The South Simcoe Arts Council has been shining a spotlight on up and coming writers of all ages, in all genres through its Creative Works Writing Contest for seven years.
We are excited to share the winners writings with you over the next few months.
Please enjoy this instalment of our Creative Works Writing Contest winners series featuring Adult Poetry 1st Place Winner - Valerie Losell
This award is sponsored by RBC, Alliston Branch
By Valerie Losell
You'll drive right past it if you don't
know it's there,
just off the gravel to the left,
just past the second bend.
In the brief gap among the branches,
it will startle you every time to see this
Spirit Bird's rotting ears and drooping beak
staring off into the distance,
yearning for Lake Simcoe's waves to float it,
against all laws of physics, back.
Back through the decades and the thousands
of miles of clattering tracks,
back to its forest home of cedar and
ferns and salt windswept coast: home.
Forty years ago it was easier to admire:
a proud clearing, undergrowth tamed
for yards around the base and the bright paint
announcing the summer home's drive;
no corrugated tin mailbox or wooden name plate here!
But the drop-jawed awe of a twenty foot totem pole
-the real deal-
suddenly there, around the bend
of this lakeside gravel road;
magnificent and incongruous,
serene and surreal,
announcing that someone special lived here.
Someone with the means
to compress four thousand miles to
the width of his summer estate,
and the desire
to plant HwaHwa, Sea Otter and Chief
in Simcoe County sandhill poplar, maple, pine.
He gloried in his prize for several decades
then died, leaving this cedar spirit pole
perhaps mourned and remembered
in that far, far away;
but here, unloved and unremembered,
In the mosquito gloom
and the soft, Lake Simcoe air,
the creaking squawk of branch on branch:
HwaHwa laughs at his fate;
the world indeed has many faces.
Biography - Valerie Losell
Thirteen years into "Life After Injury", former teacher and now poet and visual artist, Valerie Losell, continues to delight in finding ways to manifest her admiration for everyday life. Since 2018 Valerie has published Holding up the Sky: 33 Paintings and their Poems, won several regional poetry prizes, appeared in The Northern Appeal, and the LCP chapbook, The Way Out is the Way In (2021), as well as illustrating two children's picture books: Follow the Red Wagon, and The Red Wagon's Winter Dream2020-2021). "Hwa Hwa Laughs at his Fate" is an updated version of one of the poems in her 2018 anthology .
Most recently, Valerie's poem, "Backyard Beauties", also from her 2018 anthology, will appear in WORTH MORE STANDING, (Caitlin Press , 2022), a timely collection of poetry celebrating trees!
"Hwa Hwa Laughs" tells the true story of a huge chief pole, recently identified as coming from the Alert Bay area of Vancouver Island, brought here in the 1940's by Roy Hill, who had logging rights all over BC for his Hillroy Stationary business. The pole was installed at his summer residence and was still in pride of place there in 1980, a few doors from my parents' home. In 2013, I found a small watercolour I had done and understanding now the concept of cultural theft, began to research how this clearly significant pole ended up here in Simcoe County. At time of writing I am still waiting to here from the family of the pole's carver, and hoping the pole could someday be repatriated to its original site.