The JLPPA was created in 2012 to honour the work of its namesake, a beloved creative writing instructor and founding editor of Kalamalka Press. Since the appearance of his first poetry collection, A Rock Solid, in 1978, John has published nine books of poetry and fiction, recorded two musical albums, edited numerous titles, and mentored countless writers—emerging and well-established, alike—throughout the Okanagan Valley. His dedication to experimenting with poetic and narrative forms that explore people and their internal and external geographies, as well as his dedication to supporting new writers, are the bioelectricity that keeps the heart of this national writing competition a-pumping.
Every year, the JLPPA has found a well-crafted and meditative manuscript of poetry, prose, or a hybrid of the two from an emerging Canadian writer whose works demonstrates a consistent, plucky style and a fearless devotion to investigating their world.
The contest winner receives a $500 prize, and the manuscript is produced, under the guideance of OC instructor Jason Dewinetz, as a limited edition chapbook, hand-set in metal type and printed by students of Okanagan College's Diploma in Writing & Publishing. Check out some of the previous winners here.
The submissions were first read by the contest's namesake, John Lent, who narrowed the stack down to a shortlist of 3 manuscripts. Those 3 were then passed on to this year's jury -- Norah Bowman, Jake Kennedy, & Laisha Rosnau -- who worked together to select a winner.
2023 Shortlisted Submissions:
Porch Song, by Phillip Crymble.
Unleft, also by Phillip Crymble.
No One Cares..., by Clare Thiessen.
Check back mid-summer 2024 for details on next year's JLPPA contest.
Entrants should be in the early stages their writing careers, having not published more than two full-length books. The winning work will be published in a limited edition by Kalamalka Press, designed by Jason Dewinetz and printed by Writing & Publishing students in The Bunker, Okanagan College's Letterpress Print Shop.
The winner receives $500.00 and ten percent of the book’s print-run.
Currently, Lent is working on a long poem called The Ordinary’s Incense and a volume of essays and interviews with Jake Kennedy called Marshall Fields. Lent lives in Vernon, BC, with his wife, the artist Jude Clarke.
photo credit: Vernon Morning Star
These days--and for the last 14ish years—Jake teaches at Okanagan College where he is considered one of the finest V2 climbers on the first floor of the C Building (Kelowna campus).
Rosnau lives in Coldstream, BC, where she is the Cultural Program Coordinator at the Vernon Museum and Archives, and she and her family are resident caretakers of Bishop Wild Bird Sanctuary.
Cynthia Woodman Kerkham has published a book Good Holding Ground (Palimpsest Press, 2011) and a passel of poems in various literary magazines. She’s won the Malahat Review’s Open Season Award, the Federation of BC Writers award, received several contest Honourable Mentions, and placed as a finalist in the CBC Poetry Prize. She lives and talks to birds in Victoria, BC.
with feathers is an accomplished and smartly realized suite of prose poems. While the sequence takes meditations on diverse birds as its centering focus, we were deeply impressed with the sometimes playful and sometimes stirring turns towards history and memory evident in each piece. “Mallard,” for instance, deftly moves from a study of drakes and hens into a consideration of Viktor Frankl and the perilousness of life. We also were captivated by the poet’s urgent and often magical observations throughout: hope, as an origami crane, that “turns stasis into flight” or a seagull “slowly eating stars.” Such enthralling work, we agreed, was highly deserving of the JLPPA.
Keagan Hawthorne is a poet, letterpress printer, and proprietor of The Hardscrabble Press, living in Mi'kma'ki at Sackville, New Brunswick. His poetry has appeared in journals across Canada and in Ireland and England, and was awarded the 2021 Alfred G. Bailey Prize. He works at the Mount Allison University Library.
The Barnyard Book of Common Prayer invokes in verse the concerns of our own time, from “not enough moisture in the summer / too much moisture in the fall” to prayers for delivery “From fear, from fear.” The artful nuance in both language and cadence, from benediction to canticle to lullaby, gives voice to not only the animals who serve the industrial agricultural complex, but our own complicity in a world in which no prayer is common and the windows are all “dirty from a long season of our breathing.”
