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U of A student wins first place in CLC’s 2024 poetry contest

Justine Schultz, a U of A honors classics student, won first place in the Centre for Literatures in Canada's 2024 poetry contest for her poem "Attic."

Justine Schultz, a University of Alberta honors classics student, won first place in the Centre for Literatures in Canada‘s (CLC) 2024 poetry contest for her poem “Attic.”

The contest is open to students attending Athabasca University, MacEwan University, the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT), the U of A, and participating French-language high schools. “Attic” was Schultz’s publishing debut.

The contest’s theme was “Air and Fire.” However, Schultz didn’t have the contest in mind when she sat down to write “Attic.” After writing a piece from her own inspiration, Schultz realized the poem she wrote could fit the contest’s theme with some tweaks.

“Attic” deals with the concept of a paternal relationship, Schultz explained. She was inspired by seeing father-daughter relationships in the media, which differed from her own experience. The first-half of the poem reflects the media’s portrayal of such relationships. The second-half is inspired by Schultz’s relationship with her father.

“My father always did everything he could for me. But he couldn’t do a lot, because he was a man who struggled very deeply.” Schultz explained. “As I get older, I see him in myself a little more every day.”

“I want to hone my craft and continue to explore it,” Schultz says

In the poem, Schultz acknowledges the tendencies she’s inherited from her father. She uses a metaphor of a heavy, moth-eaten coat that she’s been given to wear. It isn’t the most comfortable coat, yet she still feels an attachment to it because of how personal it is, Shultz explained.

“What I’ve been given from him — it isn’t necessarily a positive thing. But there’s a strange comfort in that.”

The first half of “Attic” likens women’s memories and experiences of their fathers to flammable materials that are “Always just a spark away / From going up in flames.” Schultz used the concept of fire to describe the enduring impact of paternal relationships, but she still had to incorporate air.

“I [thought], how do I flip the script? I had mental images of hollowness — of wind going through a cave, or wind chimes, or bird bones,” she described. The second half of the poem captures that hollow feeling.

“This feeling of lack that speaks to when somebody in your life cares about you, but for some fundamental reason that maybe isn’t their fault, cannot provide to you to their full capacity. And the way that leaves you a little bit empty.”

Schultz plans to pursue poetry seriously as she continues on with her studies. Winning the CLC competition helped her feel more prepared in doing so.

“I want to hone my craft and continue to explore it. I want to try to put myself out there a little farther.”

Lily Polenchuk

Lily Polenchuk is the 2024-25 Editor-in-Chief of The Gateway. She previously served as the 2023-24 Managing Editor, 2023-24 and 2022-23 News Editor, and 2022-23 Staff Reporter. She is in her second year, studying English and political science.

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