2023 Long Poem Prize Winners:
Domenica Martinello and Bren Simmers

Congratulations to Domenica Martinello and Bren Simmers for winning our 2023 Long Poem Prize. They'll each receive CAD $1250, and their poems will be published in our summer 2023 issue #223. Thanks again to contest judges Bertrand Bickersteth and Jennifer Lynn Still.

Here's what the judges had to say about Domenica Martinello's poem: "A deceptively simple poem, 'Good Want' asks us to reconsider the general, the generic even, as matter for meaningful refashionings. From the first lines we sense the poet’s need to establish extraordinary space around a very specific shame. The poet uses the expanse of the long poem to stretch around this silence, to protect and share a secret, a want, a forgiveness. A unique courage is needed to remake flatness: open fields, the surface of a table, unitalicized text. This poet knows how to say and not say the horrible thing. Throughout the poem silence is released through silence—the umm of something and the oh of nothing, an expired cake mix rising. What is at stake when we say what we want and don’t want? What is unclenched when we forgive? We feel the poem as a specificity within us. "

Here's what the judges had to say about Bren Simmers' poem: "'Cloud Études' offers poetry as shelter. As tool, home, sustenance. Where do we live when our body, our 'pitched I' fails us? What are we left with when memory evaporates? This poet works into the tall strata of the page to draw language into new conditions. What lives below—the long, flowing, sentence-level life filled with uncertainty and loss—lends itself to the distilled shapes above. The known inverts with the unknown. Reconstituted language shows us 'clarity’s sparse address.'

Wisp by wisp, page by open page, 'Cloud Études' is an exquisitely-crafted and explored navigation of the value of poetic practice, a poem that shows us the fertile space within and above our lives, how to take cover in meaning-making 'worthy of the hours.'"

Domenica MartinelloDomenica Martinello, from Montreal, QC, is the author of All Day I Dream about Sirens (2019). She holds an MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, where she was the recipient of the Deena Davidson Friedman Prize for Poetry. Martinello was a finalist for the 2017 RBC Bronwen Wallace Award for Emerging Writers, and served as a judge for the award in 2021. Anthologized in Best Canadian Poetry 2019, Martinello's new work has appeared or is forthcoming in Black Warrior Review, Electric Literature, carte blanche, The Walrus, Maisonneuve, Arc Poetry Magazine, Poetry Northwest, The South Carolina Review, and elsewhere.
[photo credit Vincenzo D'Alto]


Bren Simmers Bren Simmers is the author of four books, most recently If, When (Gaspereau Press, 2021). She is the winner of the 2022 CBC Poetry Prize. Her poetry collection Spell ‘World’ Backwards is forthcoming with Gaspereau Press in 2024. She lives on Epekwitk (PEI).
[photo credit Mike Needham]


Look for interviews with Domenica Martinello and Bren Simmers in our July Malahat lite.


We would also like to congratulate the Long Poem Prize shortlisters:

Jeremy Audet, "The Lobster"
Moni Brar
, "Do not forget ੴ ; Storing Violence; Aftermath"
Dana Jaye
, "Narrative Some Narrative Again: (Baby Swelling Flame and Die)"
Joseph Kidney, "Only in the Solitude of Intention"
Y. S. Lee
, "Motherlands"