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Bola Opaleke’s “The Morgue in my Tears” Makes CBC Poetry Prize 2021 Longlist

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Bola Opaleke‘s poem “The Morgue in my Tears” has been listed among this year’s CBC Poetry Prize. This prize is awarded to the best original, unpublished, poem or poetry collection submitted to the competition. This year’s longlist consists of thirty-one brilliant poets from across Canada.

The longlist was selected from almost 3,000 English-language submissions.

The Nigerian-Canadian poet, who has a degree in City Planning from Obafemi Awolowo University in Ile-Ife, Nigeria, relocated to Canada in 2011 and became a Canadian citizen in 2016. His first poetry collection, which included mostly poems written during his teenage, was published in 2012. He was a runner-up in the 2013 Thomas Morton Memorial Poetry Prize and made the shortlist for the same prize in 2017. His poem “Ila Sisi, Ila Sisi” was also nominated for the 2017 Open Frontier Poetry Prize. In 2018, his poem “The Autobiography of Water” earned runner-up in the CBC poetry contest.

On why he wrote “The Morgue in my Tears”:

Some wounds never heal, they hide. I started writing this poem a few years ago. Six times I have completed it — or seemed to have — and all six times I ended up tossing it. But during the pandemic, it became, as Jericho Brown said, ‘a gesture toward home’. I wrote this poem to avenge myself against the guilt swallowing me up and against the forgiveness stuck in my throat.

The longlist of 31 novels are:

  • Onion by Mia Anderson (Portneuf, Que.)
  • witchy by Shauna Andrews (Powell River, B.C.)
  • The Other Day, I Told Ian That Having Mice Is Like the Trouble With Tribbles but Written in Another Genre / She Says, You Know, Though, You Do by C Baran (Vancouver)
  • Field Party by Joelle Barron (Fort Frances, Ont.)
  • even this dust / some walks of late / a feather / this slowly by J.R. Carpenter (Edmonton)
  • plaques: that they by Sophie Edwards (Kagawong, Ont.)
  • James by Lise Gaston (Vancouver)
  • Cod Jigging Near Twillingate by Alexander Hollenberg (Hamilton, Ont.)
  • the body & the ghost by Eileen Mary Holowka (Montreal)
  • language is by Erica Hiroko Isomura (New Westminster, B.C.)
  • Prairie Ritual by Conor Kerr (Vancouver)
  • Migration Song by Nicole Lachat (Edmonton)
  • Saturday morning, East Pender Street by Y.S. Lee (Kingston, Ont.)
  • Walking in Space by Tanis MacDonald (Waterloo, Ont)
  • Fallow by Kirsteen MacLeod (Kingston, Ont.)
  • hydrodynamics by Katie Martí (Victoria)
  • Lunch at Pine Valley Indian Reservation by Francine Merasty (Saskatoon)
  • Northwestern Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos caurinus) by Jordan Mounteer (Winlaw, B.C.)
  • Brain Spike for the Second Mouth by Cassandra Myers (Toronto)
  • Whale Killing by Nolan Natasha (Halifax)
  • How to write at the end of the world by Erin Noteboom (Kitchener, Ont.)
  • Untranslatable by Adriana Oniță (Edmonton)
  • The Morgue in my Tears by Bola Opaleke (Winnipeg)
  • Hey You Lucy Liu by Charlie Petch (Toronto)
  • Murmuration by Natalie Rice (Kelowna, B.C.)
  • The End of the Line by Allana Stuart (Ottawa)
  • Water by Emily Swinkin (Toronto)
  • Table Manners by Justin Timbol (Mississauga, Ont.)
  • Tuxedo Court by Kayal Vizhi (Toronto)
  • Addendum —”Flora of a Small Island in the Salish Sea” by Alison Watt (Nanaimo, B.C.)
  • Two Girls by A. Light Zachary (Toronto and Grande-Digue, N.B.)
  • Why bury yourself in this place you ask by A. Light Zachary (Toronto and Grande-Digue, N.B.)

The shortlist will be revealed on November 18, and the winner will be announced on November 24, 2021. In addition to a $6,000 cash prize, the grand prize winner will receive a two-week writing residency at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity, with their work published on the CBC Books website.

The Canada Council for the Arts will award $1,000 to four finalists, and their work will be published on CBC Books.

Congratulations, Bola Opaleke.

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