Eligible Poems for City Poems Poetry Video Contest

(Fall 2022-Spring 2023)

These poems were drawn from the shortlisted poems by emerging and established poets from Stage One of the Contest (2022) supplemented by additional notable local site-based poems.

Vancouver Parks

  • Susan AlexanderSen̓áḵw”
    Location: Seńákw commonly known as Vanier Park | Read the Poem | Recorded Reading
    • Synopsis: The first three stanzas of this poem take the reader to the current site of Sen̓ákw also known as Vanier Park where there is a shifting scene of stunt kites, bicycles, joggers, music, picnickers and Bard on the Beach tents in which the play Lysistrata is being performed. The last three stanzas awaken the settler speaker of the poem, and the reader, to the dark colonial history of Sen̓ákw.
  • Kelsey Andrews “To the Otter Who Snuck into the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Garden and Ate the Koi” 
    Location: Location: Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden   |   Read the Poem   |  Recorded Reading
    • Synopsis: “To the Otter Who Snuck into the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Garden and Ate the Koi” is about the otter, from the point of view of a formerly homeless person who is now living in an SRO, thinking about the similarities and differences between him and the otter.”
  • Julie Emerson “Stanley Park Fir”
    Location: Stanley Park|   Read the Poem   |   Recorded Reading
    • Synopsis: Giant fir trees have lived in Stanley Park for centuries; they are the mother trees sheltering animals, birds, insects, and plants, and observing rootless humans from above.
  • James Kim,“An Existence That We Can Call Home”
    Location: The First Narrows, by what is now known as Stanley Park and the Lions Gate Bridge   |   Read the Poem   |   Recorded Reading
    • Synopsis: This poem is about the gentrification and power imbalances that come about in trying to erase history, and our duty to make sure it’s remembered. (First Nations villages as well as Chinese, Portuguese, Hawaiian and mixed-race communities were forcibly displaced by authorities to make way for what we now know as Stanley Park. (Please read the footnotes to the poem for the history.)
  • Theresa Rogers, “the stone artist”
    Location: Stanley Park Seawall   |   Read the Poem   |   Recorded Reading 
    • Synopsis: When you walk along the Stanley Park seawall, so full of its own history, you will come upon cairns sculptured only with stones precariously balanced, yet they often manage to remain for several days, resembling flocks of birds. Only once have I seen an actual artist at work — often is seems it is done in quiet hours while others are not around.
  • Diane Tucker, “Fat Vancouver Snow”
    Location: Norquay Park & the Carmen Rosen sculptures across the street in the 2600-block of Kingsway   | Read the Poem   |   Recorded Reading
    • Synopsis: This poem captures layered moments of a singular winter day where a striking piece of public art opens the narrator to the voices of her neighbourhood’s deep history.

East Vancouver

  • Harper Campbell, “Near Commercial”
    Location: Commercial Drive | Read the Poem | Recorded Reading
    • Synopsis: This poem is about the poet’s memories of growing up near Commercial drive in the 1990s. It shows certain places and the poet’s memories about them.

Vancouver West Side

  • Sandra Bruneau, “Alma”
    Location: Alma Street, which runs north-south from English Bay to West 16th Avenue on the west side of the city | Read the Poem | Recorded Reading
    • Synopsis: Vancouverites, known to demonstrate publicly for various causes, reach out to Ukrainians fighting for their homeland and culture. Alma Street here and the Alma River in Crimea are placenames we share, signifying our common bonds and shared hopes for peace and justice.

