A Nanaimo poet made the 2021 CBC Poetry Prize long list for her poetic take on a botanist’s field guide.
This week the CBC Poetry Prize long list was announced and among the 31 finalists is Alison Watt for her work Addendum — Flora of a Small Island in the Salish Sea. The winner gets $6,000 from the Canada Council for the Arts, their work published on CBC Books and the chance to attend a two-week writing residency at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity.
This is Watt’s first time submitting a poem to the contest and she said it’s a “big honour” to be long-listed.
“Maybe it kind of felt a little overwhelming to submit to, it’s such a big competition,” she said, adding that she was motivated to submit this time because “I really am excited about this work I’m doing now and I just felt like it’s a chance to be part of a Canadian conversation.”
Watt is a biologist by trade and Addendum — Flora of a Small Island in the Salish Sea is a suite of poems about regional plants and trees, including Garry oaks and arbutuses, but reminiscent of a scientific document. She said she was envisioning “a field guide that has not only a scientific description, but also a poetic description.”
“I really feel like, as powerful as the scientific paradigm is and as much insight as it’s given us in the living world and ourselves, it feels to me like there’s an emotional context in our relationship with nature that’s missing and I think people feel it but it’s not articulated in science,” Watt said.
The CBC Poetry Prize short list will be announced on Nov. 18 and the winner will be announced on Nov. 24.