Ben Robinson is a poet, musician and librarian. His most recent chapbook is Without Form from The Blasted Tree. He has only ever lived in Hamilton, Ontario on the traditional territories of the Erie, Neutral, Huron-Wendat, Haudenosaunee and Mississaugas. You can find him online at benrobinson.work.
Ben Robinson’s Low Vacancy—with captivating understatement and something like casual precision—tours us through domestic spaces and therein shows us how time flows and stills and breaks. Robinson’s calm control is especially impressive as he transitions his compressed meditations from the stirring present- into the rather melancholic future-tense. Low Vacancy—especially with its focus on alienated city-living and the vicious-beautiful/beautiful-vicious cycles of life—is an apt and affecting piece for our fraught present moment.
Erin Scott is a poet and performer living and working in the unceded Syil’x territory (Kelowna). Her work has appeared in Ricepaper Magazine, at InspiraTO Festival, Living Things Festival, and is forthcoming in subTerrain Magazine. She holds an MFA from UBC, works extensively in the community arts sector in the Okanagan, and is mother to two wild daughters.
The poems in Atrophy meditate on time and loss, and as they reflect on the sacredness of landscapes, the book reminded us, too, of some of the core themes in John Lent’s own work. There's a gorgeous weight to Atrophy and at the same it's marked by such a sharp self-awareness; in this way all of its voices/sounds strike us as sweetly human. Another way to put this is to say that we were held by the very real, authentic power of the poetry in Atrophy: “but the hawk knew / about perching above the hullabaloo” and “swallowing the light / will only open the body to decay” and “slicing watermelon in neat lines / cleaning the body of rind.” The music of the manuscript is never forced or ironic—and the narrative of the poem itself has an undeniable urgency. We think this is beautiful work and we’re thrilled to nominate it for the John Lent Poetry and Prose Award.
Angeline Schellenberg is no stranger to literary accolades. Her first book-length poetry collection, Tell Them It Was Mozart, published by the veritable Brick Books in 2016, won the Lansdowne Prize for Poetry, the Eileen McTavish Sykes Award for Best First Book, and the John Hirsch Award for Most Promising Manitoba Writer. Her writing has also appeared in numerous magazines, journals, and websites across Canada, and has been shortlisted for Arc Poetry Magazine’s “Poem of the Year”.
“The writing in Dented Tubas is well-seasoned: it’s language and imagery offer a weathered kind of maturity, scrubby and honest, but with dashes of unique zest and garnishes of beauty rawness,” says Kevin McPherson, one of three jurors for the 2018 competition. “These poems are simply well-crafted life-apertures.”
Buis's work was selected from a total of 31 manuscripts by this year's jury, Okanagan College professors Jake Kennedy and Kevin McPherson, as well as a special guest juror, the award’s namesake, John Lent.
“The poems in Sugar for Shock stood out from the other submissions for their generous confidence and gentle mystery,” says Kevin McPherson. “Their energy oscillates between reverberation and vision, so that in one moment a poem will mesmerize you with its melody, while in the next it will hypnotize you with a precise and profound image.”
Susan Buis holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Cal State Long Beach and a BFA in visual art. Her writing has appeared in numerous journals from across Canada, including CV2, Event, and The Fiddlehead. In 2013, she won the Malahat Review's Open Season Award for Creative Nonfiction.
A Toronto-based writer, zine-maker, and artist punk, Cahill graduated from the English program at Brock University in St. Catherine’s. Her writing has been anthologized in Why Poetry Sucks, and, in 2014, she curated Homer’s Odyssey, an exhibition of Simpson’s inspired artworks.
The submissions for this year’s award continued to shove forward an amazing diversity of styles, subjects, and craft. Manuscripts were vetted by Okanagan College professors and poet-types Jake Kennedy and Kevin McPherson (eckhoff). “The Movement of the Triangle is unlike anything I’ve read in a very long time, if ever,” says Kevin McPherson, who is also the managing editor of Kalamalka Press. “It’s a wild specimen of speculative fiction, re/minding my readerself of some vision projected onto the page by Kurt Vonnegut or Gail Scott. Its movement playfully undermines genre, pops culture, and dreams a future in which I hope to one day awake!”