  • Barbara Pelman, “Congregation Beth Israel”
    Location: Congregation Beth Israel, 989 West 28th Ave, off Oak Street   |   Read the Poem   |   Recorded Reading
    • Synopsis: This is a poem from the perspective of a twelve-year old in 1958, who feels uncomfortable amongst her wealthier friends, but who feels great pride in the fact that she is the daughter of the choir-leader, whose beautiful voice fills the synagogue. There are many details about the changes occurring both in the physical and social structure of the synagogue at that time.
  • Leslie Timmins, “The Modest Contribution of Babies to the Protest at the Member of Parliament’s Office”  
    Location: Khatsahlano Beach (known as Kitsilano Beach) and a protest by 350.org at Broadway and Arbutus   Read the Poem    |   Recorded Reading 
    • Synopsis: On a scorching summer day, a crowd of people gather on a street corner in Vancouver, some tenderly carrying babies on their chests or backs, others cheerfully waving signs at drivers passing by, all demonstrating against government support for the fossil fuel industry.  Just a few blocks away—evidence of a catastrophic climate event: a thousand blue mussel shells lying open on an offshore reef, still cradled against other, but unable to survive record-breaking heat in an ocean the temperature of bathwater. 

Downtown Vancouver

  • Christina Barber, “Victory Square Lament”
    Location: Victory Square | Read the Poem | Recorded Reading
    • Synopsis: This is a poem of Remembrance about the personification of place as Witness. An homage to the rondeau form of John McCrae’s venerated poem, “In Flanders Fields,” this five-part work encompasses the story of the Square via key historical events since its dedication in 1924. Through the poem we recall not only the veterans of military conflicts but also those of the Depression riots of 1935 and of homelessness and substance abuse, each a vivid entity in the social geography of the square’s environs whose ‘presence through absence’ is embodied in the cenotaph as an equivocal symbol of our perennial will to remember
  • Sadhu Binning, “Welcome” from his bilingual poetry collection No More Watno Dur (Mawenzi House Publishers, 1994)
    Location: Coal Harbour  |  Read the Poem   |  Recorded Reading  
    • Synopsis:  A poem about belonging and exclusion. Read about the history of the SS Komagata Maru in 1914 here, and background to the current civic monument in the park here.
  • Jeremy Chu, “Entertainment”
    Location: The former Marco Polo Restaurant, 90 East Pender St.   |   Read the Poem   |   Recorded Reading
    • Synopsis: The poem in its barest is about the historical presence of The Marco Polo (former famous nightclub in Chinatown), and its importance as a space-of-relation between communities, namely communities of colour.
  • Junie Desil, “This was meant to be for Nora
    Location: Hogan’s Alley  | Read the Poem   |   Recorded Reading  
    • Synopsis: A poem based on a dream about Jimi Hendrix and his grandmother, Nora Hendrix, who was a community leader in Hogan’s Alley, located in the Strathcona neighbourhood of Vancouver. From the early 1900s to the late 1960s, the Strathcona neighbourhood was the home to Vancouver’s first and only black community. Watch video stories of Black Strathcona here.
  • Alex Leslie, “Postcard Home from English Bay” from their book, Vancouver for Beginners (Book *hug Press, 2019)
    Location: English Bay   | Read the Poem  |   Recorded Reading
    • Synopsis: “I wanted to create a full tableau, including many characters who occupy a vision of oceanfront busy Vancouver, from the seagulls to the politicians to the street artists…. It’s a twisted advertisement, or a dark stream-of-consciousness account someone on a drug trip might write on a postcard… it captures something of the overblown paradise vibes Vancouver is pinned with.”  
  • Angela May, single mother on hastings
    Location: 324 Powell Street (The Lion Hotel), East Hastings, and the wider Downtown Eastside, especially via personal and familial memory   |   Read the Poem   |   Recorded Reading
    • Synopsis:  This poem is about a Japanese-Canadian single mother who makes home in the Downtown Eastside, and how the power of her home-making transcends time, touching down in the lives of her children, and further generations (including the poet).
  • Donna Seto, Contrasts” 
    Location: Chinatown   |   Read the Poem   |   Recorded Reading
    • Synopsis: A 100 year-old Chinese elder witnesses the changes and gentrification of Chinatown. 

For UBC FNIS 454 only

  • Debra Sparrow, Know Who You Are, and Know Where You Come From
    Location: local Musqueam village sites |   Read the Poem  | Recorded Reading
    • Synopsis: Debra Sparrow’s story of her grandfather telling her and her children about Musqueam village sites and history.

To Submit a Video

City Poems Contest is pleased to accept entries on FilmFreeway, an excellent way to enter film festivals and creative contests worldwide.