Tom Thomson, First Snow, 1915
Bruce Meyer is the winner of The Woolf’s 2018 poetry competition with his poem Tom Thomson, First Snow, 1915.
Bruce lives in Barrie, Ontario, Canada, and teaches at Georgian College and at Victoria College in the University of Toronto. He is author or editor of more than sixty books, including the short story collection, A Feast of Brief Hopes (Guernica Editions) and The First Taste: New and Selected Poems (Black Moss Press).
Here’s what Bruce had to say about winning The Woolf’s Inaugural Poetry Competition:
This prize is very special to me. Over the past year, I keep finishing just out of the roses on short-lists (The Fish Poetry Prize, The Gwendolyn MacEwen Poetry Prize, The Bridport Prize, The Carter V. Copper Prize, The Montreal International Poetry Prize, The Lummox Poetry Prize, The Freefall Poetry Prize, and The Gregory O’Donohugh Prize). My friends kept telling me not to give up, that something good will happen.
The painting at the core of the poem, ‘First Snow, 1915’ by Tom Thomson, is in the National Gallery in Ottawa (one of my favorite places in Canada). I wrote the poem a few years ago, but never used it in a collection. I had injured my Achilles tendon when I was run over in a supermarket by someone pushing an overloaded fruit trolley. I was limping around the gallery on a cane. There was a guard who brought me a chair while I sat and studied several paintings to take notes and write poems. When I got up and moved to a different room, the guard followed me with the chair. That’s kindness personified.
The painting is unique because Thomson captures the snow not as white dabs but as infinite digressions of white points so that the tiny canvas (about the size of my computer screen) possesses a wonderful depth and play of light. The Windsor artist, Barry Brodie, used it as a framed artefact in a special show at the SHO Gallery in Windsor about the life and tragic death of Tom Thomson. Thomson’s compatriot, the painter Lawren Harris (who came from the Massey Harris Ferguson farm machinery family), built a wonderful studio for Thomson’s fellow artists, The Group of Seven (Thomson was not a member) in Toronto’s Rosedale Valley. The building still stands. It was purchased by a friend of my mother’s, the late Gordon Teskey, as a triplex, and he had us to tea there about twenty years ago. Tom Thomson and The Group of Seven reside at the core of Canada’s visual culture because they articulated a landscape that is Canadian but rarely experienced first-hand by Canadians. There is so much Canada that it is impossible to define or contain it in the imagination. My wife, however, grew up in a northern mining community, and the area around her town is very Group of Seven—rugged, lake-strewn, snow-bound in winter, and sparsely settled if settled at all. As for where I live—Barrie, Ontario—it has just started to snow and will snow sideways continually until St.Patrick’s Day. Snow resides at the core of what it means to be a Canadian. The Québécois singer, Gilles Vigneault, wrote a famous song, ‘Mon Pays’ where he says “my garden is not a garden / it is snow.”
And now the Joint Runners-Up, in alphabetical order, according to last name:
Francesco E.A. Jannetta
Francesco E.A. Jannetta was born in Berne and grew up in the rural Canton of Uri, located in the heart of the Swiss Alps. He briefly studied law at the University of Lucerne before joining the Swiss Armed Forces for a year. Since 2015, he has been studying English and History at the University of Basel and is currently aiming for his Masters degree. Next to studying literature, Francesco Jannetta produces poetry and prose himself. Momentarily, he still writes as a hobby, but hopes to be able to expand his passion for writing in the future. He endeavours to capture the lived experiences of participants of the everyday and their bids to succeed in a surreally digitalised and post-post-modern world in his writing.
Everything That Evaporates
Elizabeth Morton is a writer who has published in New Zealand, Australia, Ireland, the UK, Canada and the USA. She was feature poet in the Poetry New Zealand Yearbook 2017, and is included in Best Small Fictions 2016. Her first poetry collection, Wolf, was published with Mākaro Press in 2017. In 2013 she won the New Voices Emerging Poets Competition.
Elizabeth is completing an MLitt at the University of Glasgow, usually in her pajamas. She likes to write about broken things, and things with teeth.
Jill Munro’s poetry has appeared in various magazines including The Frogmore Press, The Fenland Reed & The Rialto. Her first collection ‘Man from La Paz’ was published in 2015 by Green Bottle Press, London. She won the Fair Acre Press Pamphlet Competition with ‘The Quilted Multiverse’ (2016) and won the O’Bheal Five Words International Poetry competition this year. Jill has been awarded a Hawthornden Fellowship for 2018.
Kate is an Australian writer, teacher, and musician who lives with her family in Meilen, Kanton Zurich. Last year she won the Inaugural Woolf Short Story Competition, and she has also published creative nonfiction. She’s putting the finishing touches to an historical novel as part of a PhD in creative writing.
Kate has a writing (academic and creative) and research skills coaching consultancy, and, on the music side, teaches piano and singing, and regularly sings with a big band and her jazz-piano playing husband.
Anna-Rose Shack is currently completing a Research Master’s in Literary Studies at the University of Amsterdam, specialising in English Renaissance theatre. She has an enduring passion for reading, writing and performing poetry, something that was nurtured through Speech and Drama.
When she’s not immersed in the works of Shakespeare she can often be found baking cakes, running in the park or reading about Japanese gardens.
Solomon Au Yeung
The Cycle of Life
Solomon Au Yeung is an in-service teacher working at a local primary school in Tai O, on Hong Kong’s Lantau Island. He is studying for his Master’s in Learning and Teaching part-time with the University of Oxford. He has published articles in The Economic Journal, The Huffington Post, Buzzfeed and HK01, and not long ago he discovered a new interest in poetry.
Congratulations to all our winners!
You can read all of the poems by clicking through to this post.