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Date:May 28, 2014

Meet the Winners of the 2014 BrainStorm Poetry Contest

12th Annual Poetry Contest Winners


In our current Spring 2014 issue we were thrilled to announce the winners of our 12th Annual BrainStorm Poetry Contest for mental health consumers and survivors. In it, you can read the top three winning poems. Here, you can listen to two of those poems in the authors’ own voices and learn what inspired their poems, whether there was a particular story behind their words; how the process of writing their poem occurred; and if they were currently working on any projects or new pieces.  Here we introduce to you Ashley Laframboise and her first-place poem “Quebec City, and Tyler Gabrysh. the poet behind the second-place poem “Airport, Heavy Water”. 


Quebec City

Ashley Laframboise
Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

Ashley Laframboise won first place in the 12th Annual BrainStorm Poetry Contest for her poem "Quebec City", inspired by the cold winter of 2013.

Ashley Laframboise won first place in the 12th Annual BrainStorm Poetry Contest for her poem “Quebec City”, inspired by the cold winter of 2013.

A friend once told me she thought the main reason I could write poetry was that I had schizophrenia—that my brain chemistry gave me talent or something.  I don’t believe that, but I do know that there’s a strong link between psychosis and creativity, and I wonder what my writing would look like if I didn’t have mental health concerns. Placing in this contest is very meaningful to me, as I feel honoured that my poetry is being read and appreciated not only by people who already love and support me as a person as well as an artist, but by strangers who don’t feel obligated to encourage me.  I’m really excited about having won first place; there are a lot of really talented poets who entered and I am honoured to have placed among them.

I think it’s amazing that this magazine exists, and this contest, specifically, because folks with mental health issues have a unique perspective I believe is very much worth sharing.

“Quebec City” was one of those fun poems to write that has no real story behind it—nothing personal or memoir-like… it just came to me on a cold day in Espanola, Ontario, after a long walk down the icy country road where my parents live.  It was the cold spell of January 2013, and I was reminded of skiing at Mont Tremblant in Quebec a few years ago, when it was so cold that my father was hoping our skis would get stolen.  I remember I was listening to Milo Greene’s “1957” while writing it, and somehow that song sprang those words out, from my imagination.  I wish there were some juicy story behind it: tales taken from a winter spent in Quebec with my lover, driven “fucking batty” by his or her artistic nature.  I’ve had past boyfriends who couldn’t stand it, actually: nights when I couldn’t sleep, in the other room, tap tap tapping away on the computer, about my dissatisfaction with them, no less!

This is what I love about poetic imagination: I can take a snippet, a line, or an idea that really happened, and then run with it, inventing a reality that may or may not have happened to me, and hopefully one that others can relate to.

Currently I am working on my second book of poetry, while trying to get my first book, which includes fifty of what I consider my to-date best, most raw and personal poems, published.

Listen to Ashley’s winning poem “Quebec City” in her own voice:



Tyler Gabrysh's poem "Airport, Heavy Water" won Second Place in the BrainStorm Poetry Contest.

Tyler Gabrysh’s poem “Airport, Heavy Water” won Second Place in the BrainStorm Poetry Contest.

Airport, Heavy Water
Tyler Gabrysh
Victoria, British Columbia, Canada

To be a winner in the 12th Annual BrainStorm Poetry Contest is rewarding, validating and encouraging as both a writer and a bipolar disorder survivor. “Airport, Heavy Water” underwent several revisions before I properly captured the dualistic sentiments of sensitivity and disassociation.

Swiss Max Frisch once said: “Technology… the knack of so arranging the world that we don’t have to experience it.”

And at the same time, I’ve always held a personal fascination with airports; their brief holding cells of strangers near the vehicles that soar us into the surrealistic skies.

This year I’ve been writing book reviews for the Coastal Spectator and The Malahat Review besides having poetry published in Leaf Press, The Steel Chisel, and Your Daily Poem. I am also working on a bipolar disorder-themed poetry manuscript.

Listen to Tyler’s winning poem “Airport, Heavy Water” in his own voice:



To read more about the judging and selection process, check out our initial post announcing the winners; you can also learn more and read the winning poems  in our current issue.