Announcing the Winner of Our Inaugural Poetry Prize: Andre Gerard



Congratulations to Andre Gerard of Vancouver, British Columbia, the winner of the inaugural Berfrois Poetry Prize! Andre’s portfolio of five poems is comprised by “Toad Trashing,” “Subversion,” “Skin Deep,” “‘Sauvez Vous, Les Enfants!’,” and “Relative Resolution,” each of which you will find below.

Our contest guidelines refer to these poems as a “portfolio,” but the truth is Andre has composed is a suite of darkly humorous poems that take the reader into a single speaker’s generous confidence. This speaker won my attention with his romping re-visitation of Philip Larkin’s “Toads” and “Toads, Revisited,” and in “Skin Deep,” I appreciate how that speaker holds himself—toad-like—apart, at the YMCA, “by the pool’s edge // …ponder(ing) // Original skin.”

In “‘Sauvez Vous, Les Enfants!’” and “Relative Resolution,” however, we hear no wise-croaking toad but a sweet, sad prince. In these poems’ approach to over-sharing, the distance afforded the speaker by his remembering of pain and loss is purposefully elided. That speaker stands right beside us—the moment of the poem is intimate—as he recalls how once he “…did not see the scaly golden carp // Suspended in the particulate murk beneath.” And when he asks,

How are we
To speak again

his self-consciousness is also a consciousness of our shared desire for poems and what they make possible. We are lucky that, “equally bereft,” he “turn(ed) to poetry.”

Andre’s suite will reward many returns.

The pleasures of reading and re-reading each of the finalist’s portfolios exceeded my expectations. What joy it was to discover in each portfolio how the strengths of a qualifying poem resounded and were transfigured in other works! Several finalists will be hearing from Berfrois about possible future publication of individual poems from their portfolios.  And I hope that it will not be read as any diminishment of Andre’s triumphant portfolio that I single out another as its near runner-up: the five poems submitted by Jessica Sequeira of Buenos Aires, Argentina are not only rigorous in their linear construction, but dazzling in the eccentricity of voices they make audible.

Daniel Bosch


Toad Trashing

The light’s gone out in Larkin.
With all his broody carkin,
He’s nothing but a farkin
Too quick to let the dark in.



Those who dig
Too deep
May undergo
A lot
Only to overlook
The surface


Skin Deep

In the Y pool
Husband and wife parade,
Burly bikers
Shucked to ink stained nudity,
Walking cartoons.

Cradled in flabby tattooed arms,
Embraced by feathered snakes,
Dull red and motley blue,
What Aztec dreams will twine
Around their baby girl?

Unmarked, by the pool’s edge
I sit and ponder
Original skin.


“Sauvez Vous, Les Enfants!”

Though the epitaph
Has not yet
Been carved into
The grey granite,
I remember
The crackling pipes of the tin chimney,
Darkly glowing red,
And the mirth of the firemen
At her panicked screams.

In the Cranberry cemetery,
Under a black umbrella
With a broken rib,
Despite the hail
My father seeps salt
And says Hail Marys
For my faithless mother,
Whilst I,
Equally bereft,
Far away in my own house
Turn to poetry.


Relative Resolution

Unlike my father’s solitary uncle,
Out of muddled mercy
And a need for fellowship,
Took his old grey cat
And hung it from the cherry tree
With a twist of binder twine
Before he climbed the ladder
And, in the hayloft’s cathedral gloom,
Lanced with slanting beams of sunlight,
Gently kicked away a box
To float
—Large, dark and solid,
Despite the scratches on his hands—
Among the golden motes
Stirred by his easing,
My cousin’s daughter’s husband
In attic silence
Went alone,
Leaving behind
An infant son and his young wife,
Your granddaughter.

When I admired
The flowerless, apple green lily pads
In the Monet shimmering waters
Of his pond
I did not see the scaly golden carp
Suspended in the particulate murk beneath.
Nor did I see
His dangling full sacked weight,
The clay grey neck,
The cord forced eyes,
In his slow turning future.

After the horrors of the black toque
(Blindfold or thoughtful screen)
Kept me mute
Before him,
His bulging tongue withering mine,
You, my aunt, my father’s sister,
Judged me willful—
Without knowing
The compound facets
Of the blinding sunflowers
My tongue tied mind had seen—
And, without a word, sentenced me,
My crime with yours confounding,
To silence.
How are we
To speak again