Congratulations to Sadie Bell and Harmony Taetz, who placed second in our 2016 Jessamy Stursberg Poetry Prize! We’re excited to share their poems with you today, as well as a brief interview with Harmony. The prize is awarded annually through the Jessamy Stursberg Youth Poetry Trust Fund, sustained by a generous donation from the Stursberg family and other donors in honour of Jessamy Sutrsberg. The prize was established to foster a lifelong relationship between Canadian youth and the literary arts–specifically poetry–in honour of Jessamy’s lifelong love of poetry. The prize awards six student poets across two categories: the junior category, for students in grades 7 to 9, and the senior category, for students in grades 10 to 12.

Find the full awards announcement here.

“Blank Pages” by Sadie Bell
Second-place winner, junior category

White is the icy hands that drag you into the nightmares.
White is the lightening that strikes without thought.
It is the blizzard that sweeps you into a hole of despair,
concealing the footprints of the criminal as it blows.
The bones of the boy,
who died too young,
the icing on the birthday cake she never got to eat.
It is the colour of your teeth,
to hide the bitter taste in your mouth.
The colour of the lies you convince yourself won’t hurt anyone,
but she rips up her white wedding dress when she realizes the truth.
White is the clouds you dreamt of sleeping on when you were a kid,
until you grew up and realized the world is not a dream.
White is the colour of the halo you just realized no one has.
It is the noise you need to hear at night to drown out the screams.
It is the smoke that poisons your lungs,
and the fog the wraps around you and makes you invisible to the world.
White is the unwritten words,
on a blank page,
that could have saved a life.
It is the innocence you wish you could regain.
White is the springy wool on the unsuspecting lamb,
as it’s being led to the slaughter.

“A Goodbye” by Harmony Taetz
Second-place winner, senior category

It was October, rainy.
We drove six hours to get there
but we didn’t leave until the day of because
we didn’t want to
prolong the sadness.

When I looked down at you
it was like seeing a plastic doll
and that was when I wanted
to cry, knowing I’d never again look at
your handsome face
but I fought a quiet battle-
to stay strong
and let my father be the one
to cry as he said goodbye to you

Afterwards there were cakes and
those little sandwiches that my seven year old self
always aspired to make for her tea parties but
I pushed that thought way because
I didn’t want that childhood memory to be
forever tinged with sadness.

People milled about in the cold basement under the church.
I guess they were old friends of yours.
I didn’t recognize half of them.

They wanted to console me and talk
about you
but I didn’t want to
and since I was too old to
run away,
I hid in the bathroom instead.

At the end the family looked smaller;
suddenly I was afraid,
just terrified of all the ghosts I saw
in the shadows.
You were the glue, Grandpa.
Once you were gone I was
sure we’d all fall apart.

It rained again
so relatives headed home.
In the parking lot
I whispered goodbye.

selfie1 editHarmony Taetz is an inspired seventeen year old writer from BC. She plans to major in Creative Writing in University and become an author; her dream is to one day write a bestseller that is made into a movie. As her other dream is to travel, her back up plan is to become a travel journalist and write about human rights around the world. When not reading, writing, or working at the local ice cream shop, she is practicing on a competitive cheerleading team which has taught her much about stunting and tumbling, family not related by blood, and sky-high competition ponytails. Her poem, “A Goodbye” is written about her Opah’s funeral, and feeling as though her family would fall apart without his presence to hold them all together.

How long have you been writing poetry?

I guess I first started writing poetry in 10th grade. My first attempt was somewhere between a slam poem and a monologue. I realized, Hey, I like writing in this form, so from there I went on to buy a leather journal and my poetry took off.

Who are some of your favourite writers? What are some of your favourite books?

My favorite genre to read is Historical Fiction, so I pretty much devour any book based on events in between the 1920’s and the 1960’s, especially if they involve human rights issues of the time period. I loved All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr, The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, The Last Summer at Chelsea Beach by Pam Jenoff, and The Help by Kathryn Stockett. For YA fiction, my favourite are the Heist Society books by Ally Carter.

How do you see writing and poetry being a part of your life over the next several years?

 As much as I want to become a novelist, I won’t ever stop writing poetry, because it’s like a whole other writing experience. Stories and poetry are like quiche and meringue; same ingredient, totally different flavour. If I want to develop characters I’ll write a story but when I want to describe a memory or experience, I capture it through poetry. One day I’d like to publish a poetry anthology.

If you could give other students one piece of advice about writing, what would it be?

I’d advise all new poets to have an idea of where they want their poem to go, but to just sit down and start writing. See what happens. When I started writing “A Goodbye”, I had a general sense of what I’d say, but I didn’t step back and assess what I’d written until it was finished. Never did I think my poem would be good enough to win a National Contest, but in poetry, as in life, sometimes one is pleasantly surprised.

What is your favourite thing about poetry?

I love how I poems I can be vague yet still get a lot of feelings and emotions across. Poetry can take on so many forms, and there’s really no wrong way to write a poem.  Rather than writing, say, a short story and having to set a scene and tell a story in clear, easy to follow description, when reading a poem, all that information isn’t really necessary. A reader walks away from poetry having understood the deeper emotions, but the picture in one’s mind can be completely different from person to person.