Local students in poetry spotlight


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Three local students have made it to the semifinal rounds of a national poetry competition.

Regional competitions for the annual Poetry in Voice competition were held recently, where students learned two poems from the Poetry in Voice anthology in either the English, French or bilingual stream. Once again, northeast Winnipeg is well-represented on the national stage. Miles Macdonell Collegiate’s Rohan Mariash is a semifinalist in the bilingual stream, while Elmwood High School’s Shanice Raymond and Kildonan-East Collegiate’s Al Gilbert, a finalist in last year’s competition, are semifinalists in the English stream.

By advancing to the semifinals, each student has already won $250. The People’s Choice Award winner will receive an extra $500. During the National Finals, a total of nearly $35,000 will be awarded to the winners and their school libraries.

Mariash performed If our bodies could rust, we would be falling apart by Billy-Ray Belcourt and J’ai tant rêvé de toi by Robert Desnos, which is in the running for the People’s Choice Award.

“I am absolutely ecstatic and thrilled to represent Manitoba as a bilingual semi-finalist,” Mariash said. “Canada possesses a plethora of incredible young and malleable minds, and I am elated to apply my passion for poetry in an environment where I am continually learning from my opposition. I am eagerly awaiting the unveiling of the nine finalists and the people’s choice awardees!”

“I am grateful to be given the opportunity to compete again this year in Poetry in Voice, especially with poems I feel very connected to,” said Gilbert, who recited Comfort by Joshua Jennifer Espinoza and Someday I’ll Love Ocean Veoung by Ocean Veoung.

“It has been a true pleasure to watch Al’s confidence in poetry recitation strengthen as featured in his selected poems of deep vulnerability,” added Tannis Francis, a teacher at KEC who has been involved with Poetry in Voice for a number of years.

Raymond, a Grade 11 student at Elmwood High School, recited Enigma by Andrea Thompson and Sorting Through Documents at Dawn by Shirley Camia.

“I am so honoured and grateful just to nominated for the finals,” Raymond said. “We didn’t have much time to film my poems, so just hearing that I made it to the semifinals is amazing.”

The public can vote on semifinalists until March 29, while contest judges will select finalists on March 24. National finals will be streamed live on April 21. Visit to view entries and vote.

Sheldon Birnie

Sheldon Birnie
Community Journalist

Sheldon Birnie is a reporter/photographer for the Free Press Community Review. The author of Missing Like Teeth: An Oral History of Winnipeg Underground Rock (1990-2001), his writing has appeared in journals and online platforms across Canada, the U.S. and the U.K. A husband and father of two young children, Sheldon enjoys playing guitar and rec hockey when he can find the time. Email him at Call him at 204-697-7112

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