Announcing the Winners of the 2019 Magpie Award for Poetry

The scent drifting from our window sill must have let you know the pies are done … and the results are finally in.  We have a Magpie Award for Poetry to dish out! Contest Judge Renée Sarojini Saklikar mulled it over, sampled each offering, and came to these conclusions:

Kudos to all the entrants for a strong showing in a short-list of 10 poems, each with merit . I enjoyed the intelligence, beauty, wit, and ambition of each of the poems on this year’s short-list. Here are my three top choices.

First Place Winner: ‘A Short History of Space Travel’ by Susan Haldane:

Everything works in this finely wrought poem filled with metaphorical layers, weaving together myth, space, and gorgeous imagery.

The title situates us into a narrative arc, comprised of four specific prose poems whose sentences end in line-breaks timed to please both eye and ear (no easy feat).  We are entranced by the poem’s atmospheric pulse that merges prose with lyricism, and takes us on a journey of parallel, closely observed moments, each one evoking something far larger than the created snap-shot.  “If we are made of stardust, we are made of ashes too.” I couldn’t stop thinking about this poem! I want to meet its maker!

First Runner Up: ‘whiskey breath’ by Jack Waldheim

I loved the audacity of this unabashed ‘country ‘n’ western’ style lyric columnar. A song of heart-break, whiskey, cats, dancing: a whole ecosphere of longing, just made for saying out loud, thanks to precise line-breaks. This poem stayed loose on my tongue, with each line falling into the next.

Second Runner Up: ‘The Last of the Iron Lungs’ by Roxanna Bennett

A most excellent title, enticing us into this long concept poem.  Its metre is a bit like blank verse, with over-flowing four-line stanzas that utilize a wonderful poetic device, the ‘drop down line’.  That movement on the page instills in our eyes a visual space that adds to the overall experience of the poem. (see Dylan Thomas in his poem,Fern Hill’).

The striking thing about this poem was the way the ‘factoids’ of the Greek myth were used to evoke a kind of fable-warning about our current eco-crisis as well as share the story of a speaker with a disability.  

Renée Sarojini Saklikar

You can’t keep the magpie down, much like these winning poets, whose poems are as tenacious and flashy as this contest’s namesake.  See them in all their glory in Issue 24, due out this autumn.  And for those of you who identify with another flashy avian creature, the Hummingbird Flash Fiction Prize is just around the corner, opening May 1st.

About the Judge

Renée Sarojini Saklikar recently completed her term as the first Poet Laureate for the City of Surrey, British Columbia. Her latest book is a BC bestseller: Listening to the Bees (Nightwood Editions, 2018). Renée’s first book, children of air india, (Nightwood Editions, 2013) won the 2014 Canadian Authors Association Award for poetry. Renée co-edited The Revolving City: 51 Poems and the Stories Behind Them (Anvil Press/SFU Public Square, 2015,) a City of Vancouver book award finalist. Renée’s chapbook, After the Battle of Kingsway, the bees, (above/ground press, 2016), was a finalist for the 2017 bpNichol award. Her poetry has been made into musical and visual installations, including the opera, air india [redacted].  Renée was called to the BC Bar as a Barrister and Solicitor, served as a director for youth employment programs in the BC public service, and now teaches law and ethics for Simon Fraser University in addition to teaching creative writing at both SFU and Vancouver Community College. She curates the popular poetry reading series, Lunch Poems at SFU and serves on the boards of Event magazine and The Capilano Review and is a director for the board of the Surrey International Writers Conference.   Renée belongs to the League of Canadian Poets and The Writer’s Union of Canada (TWUC) and is active on the TWUC Equity Committee. She is currently working on an epic-length sci-fi poem, THOT-J-BAP, that appears in journals, anthologies and chapbooks.

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