Gaston’s story was chosen from almost 3,000 English-language entries.
Gaston was born in Toronto and raised in Fredericton and Victoria. She acquired a BA from the University of Victoria and a MA from Concordia University in Montreal. Before shifting to Vancouver, she lived in Edmonton for 3 years. Gaston taught English on the University of British Columbia for 2 years.
She mentioned that she wrote James in hopes that her poem might converse to other mother and father who have additionally endured the loss of a kid.
“I think it honours us parents who don’t have living children. Talking about it helps to recognize us as parents, not just that we’re recognized by others, but that we can recognize ourselves and honour our grief around it. When I started speaking about it and I was very vocal — not just in poetry, but also socially — it surprised me how many people then shared their own stories of loss. In that way, we can help honour each other,” Gaston said in an interview with CBC Books.
“I am thrilled, surprised, and most of all so grateful to be able to honour my son in this way.”
“Poetry has long addressed the materials with which life furnishes or afflicts everyone, love and loss above all. And at the farthest reaches of our existential concerns, there is death, writ large to us to be managed as grief. Good poets find or forge ways to redeem and make these sing. Perhaps technique really is the test of sincerity, whether political, emotional or indeed beyond these realms. Maybe in spending some minutes of our lives with a poem here and there, our great reward might be the dissolving of falsities that come from the separate silos we too often make of head and heart.
“Here is a poem written with the sensitivity of a monarch touchdown on the palm-side of a wrist. Its magnificence and ache are expressed with a profound emotional intelligence that pulls the reader inward and outward once more. In its appreciation of its topic, James invitations such marvel and asks what it’d take to interrupt the social taboo nonetheless connected to the lack of an toddler. It is an aching pleasure to learn,” the jury said in a statement.
The 2021 CBC Poetry Prize jurors were Louise Bernice Halfe, Canisia Lubrin and Steven Heighton.
The four finalists for the 2021 CBC Poetry Prize were Mia Anderson of Port Neuf, Que. for Onion, Adriana Oniță of Edmonton for Untranslatable, Bola Opaleke of Winnipeg for The Morgue in My Tears and Alison Watt of Nanaimo, B.C. for Addendum — “Flora of a Small Island in the Salish Sea”.
They will every obtain $1,000 from the Canada Council for the Arts.
Last year’s English-language winner was Montreal writer and photographer Matthew Hollett for his poem Tickling the Scar.
The CBC Literary Prizes have been recognizing Canadian writers since 1979. Past winners include Alison Pick, David Bergen, Michael Ondaatje and Carol Shields.