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Vancouver's Lisa Gaston Wins 2021 CBC Poetry Prize for Her Heartbreaking & Powerful Piece "James"

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Good news comes in threes, as this morning we had a third literary prize announcement of the day, with CBC Books announcing that Lise Gaston of Vancouver has won the 2021 CBC Poetry Prize for her poem, "James".

Gaston's winning poem comes from a heartbreaking personal experience: that of giving a name to her and her husband's stillborn son. Gaston referred to it as "the most personal and in many ways the most difficult poem I have ever written."

Gaston has transversed the country, being born in Toronto, raised n Fredericton and Victoria. She worked as a bookseller in Edmonton before moving to her current home of Vancouver. She is the author of the poetry collection Cityscapes in Mating Season (Signature Editions), and has had work in numerous publications including The Fiddlehead, Brick, Canadian Notes and Queries, and others. She is currently completing a remote postdoctoral fellowship at Concordia University.

This was Gaston's fourth time submitting to the contest, which is arguably both the largest and the rich single-poem contest in the country, with thousands of submissions received each year and a $6,000 prize for the winner from the Canada Council for the Arts. As the winner, Gaston will also receive a two-week residency at the Banff Centre for Creativity in order to focus on writing. 

Jurors Louise Bernice Halfe, Canisia Lubrin, and Steven Heighton selected a shortlist of five poems from the longlist of 31, which was chosen by a team of writers and editors from across the country. The jury then selected Gaston's piece as the winner. The remaining shortlisted poets - Mia Anderson, Adriana Oniță, Bola Opaleke, and Alison Watt - will each receive $1,000. 

You can read Gaston's winning poem, as well as the pieces from all the shortlisted writers, online at CBC Books.