May 11, 2022 11:56 a.m.
A beloved poet from Sarnia still leaves her mark years after her death.
The Lawrence House recently announced the winners of the inaugural Carmen Ziolkowski Poetry Prize.
Tanya Standish McIntyre, from rural Quebec, won first prize of $500 for her poem “Conceive of a Circle”, Renée M. Sgroi, originally from Toronto, received $250 for “In Metamorphosis” and third prize, 100 $, was awarded to Burlington’s Karen Kerekes for “Tree of Life”.
Lambton College communications professor Ryan Gibbs himself said that Lois Nantais and Rhonda Melanson were the blind judges of the competition.
“We are three local poets who also knew Carmen. So we went through the process of reading all the poems and selecting the ones that best captured the spirit of Carmen,” Gibbs said. “The poems had to be based on nature and they had to be hopeful.”
Honorable mentions went to Moni Brar of Treaty 7 Lands and Syilx Okanagan Nation for ‘Morning Miracles’ and Adrienne Stevenson of Ottawa for ‘Re-wilding’.
Gibbs said that before Carmen passed away in 2018 at the age of 94, she had the idea to organize a poetry contest.
“It just took us a while to really have the platform to do it, and I think with the Lawrence House it seemed to work out well. We wanted to honor Carmen’s memory, just like the Ziolkowski family.
Carmen had immigrated to Canada from Naples just after World War II and quickly became part of the local writing community. She was also able to write in two languages, Italian and English.
Gibbs said Carmen was a very vibrant part of the Writers Forum.
“She was a person who I think really drew a lot of writers to her, she had a great love of writing and a great love of life.”
Gibbs said they had 36 entries and nearly 100 poems from around the country.
He said what makes good poetry is really the feeling of a connection with the writer.
“And I think people should always try poetry because it doesn’t take a lot of resources to produce – all you need is a phone or a computer and you can write whatever you feel, and there are thoughts and an audience there that you might not even realize.
Gibbs said they plan to hold a second poetry contest in 2023.