Haida Gwaii-based writer Susan Musgrave is pictured in Victoria in summer 2019. On Friday, May 15, 2020, it was announced that Musgrave won third place in the 2020 Fish Poetry Prize contest. (Regina Akhankina/Submitted photo)

Haida Gwaii-based writer takes home third prize in international poetry contest

Susan Musgrave announced as top 10 winner of 2020 Fish Poetry Prize for poem ‘Wild and Alone’

A writer who lives on Haida Gwaii recently took home third prize in an international poetry contest.

On May 15, Susan Musgrave’s poem “Wild and Alone” was announced as one of the top 10 winners of the 2020 Fish Poetry Prize, put on by the Fish Publishing company in Ireland.

The poem was chosen by American poet and returning judge Billy Collins from more than 1,900 entries, so when Musgrave found out that she had won third prize along with 200 euros, she told the Observer she was “shocked.”

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Musgrave said the winning poem is about a domestic argument, and although it may not be available to share until after the top 10 winners are published in an anthology this July, Collins did provide some comments about the work on the Fish Publishing website.

“Only the clear-eyed can write soberly of a domestic argument, and here the poet resists theatrics for the ordinary details of the scene, except perhaps for the copy of Lowry flying into the flames,” Collins wrote. “To learn from a mouse is the poem’s quirky but humble settlement.”

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Musgrave told the Observer that she entered the contest on the day it closed, which was March 31, on the advice of former Haida Gwaii resident Angela Long.

Long won an honourary mention in the contest for her poem, “On Reading Ecclesiastes 5 at St. Patrick’s Church of Ireland Cathedral.”

“A meditation, as the title tells us, on the weight of the church measured in granite, until the poem slips into an elegy for a mother, who ends the poem beautifully almost hypnotically with her endless peeling,” Collins wrote of Long’s poem.

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Musgrave has published more than 30 books and teaches poetry as part of the University of British Columbia Optional Residency MFA in Creative Writing Program.

Her most recent poetry book is “Origami Dove” and in 2015, she published “A Taste of Haida Gwaii: Food Gathering and Feasting at the Edge of the World.”

She also owns and manages the Copper Beech House in Masset.

The Fish Anthology 2020 was to be launched as part of the West Cork Literary Festival in July, but the festival has been cancelled due to COVID-19.

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