Annually, the Friends of the Library Society, Quesnel Wordspinners Association and Literacy Quesnel combine with the Quesnel and District Arts Council to sponsor a community writing contest.
In response to this year’s annual prose writing contest, students in Mr. Biller’s English 10 class at Correlieu Secondary School (CSS) wrote narrative poetry inspired by the Joseph Boyden novel, Wenjack, and the Downie-Wenjack project The Secret Path film. Though the contest was strictly for prose submissions, the council was moved by three entries from students Jaeana Dumais, Justin Pugh and Hanna Fitchett and chose to vote each student a subsequent $10 prize above and beyond the contest itself. This decision was animated by the beauty of the student work and was meant as a recognition of the important work of Truth and Reconciliation that takes place in so many classrooms around our district.
The poems were organized like the novel, with shifting points of view from runaway Chanie Wenjack and his desperate escape from residential school, and that of the manitous (spiritual guardians) who watch over him on his desperate flight. Students embedded direct quotes from the novel and used the usual conventions of poetry (rhyme patterns, literary devices, etc.). Students were given the option to submit their poetry to the contest to “see what would happen.”
To our pleasure and surprise, the Arts Council chose to recognize their fine work — even though we didn’t follow the rules.
Thanks to Bernice Heinzelman for going above and beyond to recognize this important work. Thanks also to Justin, Hanna and Jaeana for their beautiful and thoughtful poetry.
Correlieu Secondary School