“The quality of submissions was stupidly high again this year. It was such a privilege to read them all and such torment to have to choose only one for the crown,” notes Kevin McPherson, editor of Kalamalka Press and English professor at Okanagan College. “But Helen’s work is singular in its courage to invent sounds and imagery that pulse across the page and plants itself right into a reader’s neural pathways.”
Hajnoczky’s first book, Poets and Killers, was published with Snare Books in Montreal, while her poems have appeared in numerous magazines and anthologies published across Canada. Magyarázni, her second full-length poetry collection, will appear next year from the illustrious Coach House Books. “I'm so honoured that my work was chosen!” writes Hajnoczky. “Nikki Sheppy, whose chapbook Grrrrlhood: A ludic suite won the John Lent Poetry-Prose award in 2013, and Natalie Simpson, whose work received honourable mention that same year, were the biggest influences on this work, so it's especially thrilling to have part of Bloom and Martyr chosen this year.”
“We received the most submissions ever for this year’s award, which is a great sign that news of the award is viraling across the country, but it was also dang tough to narrow down so many supercharged contenders!” says Kevin McPherson, editor of Kalamalka Press. For the past three years, the award’s three judges have been Kevin McPherson, Jake Kennedy, and Laisha Rosnau. “It’s a ludicrous honour to be able to consider so many beauty-filled poems and deliberate with such admirable peers. The winning manuscript is also such a playful, surreal wonder it puts a lot of joy in my chest thumper!” says Jake Kennedy.
Papaxanthos has one chapbook published with Proper Tales Press, while his writing appears in numerous anthologies and journals, including Lake Effect 5, This Magazine, and Lemonhound. Of winning the award, he writes “What can I say? Such a thrill that the judges enjoyed my poetry.” And of previous winners and the award’s namesake, “I couldn’t have hoped for better company!”
“It was a wonderful and challenging process this time ’round,” says Kevin McPherson, one of the judges and editors of Kalamalka Press. “We had so many muscly entrees that the shortlist ended up being quite long.” “Reading Sheppy’s poems ionized our molecules. They marble lived experiences within raw, fearless and playful linguistic calisthenics,” note the judges, three local writers and teachers, Laisha Rosnau, Jake Kennedy and Kevin McPherson.
Grrrlhood was written in a “spirit of derring-do” and by having “a really great time trying out different literary games and styles, allowing myself to go astray as much as possible,” says Sheppy. This will be her first published collection of poetry, which she finished while attending the Banff Centre Writing Studio.
Sheppy is familiar with Dewinetz’s work as a bookmaker through Greenboathouse Press and confesses, “I love the tactility and attentive design of letterpress books, which continue to seduce readers into an engagement with the materiality of literature.”
The inaugural winner of the John Lent Poetry-Prose award, How to Make a Collage, came to us from Winnipeg-based poet Ariel Gordon. “The winning selection fearlessly wrestles the complexities of human relationships using emotionally dynamic lines and metaphors,” wrote the judges, Okanagan College English professors Laisha Rosnau, Jake Kennedy and Kevin McPherson.
Gordon was the 2010 recipient of the John Hirsch Award for Most Promising Manitoba Writer and the 2011 Aqua Books Lansdowne Prize for Poetry / Le Prix Lansdowne du poesie for her first collection of poetry, Hump (Palimpsest Press, 2010). More recently, three of her poems have recently been selected for an upcoming ecopoetry anthology called Entanglements, to be published this fall by Scotland’s Two Ravens Press.
A total of thirty-six manuscripts found their way into the competition. While the judges for the 2012 award, Laisha Rosnau, Jake Kennedy and kevin mcpherson eckhoff, were exhilarated by the range of subjects and aesthetic risks undertaken by most of the entries, they agreed that the winning selection fearlessly wrestled the complexities of human relationships using emotionally dynamic lines and metaphors. The judges also noted two strong honourable mentions: Documenting in the Brink by Kathleen Brown and Osteogenesis by Claire Caldwell, both of which demonstrated haunting/halting imagery and a profound attention to sound.