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  • Writer's pictureBelle Kenyon

Aryamati Prize Runner Up: Joanna Lilley

Updated: Nov 2, 2020

Our next Aryamati Poetry Prize winner is the talented Joanna Lilley! Let us introduce her to you, and then we have her winning poem for you lucky people...

Joanna Lilley’s latest poetry book, Endlings (Turnstone Press), is all about extinct animals. Her other poetry books are If There Were Roads (Turnstone Press) and The Fleece Era (Brick Books) which was nominated for the Fred Cogs well Award for Excellence in Poetry.

Joanna’s novel, Worry Stones (Ronsdale Press), was longlisted for the Caledonia Novel Award and she’s also the author of a short story collection, The Birthday Books (Hagios Press). Joanna has given readings and workshops as far afield as Alaska and Iceland. She’s from the UK and now lives in Yukon, Canada, and is grateful to the Kwanlin Dün First Nation and the Ta'an Kwäch'än Council on whose Traditional Territories she resides.

Joanna Lilley Copyright SAMISA Photography @joanna__lilley

Joanna's winning entry:

My mother made sure

My mother made sure we knew about genocide.

She put it on the bookshelves. She knew her daughters

would read a book with diary in the title. By the time

it was my turn to read Anne Frank, the cover was soft and

falling off, the pages smelt of josticks. My sisters had

all left home when my mother brought The Musicians

of Auschwitz into the house. As soon as she finished it,

she put it by my cereal bowl for me to read. By the time

I travelled to Oświęcim the only journey my mother

could make was to the rehabilitation centre at the edge

of the fields. She couldn’t walk or talk. I showed her

every photograph when I returned. We still had pictures

printed in those days. My mother had started keeping files,

tearing out newspaper articles with the slender fingers

of her one good hand – the survivors and their children,

Carl Lutz’s paper trails, the Schindler miracles. She wheeled

herself to a bookcase to take the folders down to show me.

I told her how among the shoes and suitcases I couldn’t

breathe, couldn’t take photographs there, how small and dark

it was between the bunk bed shelves. She gave me her

skew-whiff nod and slid a finger along my photograph

of the Birkenau tracks.

We feel privileged to share such a poignant and important piece with you - many thanks to Joanna for allowing us to share it with you today. Do comment below to share your thoughts!

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