“Gray” inhabits a psychic space that is complex, restless, and wise. When the poem states “Time is evident here”, it an understatement—time is a main character on this windswept stage, touching and affecting everything. The speaker’s distrust of this world of flux and disintegration is rendered masterfully through long, aching lines and occasional startling directness. This meditative poem doesn’t claim to find balance, but is more sophisticated—even hopeful—in how it examines that imbalance. – juror Raoul Fernandes

“Aside from writing, I enjoy track and field, cross country, watching movies, spending time with my family, painting and reading novels,” grade-9 poet Samantha Chen tells us. “Honestly, I don’t read much poetry from a vast variety of poets. I have a couple of favourites including Maya Angelou and Sarah Kay, but, I don’t know many others. I mostly just understand my own poems. I wonder if other people have this problem.

“My poem ‘Gray’ is based on my struggle to differentiate the area in between right and wrong. This is something that has been challenging for me ever since my teachers called the parts I could not wrap my mind around ‘the gray area’ and the parts I understood right away ‘black and white. I was inspired to write ‘Gray’ from years and years of trying to develop an immunity to ‘the gray area.’”

“Gray” by Samantha Chen, grade 9

I only know two houses,

One dilapidated, dirtied, red bricked bungalow; flimsy shuttered.

The other hard and flat, scarce of furniture,

collector of timepieces. Cold to meet you.


I like to call them mine.


There will be space in the middle of my two houses.

Old pickle jars and handwritten letters might be scattered there;

things that many people no longer have use for.

And they sit abandoned and wind swept,

where space sleeps between my opposites,

where the bruises of our minds roam, where movement is non-existent,

where wind will settle on our forgotten objects with ancient uses.


They’re forgotten because they’re fading.

Time is evident here.


Time invents new sacraments, new metaphors.

New things to lie next to me when it’s time to fall asleep.

These lost objects will swim though,

erode and weather down, improve or disintegrate.

Laced together, they find themselves laid down collecting dust.

When they come back as new trends,


they won’t be the same people.

Not the way I like it.


I want a newspaper world.

Where everything is ink and paper, no smudges, no blotchy colour,

there should not be more than one answer.

I don’t want to interpret, I don’t want that procrastination.

I don’t want to lose my mind with choices and control and manipulation

‘cause there is no such thing as fate.

Someone else made a mistake and now we are all accidents.


Someone will rewrite our opportunities to make them more insightful.


I don’t like miracles.

When the words that were written in life’s shells change shape,

for a moment the surface of this world is tangible, delicate, pliable.

And we brush our minds into the last stand of existence,

driving something extinct, creating a possibility and emptiness to be filled,

and we’re left with the choice we cannot explain.

This is the end. I don’t get my way.


So I will sit in either of my houses,


There is no such balance in this world.

Read an interview with Samantha and the other winners here!