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By Aidan Catriel; Mai-Thi Ho; Maya Jadah; Wendy Lewis; Carolyn McKenna; Claudia Ragi March 21, 2023

Fifth Annual SPACE Writing Competition

In 2022-2023, SPACE held its fifth annual writing competition. Students from all disciplines across Dawson College were invited to submit writing that offered a personal interpretation of this year’s theme, What If? The submissions were judged in a blind fashion by an interdisciplinary jury—Lois Valliant (retired Faculty, Fine Arts) and Hannah Rahimi (Faculty, English). Entries were evaluated according to originality and depth of thought, style, arts-sciences connections and relation to the theme. The winners received gift certificates from Argo Bookstore. The winners and honourable mentions have been published and highlighted in the SPACE web magazine and will also be invited to offer a public reading of their work towards the end of the semester.

Below are the winners as well as the honourable mentions in the prose, poetry, and essay categories (click on the links to access the full texts).

Claudia Ragi: Hope and HopelessnessFirst Prize, Prose

What if home were better? Hope and Hopelessness poses this question and explores the What If? theme in a unique and personal way. As a young migrant to Canada, the voice is balanced, clear and authentic.  The writer is able to return to the place of birth on a regular basis and describes with insight and honesty life as a “zigzag between Canada and Egypt... one place that holds my future and another that holds my heart.” This writer’s journey of discovery reveals that in leaving home for a place that represents the future, the indelible print of home never fades.  

A moving portrait of a transnational relationship to place(s), shot through with ambivalence and nostalgia. The author imagines the “what if” of an ideal homeland, only to arrive at an acceptance of what is, a place of complexity and contradiction, of “hope and hopelessness.”


Wendy Lewis: I PICK UP SONGS QUICKLY—First Prize, Poetry

The writer composes a poem in which a cacophony of centuries of global pain, of famine, plagues, flash floods and fears are played out accompanied by “deep-never-ending dirges...” as a requiem for the pain. Redemption will be celebrated with “...symphonies...”  and lullabies to soothe nations. “...sleepless in battle.” The refrain, I Pick Up Songs Quickly is pivotal in this composition and provides an emotive beat throughout that gives pause for reflection.

Inventive poem that positions music in counterpoint to global catastrophe, song as a vehicle for resistance, hope and healing. The poet wields the sounds and rhythms of language, manifesting discord and disaster before entering the vista of the What If?, the dream of a world soothed, even saved, by music.


Mai-Thi Ho:The Model and the Reality—First Prize, Essay

An innovative exploration of how many aspects of our lives are curtailed by traditional and unconscious self-limiting factors and boundaries, and that these parameters must be broken to experience a more expansive reality. The author suggests that “... Recognizing we are viewing the world through a model in the first place is perhaps a key steppingstone to interacting with reality and making breakthroughs”; herein lies the What If? query––i.e.  What would happen if we did indeed “step out of our comfortable zones?”

Original, philosophical navigation of the elusive gulf between perception and reality. Through a multidisciplinary survey, the author challenges the binary limits of our assumptions and urges us towards an embrace of the unknown, the unmapped and the irreducible.


Aidan Catriel: Legacy—Honourable Mention, Prose

“Maria Amherst was dying.” From its first sentence, Legacy advances with a steady beat to present a dark futuristic scenario where the act of dying is fraught with anxiety, and a society where social disparity has amplified. The writer’s strength is the meticulously observed ‘dark’ physical spaces that reinforce an air of detachment and lack of concern for the characters who inhabit those spaces, balanced by language that brings in the light “... Aged eyes squinted to make out the familiar smudge of purple, guarded on both sides by orange and blue. It reminded her of the sky and cloud gazing as a child.” Legacy addresses the consequences of a chilling What If? scenario.

Imaginative dystopian tale that highlights the inequities of our medical system. A sinister and timely What If? The story is carefully crafted, with precise insights and vivid descriptions that bring this world to life on the page. Confident storytelling.


Carolyn McKenna: Words of a Parasite—Honourable Mention, Prose

Chilling story about the unpredictable and ultimately insidious capacities of artificial intelligence, and a poetic rendering of the experience of mental illness.


Maya Jadah: Ripped in the Tide—Honourable Mention, Poetry

A striking meditation on the inheritance of trauma, examined through an aquatic, sensory lens to capture the riptide force of time as it carries forth the debris of the past.


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