear some pretty amazing lyrics. I know I was influenced a great deal by Cohen, Dylan and Mitchell.
Cynthia:What poems either classic or contemporary have most resonated with you and what was it about them that captured you?
Jude: “A Display of Mackerel,” by Mark Doty, is my all time favourite poem. In such few words Doty describes death, singularity and common goals using the example of frozen fish. A perfect poem!
Cynthia:You’ve been a tremendous mentor in the writing community, lifting others up and helping them establish trust and confidence in their unique voices, whether one on one informally, through Pandora’s collective Poetic Pairings, school classroom visits or community workshops. We’re incredibly grateful to have you as this year’s contest judge. What advice do you have for our members composing for Literary Writes?
Jude: Share your poem after you’ve edited it to death, and ask your listener or reader which words or phrases they loved the most. It is really important to have a sounding board, another eye and ear.
I’m so looking forward to receiving this year’s poems. I will treat each one gently!
Our Literary Writes Youth Judge Renée Saklikar generously took time from her busy schedule to share insight into her poetry journey and tips for poets entering this year’s contest.
Cynthia: Who are your favourite poets?
Renée: So many! I’m always on the look out for local, BC and Canadian poets, particularly those whose poetics touch on “the urgency of now.” For example, I just reviewed a book published by Caitlin Press, by Vancouver author Onjana Yanghwe. It’s called The Small Way: https://bcbooklook.com/2018/12/06/441-small-journey-big-change/
A few others: Ottawa poet rob mclennan; the late, great Peter Culley (from Nanaimo). American poets Rusty Morrison and Terrance Hayes. And I’ve a soft spot for poet laureates such as Vancouver’s former poet laureate Rachel Rose, having just completed my term as Surrey’s first ever Poet Laureate. Another big favourite: Indigenous poet Joshua Whitehead. Also Metis poet, Tristan Greyeyes, who is also a film/maker.
Cynthia: Who was your favourite poet when you were a youth?
Renée: Walter De La Mare: my father would read me his poems: “Someone came a knocking on my wee small door” (from memory…)
Cynthia: When did you start to write poetry?
Renée: I’ve been scribbling away since I was a little girl…not really knowing that my love of sound and image, then my habit of jotting down words, was part of what poets and writers do…
Cynthia: What did it mean to you to be Surrey’s Poet Laureate these past three years?
Renée: Such a rich, rewarding, complex, experience! I learned so much about language, culture, identity, geography from connecting with teens, seniors, and everyone in between. An honour to be the first Poet Laureate for a large, fast growing suburban/Edge city. Huge props to the Surrey City Libraries who hosted and supported so much of the laureate program.
Cynthia: How does poetry help society in your view?
Renée: Maybe poetry and the making of poetry helps us to not look away from what is jagged, incomplete, hurting or abandoned. But that’s just a guess. Poetry just is. That’s its particular beauty.
Cynthia: How do you know when a poem is finished?
Renée: May the poem never end! I’m always wanting to re/vise, to see anew, to surprise. Restless for another way to make the page come alive. Also, perhaps paradoxically, maybe the poem stops and rests, and attains a kind of solidity, and then, if I’m attentive enough, I find a way to step back and give space to what the work wants/needs. The work will tell you what it needs.
Cynthia: What do you look for when editing and polishing a poem?
Renée: Pretty much everything, particularly what I call “unity of voice,” where all the parts seem to fit into something greater than the whole, but each poem and every poet’s poetics (theory of language/anti-theory) is so unique, that one of the things I look for is how the words and the language do more than describe or narrate: how does the language, how do the line breaks and the sounds and rhythms, and devices of the words, evoke and embody the secret dark heart at the centre of any poem?
Cynthia: What has most surprised you about poetry?
Renée: Pretty much everything! The way that almost anything can be made into a poem.
Cynthia: Do you have any suggestions or tips for youth entering the Literary Writes contest?
Renée: Sure thing: Golden Rule: try and leave time for revision; we all benefit from having a chance to take a second or third, or fifth look, once the poem has poured out of us… Let the words find their own space for a while. Then come back to what you’ve tapped out on your phone or scribbled in your bullet journal or scribbled on those scraps of paper crumpled up in your pocket: Time is your friend.