Open Season Awards: Winners for 2023

Caroline Harper New (poetry), "Interview with a Cervidologist"
Deepa Rajagopalan (fiction), "Cake"
Gloria Blizzard (creative nonfiction), "Passage"

Congratulations to all three writers, who have each won $2,000 in prize money and publication in our upcoming spring issue #222. Look for interviews with the winners in our upcoming April Malahat lite. Keep reading for comments from the judges, and to learn more about the contest winners!


Poetry contest judge Ki'en Debicki had this to say about Caroline Harper New's winning poem:

"'Interview with a Cervidologist' is a haunting poem. It spoke to me immediately in the darkness of its imagery and tone, which hints at something scary, something threatening, something unknown. The uncanny within us—of digestion, of things split and torn, hunted, and struck down. Violence. The violence of existing in a time when science, technology, and ideas all have the capacity to be both deadly and necessary, with humans at the wheel. 'Interview with a Cervidologist' imagines the roadside grit that it takes to be an urban, post-apocalyptic survivor, human or otherwise. And in that otherwise lies the poem’s strength and its challenge to readers. What do we take for granted and why? What are the costs? I hope you will take the journey that this poem offers to accept uncertainty: to feel unsettled, to feel that you’re not quite sure what’s going on and never quite safe in your knowing."

Caroline Harper New

Caroline Harper New is a writer and visual artist from Bainbridge, Georgia. Rooted in the Gulf Coast, her poems turn to natural disaster, scientific discovery, and stories of obsession to trace the line between love and ruin. In doing so, her work reckons with concepts of extinction, often straddling archaeology, politics, folklore, and ecopoetics.

In addition, she has done ethnographic research in Madagascar, visual art for TV series in New Orleans, and interdisciplinary eco-collaborations in Wyoming. She received her BA in anthropology from Davidson College and her MFA in Poetry from the University of Michigan, where she is currently a post-MFA Zell Fellow and the Dzanc Writer-in-Residence.

She is currently preoccupied with semiaquatic things, like mermaids, swampland, and waterbirds.


Fiction contest judge Ben Lof had this to say about Deepa Rajagopalan's winning story:

"'Cake' is narrated by a hotel housekeeper looking for a promotion so she can pay her rent and dream of a better life, even though she is up against a world of gender and class inequality. This story is brilliantly and delicately told with spare prose and a voice that is unflinching and unsentimental. Its bleakest moments are made heartbreaking by the plainness of their telling. The hotel is probably in middle America but could be anywhere, as the narrative feels universal in its portrayal of human striving, injustice, and resilience. It’s also a true depiction of a workplace environment that will be familiar to many, where credit is almost never given where it’s due. There are vivid memorable lines such as 'farm animal in a zoo' and teeth that are 'toilet paper rolls of different sizes shoved into some small space.' So like the sparkling nails and burning eyes of the conclusion, 'Cake' is a gift to read even as it devastates."

Deepa Rajagopalan

Deepa Rajagopalan won the 2021 RBC/PEN Canada New Voices Award for her short story “Peacocks of Instagram.” Her writing has appeared or is forthcoming in literary magazines such as Room Magazine, Arc Poetry Magazine, EVENT magazine, and The Quarantine Review. She has an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Guelph.

Creative Nonfiction

Creative nonfiction judge Bahar Orang had this to say about Gloria Blizzard's winning piece:

"'Passage' is a curious piece—unpredictable, searching, and incredibly layered. The piece begins with the discovery of a single molecular compound (benzene), but very quickly, the scene of that discovery expands, is made historical, and a complex meditation on science, race, dreaming, and the ambivalent enmeshments between human/nature/urbanity unfolds. An anti-colonial impulse runs through, and a central question (for me): how do creatures move through space? Migrations, forcible displacements, erasures, intrusions, and where/what are the possibilities of alternative routes, movements, and escapes; what are the ways out, through, and around? 'Passage' weaves together a local reflection on that urban/nature divide, alongside, or in relation to global questions of diaspora. 'Passage' moved me, with its conceptual richness, its unexpected twists and turns (circling, connecting…), and its capacity to hold many threads at once, but with a deep self-consciousness about the dangers of attending to those threads with too great an attachment to symmetry or closure."

Gloria Blizzard

Gloria Blizzard weaves multiple cultures, music, science and spirit with experiences as a Black Canadian woman of Caribbean heritage living on Indigenous lands of the Americas. She writes essays and poetry, as well as reviews and features on music, dance and film. Her work has appeared in The Humber Literary Review,,, The Globe and Mail, The Conversation and many other publications. Her feature on musician Alanna Stuart was listed amongst Best Canadian Music Writing for 2022, and her essay "The Year of Jazz" was recently nominated by World Literature Today for the Pushcart Prize. She has an MFA from the University of King’s College, Halifax. Blizzard’s first book of essays will be published by Dundurn Press.



All three winning pieces will be published in issue #222, spring 2023, circulating in May.

We would also like to congratulate those who were shortlisted for the 2023 Open Season Awards:


Evan J, Mika Lafond, Khashayar Mohammadi, Cindy Patrick, Jade Riordan, Purvi Shah, and Cooper Skjeie


Lisa Alward, Mitsuki Amano, Kate Brooks, John Geddes, Evan J, Jill Macdonald, Saanvi Sahoo, and Isa S. You


Adèle Barclay, Lucy Black, Kimberly Fahner, Kevin Irie, Angélique Lalonde, Louie Leyson, Visnja Milidragovic, Melanie Power, Noa Raanan, and Rebecca Watkins


Thank you to all who entered for your support of our contest and the magazine.

Many thanks also to contest judges Ki'en Debicki, Ben Lof, and Bahar Orang, as well as all of our valued staff and volunteers.