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Leslie Vryenhoek Wins 2010 Winston Collins/Descant Prize

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Leslie Vryenhoek Wins 2010 Winston Collins/Descant Prize

Descant Magazine has announced the winner of its 2010 Winston Collins/Descant Prize for Best Canadian Poem. Leslie Vryenhoek was presented the $1000 prize for her poem, "Letitia's Cold Footsteps." Honorable Mentions went to Jessica Hiemstra-van der Horst for her poem, "Eating quince with musicians," and Myna Wallin her poem, "Death, Wildlife and Taxes."

From our friends at Descant Magazine:

Poet Leslie Vryenhoek is the winner of the 2010 Winston Collins/Descant Prize for Best Canadian Poem. Descant Editor-in-Chief, Karen Mulhallen, presented the $1,000 prize in honour of Vryenhoek during a celebratory reception at Toronto’s PageWave Graphics last night.

The Collins Prize commemorates Winston Collins, a writer and enthusiastic teacher of literature at the universities of Cincinnati, Princeton and Toronto. The annual prize perpetuates his remarkable talent for encouraging self-expression through writing. The response to the fourth year of this competition exceeded expectations. Submissions came in from across the country by first time and seasoned poets alike, attesting to the quality and diversity of poetry in Canada.

The judges for this year’s award — Nora Kelly and Eric Wright — were struck by Vryenhoek’s winning poem, “Letitia’s Cold Footsteps,” and praised it for its nuanced exploration of alienation. “‘Letitia’s Cold Footsteps’ takes us into the strangeness of arrival in a new country and makes us shiver. The chill of forty below and the chill of alienation are inextricable: we can see little clouds of frozen breath with each compressed utterance. The linking of the speaker with her nineteenth-century predecessor and spiritual twin is a wonderful device, beautifully imagined and creating a distinctly Canadian poem.”

Also recognized during Friday’s announcement were Jessica Hiemstra-van der Horst, currently a resident of Australia, and Toronto’s Myna Wallin. Both received Collins Prize Honourable Mentions and $250 awards.

In “Eating quince with musicians,” Hiemstra-van der Horst offers readers an “elegant meditation on metamorphosis, both mental and material”. The judges celebrated her work for its sensual sophistication and suggested that “The poet listens, tastes, and remembers, senses afloat, dipping into the past and then surfacing again, drawn by a perfect but fleeting moment.” Hiemstra-van der Horst is a visual artist and writer. She has recently been anthologized in Approaches to Poetry: the pre-poem moment, edited by Shane Neilson (Frog Hollow Press).

The judges called Wallin's work “A poignant incantatory poem that draws together the speaker’s worries, weaving a spell around her fears.” In “Death, Wildlife and Taxes,” Wallin allows poverty and illness to “hover like evil spirits who must be placated by spiritual offerings.” Her poetry and prose has appeared in numerous literary journals. Her first book of fiction, Confessions of a Reluctant Cougar, is set for publication in Spring 2010 with Tightrope Books.

All three chosen poems will be published in Descant’s Summer 2010 issue (D149).

ABOUT THE WINNER – Leslie Vryenhoek is a poet, writer and communications professional based in St. John’s. Her work has appeared in journals and magazines across the country and internationally. In the fall of 2009, Oolichan published her first book, Scrabble Lessons, a short story collection. Leslie has just completed a manuscript of poetry exploring notions of home and belonging, with support from the Canada Council and the Newfoundland and Labrador Arts Council; “Letitia’s Cold Footsteps” is part of this manuscript.

For more information about the Winston Collins/Descant Prize for Best Canadian Poem and Descant magazine, please visit: descant.ca.

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