Judged by Ottawa Poet, Pearl Pirie

 1st place: Emily Baird, “Lifeboat”: 

This self-possessed prose poem uses plain concrete objects to articulately convey a complex emotional journey.  It is a frank and profound reckoning. The graceful musicality in its movement underscores the beauty of insisting on our own strength in skills and self-reliance. It is a moving piece that recognizes the difficulty of being between desires with apt comparison: “This saltwater can’t quench my thirst for shore.”

2nd place: Manahil Bandukwala, “Pipe Rose”

Like George Johnston’s poems, Pipe Rose uses controlled assonance to beautiful effect, cinching the poem tightly while speaking of the everyday, and through the everyday, the larger world. The movement through this lean almost-sonnet is that of our quintessential contemporary, with a foot in two homes. A quiet poem, it is not simply washed with nostalgia but brought up short by the sharper aspects of the same past reality. The clear self-awareness and conscious living is grounded in brisk efficient lines that unfold the inner and outer selves.

3rd place: Megan Misztal,  “Marginalia in Retrospect”:

A poem for the #MeToo era, unpacking and spelling out the unambiguous, “No More.” The poem boils articulately with detailed furious fiery humour. A proper send off to he who oversteps bounds and presumes to overwrite the poet’s dignity of choice. Many lines sing. It culminates in a resetting of dominance, “You are a slew of muddy city water running through the gutters of my text”. Done and done. “I will rip your page out of me.”

Honourable Mentions:

  1. Greg Guevera,   “Aternal”:

A carefully structured poem that does what poetry does best: to inquire. In this case, to explore different sides of a thing, how aspects of gender come together to make one complete person. This poem would tickle George Johnson himself. Able to be read vertically or horizontally, the poem clicks together at the end offering new closure to the conundrum of which lead to follow: one’s own synthesized path.

  1. Emily Wood,  “Wonders”:

A perfectly contained tight poem that recalls how absorbed children, or anyone lost in wonder can become where in the outside world, “Leaves rustle into/ tiny storms.” It evokes both compassion for the girl in her bliss and concern over what the girl might want to escape forever from.

  1. Dessa Bayrock, “Terminator”:

There’s something touchingly universal in the particular and this poem exemplifies that. The expansion of love from mother to sharing that fondness with the son’s love. The anecdotes of the poem spiral to a new opening. Tender and moving, it conveys a special stage of young love.