Jessamy Stursberg Poetry Contest for Canadian Youth – Senior Category


Welcome to the second installation of our Jessamy Stursberg Poetry Contest publication of winning poems! Every year we hold the contest in honour of National Arts Week as a way of celebrating and encouraging young Canadian poets in their craft. 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).

Today we are meeting the poets from our senior category and have the honour of publishing their award-winning poems here on our blog.

In First Place is Mehrin Siddiqi with her poem



Mehrin Siddiqi for BlogWhat inspires you to write poetry?

Growing up as a brown girl in Canada, finding role models in the literary community wasn’t easy. Women are so often ignored when discussing ground breaking literature, and those who aren’t are almost exclusively white. I am constantly inspired by my experiences as woman of colour, because my experiences are ones that have not yet been defined or acknowledged in society. I know my entire demographic has an entirely unique perspective to offer the world, and I’m very determined to share it.

What is your favorite thing to write about?

I’m a firm believer that the human experience is a tireless topic. I love writing about events rather than emotions, moments in time that subtly develop people into who they are. I think the most interesting parts of people are the ugly parts; the things that make them uncomfortable, guilty, uncertain of what to do with themselves. How they deal with the aftermath. I like writing about awful things, things that leave me feeling raw after, because I know this is what is it to be alive.

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

Honestly, despite being a senior about to graduate high school, I’m still not sure what exactly I want to do. What I do know is that I’ve been writing for longer than I can remember, and I can’t ever see myself stopping. Although I’d like to publish a collection of poems at some point, I know that it’s easier said than done. I’m a very do-it-yourself kind of person though, so even if it’s something as small as putting out free chapbooks online as a hobby, I never intend to stop writing poetry.


Mehrin also received an honouroable mention in the senior category for her poem Michigan. 


In Second Place is Brynn Erickson with her poem

Variations Upon a Myth

Persephone dances,
wheat slippers twining her ankles to keep her
anchored, field stretching farther
than immortal eyes can see,

immortal eyes that watch and
crave the grace in her step, the flowers in her wake
with colours more royal than he, yet
crushed with ease underfoot while

he survives.



Persephone falls,
to depths she’s always
longed to explore, tired of dancing and
flowers, not a willing victim of

another’s envy, but a creature
of mind, inquiry. Where most wither, she blooms, her leaps
reaching the world above as she twirls among
the dead, leaving but an asphodel

for her host.



Persephone listens, one ear pressed to the dirt
and they call for her, whispers of sin and joy and lost children,
while hemlock weaves Queen Ann’s Lace on her skin.

Tears blossom lilies until layers
of white muffle the cries of the dead, and she rips roots from
the earth, digging, even as blood stains torn petals, and she is
among those who were always



Persephone judges,
sentences souls to salvation or suffering as ivy snakes around her
alder gavel, weeds growing from the pleas that flow
past closed ears. She is not

heartless. The throne is meant for
one, and she will keep it through wars and storms that rage above. Thoughts
of her old life are rare– why should she return?
In the sun, she was caught. Here, she

is a queen.



BrynnWhat inspires you to write poetry?

A lot of the time I’ll have a random word or sentence come to mind, and I’ll form a poem around that. The first line of the poem is normally one of the last lines I write, as I like to have the rest of the poem formed before worrying about how it will begin.

What is your favorite thing to write about?

My favourite thing to write about is people, whether they’re my friends, strangers I saw in passing, or characters from a story I’ve read. Anything from the music they like to habits they’re unaware that they have can make me want to write about someone. Lately, I’ve also enjoyed taking well known characters from mythology or fairytales and trying to find a new way to look at them.

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

I’m still unsure of what I want to do when I grow up (as long as it isn’t to do with science or math), but I don’t doubt I’ll still be writing poetry in my free time.




In Third Place is Alexandra Nesnidalova 

Nightmares on the Morning Tide


Clouds bleed blue over
the white outline of mountains
across the horizon.

An island
that fits between thumb and finger
sleeps like an iceberg.

Dawn reflects off the water,
the falling tide a curtain that reveals
seaweed on the rocks.

Jellyfish evaporate,
turn into ghosts
who hover over the sea.

Driftwood rocks back and forth
in the waves that break against shore
to a soundtrack of pebbles rolling.

A sudden shiver
knocks down the inukshuk
that overlooks the ocean.

A watery Vesuvius
extends its fingers
toward the volcanic beach.


001What inspires you to write poetry?

I like to draw from my surroundings and the memories of my childhood. I am originally from Kosice, Slovakia and often find myself inspired by certain details from my past, such as traditions or the spices in my grandfather’s kitchen. I love to explore human nature and put pen to paper when I find something incredible to write about, so in truth, I can never really tell what will inspire me next.

What is your favorite thing to write about?

I believe that subject matter is important in writing, but not as important as the way in which it is presented, whether that be through structure, point of view, or any other means. Keeping that in mind, I love to incorporate natural elements in my writing. I tend to have a lyrical voice in most of my pieces, so the relationship between the form and the natural details complement one another.

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

When I grow up, I want to change the world for the better. I know that sounds cliche and a bit vague but that is what I am striving for. I will be off to university next year to study Biology, but that doesn’t mean that I am leaving my writing behind. Quite the contrary. I hope to be fully involved in my passion of writing and continue to make the people around me proud.