Jessamy Stursberg Poetry Contest for Canadian Youth – Junior Category



Did you know that National Youth Arts Week takes place in May? We take this yearly opportunity to celebrate and encourage young poets through the Jessamy Stursberg Poetry Contest for Canadian Youth. The contest is named in honour of Jessamy Stursberg and “her lifelong love of poetry,” who passed away in 2008; she is the late wife of journalist and author Peter Stursberg. The contest’s categories consist of junior and senior age groups.  Winning poets in each group will be awarded a cash prize of $400 (first place), $350 (second place), and $300 (third place). For our next couple of posts we are going to shift the spotlight from the established shortlisted poets we’ve been getting to know and instead feature the emerging voices of tomorrow’s poetic landscape.

Please welcome the winners of the Junior Category!

The First Place winner is Ghalia Aamer with her poem “Flip It”:


I walk in, my first day of school.

Yeah, I’m the new kid.

I see hair flips; not just any hair flips.

Every time girls make eye contact,

their bangs whip off their foreheads.


I look around.

No one’s hair longer than what reaches the neck.

Long, very long front bangs.

And so, a girl looks me straight in the eye from across the hallway.

I stare back for a few seconds as I watch her bangs flip back.

In conformity, I do the same.

She walks up to me and gives me a shove.

“You ain’t doin’ it right.”

“Doing what right?” I ask.

“Oh my god, you gotta get rid of that!”

She points to the back of my long hair.

The next day I come to school.

My hair shorter than ever, with bangs in front.

Just like the others.

She comes up to me again, looks me in the eye.

I stare back for a few seconds as I watch her bangs flip back again.

In conformity, I do the same.

She gives me a shove.

“You ain’t doin’ it right.”

“Doing what right?” I ask.

“Three fingers and thumb folded in, girl.

Right pinky pointed out, under the bangs, and bam, flick it up.

You’re gonna have to learn quick.”

“Don’t tell me what I have to do.” I say, trying to stand up for myself.

She elbows me and walks away.

I had to fit in and so I had to learn the hair flip.

At lunch, I went to the bathroom stall with my phone.

In front of the camera, I practiced, over and over again.

Three fingers and thumb, folded in.

Right pinky out.

Under the front bangs and bam, flick it up.

I did it until I had it perfect.

I didn’t care that this took up my lunch hour.

At least, I’d fit in now, and I did, all afternoon.

The next day, Wednesday, I go to school, feeling confident.

I look around, everyone has their long bangs up front,

but there’s something else everyone has – a pink shirt.

Except I’m wearing a blue shirt.

And so, a girl walks up to me and gives me a shove.

“You ain’t doin’ it right.”

“Doing what right?” I ask.

“We wear pink on Wednesdays.”



What inspires you to write poetry?

I never really liked writing until junior high. In fact, I hated writing, especially poetry. I don’t really know why, but it was never really something I was proud of until grade seven. My new language arts teacher somehow got me to love reading and writing, including poetry. I guess her magic worked so I have to say that my language arts teacher is the one who inspires me to write poetry. Flip It was for one of the assignments she gave this year.

What is your favorite thing to write about?

I love to write about things that relate to teens just like me. When I start writing something I am passionate about, I always get into the mood and my writing turns out better than I expect it to.

When you grow up, what do you want to do and is poetry part of what you imagine? If so, how?

I haven’t really thought about what I want to do as a career when I grow up but I do have a few ideas in mind. Although most of my career fantasies don’t involve poetry, it will definitely be something I do when I grow up even if it may just be as a hobby.




The Second Place winner is Hannah Watson with her poem:


How do you write poetry?


Sometimes when no one’s looking,

I disappear.

I trace my way along a road of black ink,

engraved into a crisp sheet of notebook paper.

I wind through

an array of colourful stalls and shops

where protagonists and antagonists

offer me jewel-studded verbs,

hand-painted adjectives

and nouns in little velvet pouches.


I write a new path

into a shimmering garden.

As I amble through the brambles and branches,

fat lipped flowers

hiss ideas through

soft, colourful teeth.

As a swarm of grammar flies buzz towards me,

I lift my pen

and the plot twists again.

I dance away

to a skyscraper forest,

bathed in the fluorescent glow

of flickering streetlamps.

Blaring car horns seem to scream;

‘Check your spelling!’

‘Check your spelling!’

And I sit on a lonely park bench,

watching a metaphorical spider

spin a web of similes.

Then the sky roars

and showering from above,

fat droplets

of words.

Words of all kind,

Words of all shape, size and colour.

Bursting on the clammy pavement

like liquid glass.

words ringing in my ears,

seeping into my skin.


I write some more.


What inspires you to write poetry?

I love words and playing around with them and I get my inspiration from everyday life. I love taking simple objects and experiences and finding meaning in them. I have a pretty busy life trying to balance my sports, school, and friends and poetry gives me an opportunity to be alone with my thoughts and express myself.

What is your favorite thing to write about?

I’ve always loved descriptive writing and playing around with imagery so I like to write about the outdoors. One of my favourite places to write is at camp, or even just in my backyard. I find nature fascinating and it often works its way into my poetry.

When you grow up, what do you want to do and is poetry part of what you imagine? If so, how?

I want to be a social worker when I grow up because I love people. I definitely imagine poetry and writing in general being a part of my future. I hope to publish another novel and continue to write poetry throughout my life.


The Third Place winner is Jay Wieler with his poem:




Fire falls, embers bright

Raining down, sowing fright


Burning, Branding, Blazing, Binding

Breaking Spirits, Boding Terror

Nether Binds, by Life-Blood sated

Named as Surtur, called by Führer


Fallen king and grief-held widow

Silence fell, and Silence slashed

Mighty hero, stout avenger

At his feet lay wolf king gashed


Receding Fire, retreating death

The freshness of a new day’s dawn

Of Surtur’s reign, comes freshness new

A world where sword is left undrawn


What inspires you to write poetry?

Mainly, it’s when I have a good idea that I think I can represent well on paper.

What is your favorite thing to write about?

The things I like to write about mainly include surreal or fantasy themes. Often there are cryptic elements where I use vague description or clues which the reader will hopefully either pickup on or read as descriptive wordplay.

When you grow up, what do you want to do and is poetry part of what you imagine? If so, how?

At this point, I don’t really know what I want to go into after school, although the main things I enjoy as of now are ELA (English Language Arts), History and Science.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Time limit is exhausted. Please reload CAPTCHA.