Congratulations to the 2022 Winner of the 2nd Annual Lesley Strutt Poetry Prize
Things to Do around Winnipeg when you’re Black by Michael Fraser
Thank you to the contest judge, Richard-Yves Sitoski!
From juror Richard-Yves Sitoski:
This poem riffs on Gary Snyder’s “Things to Do in San Francisco” and “Things to Do in Seattle” in a poignant way. “Things to Do in Winnipeg when You’re Black” is, as much as Snyder’s poems, a call to engagement with the geography of something as vast as a city, but it’s an engagement that doesn’t follow the white narrative. It’s a strong assertion of the hereness of a place, positioning us in the heart of Winnipeg and allowing us to follow the text through the author’s history–a history which valorizes the place of Black and Indigenous heritage in their context as creators of the Prairies of today. The poem truly blossoms in its last third, where we see the triumph of the landscape (as landscape must always triumph) and where we’re taken outside of time itself.
Things to Do around Winnipeg when you’re Black
by Michael Fraser
after Gary Snyder
Start in The Forks and meander slow as a season
flowing through the market courtyard.
Take the Riverwalk to see where the waters meet.
Lose the present as you become small as a name,
your steps kicking pebbles into the river’s hem.
See the city return to nature with its downtown
face dipped in waterway reflections.
Every elm you see is another word for place.
Get a pair of handcrafted moccasins.
Talk to the owner and know your ancestors
shared all that was broken and cracked with
the world, the sense of history’s remains willow-
hooping through the two of you.
Stop at the Little Brown Jug and enjoy a pint of 1919 ale,
taste how heirloom hops and spices create a moment.
Each daybreak is the sun sticking its landing.
Drive northeast to see the Red River empty into
inverted skies. Know that once water starts turning,
it never stops.
Feel how distant morning becomes on the drive back.
Around you, the prairie’s long stretch is faking forever.
This is how grass owns a landscape.
Michael Fraser is published in Best Canadian Poetry in English 2013 and 2018. He has won numerous awards, including Freefall Magazine’s 2014 and 2015 poetry contests, the 2016 CBC Poetry Prize, and the 2018 Gwendolyn Macewen Poetry Competition. The Day-Breakers (Biblioasis 2022) is his third poetry collection.