Poetry Award

New poetry award established with partner League of Canadian Poets

The Foundation has partnered with the League of Canadian Poets establishing a $500 award for the best single poem by a poet in the early stages of their career. The contest is adjudicated by established poets on a volunteer basis and is open from June 1 to August 10 annually. Historically, over 80 poems are submitted each award cycle. In addition to the monetary award, the winner receives a one-year complimentary membership to the Arts and Letters Club of Toronto. 

All emerging Canadian poets in the early stages of their career are eligible for this new award.  Submissions from LGBTQ2S+, BIPOC and equity-deserving groups are encouraged.

Look for the winning poem in our next Foundation newsletter and online at www.poets.ca.

Poetry Award Winners

Em Dial, 2023 Poetry Award Winner
Em Dial, 2023 Poetry Award Winner

Against Beauty

I must begin by defining the word
beauty, in order to be heard in halls
so beautiful, themselves, they shake me
like a quaking aspen set against
the highway and so let’s visit the Beauty
of Loulan, as so many do, who come
to that museum in Urumqi,
seeking proof for or against the auburn
of her hair, mummified with lice and comb.
Beauty, here, meaning defying some odd
4,000 years of summer, only 3 feet
of salt as protection. Or beauty: proof
of red being a threat to itself, nightmare
to the state, alchemy against purity.

Reddened threat to myself, I’m a nightmare
of statehood, chemist against purity
and thus beauty. And yet, on the bus,
at the club, in the comment section,
they use the word again and again,
beautiful. The first time I felt it true,
my preschool friend said that I have princess
eyes. To augment my previous definition,
I felt beautiful, whereas beautiful
means watched. What an odd power it is,
flowers, shows, jobs, second looks and chances
thrown at my feet for the shape of my eyes.
But for the purposes of this study,
can an eye be beauty? Can watching be watched?

For the purposes of study, can I
be beautiful? Would the watchers watch
and measure the drool pooling under men’s tongues
on one axis, the hue of my labia
on the other? Five years before I was born,
a study found that the more faces
overlaid like veneer after veneer
the more attractive the face staring back.
Even earlier, another study
smeared faces of vegetarians and
criminals together, finding their offspring
more beautiful than their origins.
and even before that: Hypothesis: Beauty
loves the average, marks where disease isn’t.

An Ugly Hypothesis: Beauty
is as common as an unriddled body.
All of the largest apple trees I’ve seen
mark the sites of first settlements. Trees
can’t just be trees. Instead, the worms burrow,
symbols for theft. The red dripping off branches,
not at all nourishment, but where you feared
this was headed. Please, let there be a good
somewhere, in which a tree represents not
a country, a genocide, a ripe body,
but something holding up the heavens
that I will never dream of understanding.
Yes, beauty I know well as a blood state.
Goodness, distant as trees comparing jewels.

Yes, I can state the word covered in blood
yet haven’t admitted whose. The trees? Jewels? Mine?
Beauty can be at once the maw, the fat
bubbling in the pan and the fire.
A case study: in Mandarin, America—
měi guó or beautiful country.
Born out of phonetic coincidence
or not. Taiwan, once called in Portuguese
Ilha Formosa, beautiful island,
then just the Republic of Formosa.
My grandpa found my ama so beautiful.
They built their own island and language.
The article headline reads: Taiwan Shrugs
Off War with China, Trusts Daddy America.

Articles shrug off the idea of war
as the tug of an island between mainlands.
I can’t be so blasé. Like so many,
I wouldn’t exist without at least three
and yet this does not endear me to bombs.
Compare the resulting cloud to a mushroom,
the resulting crater to those of the moon,
and I will do something so hideous
you’ll know the result of war to be nothing
of celestial dust and toadstool,
only bodies born of empire and bodies
lost at their expense. This is besides the point.
I don’t even want to say the word again.
You get the point: roses, diamonds, islands, war.

Let’s play a game of association:
Rose, diamond, island, war. What comes next?
A body entombed in salt, pestilence,
and desert? A nation calling her beauty?
The world, a garden of thorns and petals?
I came here to try and capture the word
that’s made me feel like sex and oddity
since I careened into this world too soon.
I’m leaving, naive and bare, as she did.
No defense against the word tacked on
to her name, nations discoursing over
the shape of her eyes, millennia later.
Here we end with beauty, borders racing
through blood like echoes down a hallway.

Gordon Taylor Wins Foundation’s 2022 Poetry Award

Gordon Taylor
Gordon Taylor

The Foundation and the League of Canadian Poets are excited to announce the winner of the first annual Arts & Letters Club Foundation Poetry Award for the single best poem by a poet in the early stages of their career. Toronto-based Gordon Taylor is the recipient of the $500 cash prize and a one-year complimentary membership to the Club.

Gordon is a queer poet who works in the technology field, volunteers in the health-care sector, and has revisited his passion for poetry after a cancer diagnosis. “Fresh Air” is a poem that came out of a writing prompt from StillPoint Writing workshop (https://katemarshallflaherty.ca/) asking him to make a list of his favourite things.

When asked what winning the Foundation Poetry Award means, Gordon responded, “It’s an acknowledgement of my renewal, survival, and finding my passion for writing again.” Congratulations, Gordon!

Fresh Air
by Gordon Taylor

Do I love you
more than I
love an ampersand
that ions everything
we think can’t be
joined, two
part harmony
& the pigeon
that pooped
in my tea
as I walked
this morning,
font & Font
serif & fountain
twitchy twitter
alter egos, hash
tags & pink mini
marshmallows,
green pulsing
northern lights,
asbestos threads
in ancient linoleum,
silence & swimming
pools & arms
twining almost
an eight, but
not quite, bone,
salt & jasmine, vou,
careless and care
less, chemotherapy
& hot chocolate,
ozone & blue
burial shrouds,
lobsters & blood.
riots & purple
hibiscus, me &
you, memory, scars,
river stones, our
asymmetrical lungs