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Iconic rock song inspires the winner of College poetry contest
Okanagan College Media Release

On April 3, 36 aspiring writers from Okanagan College and students from local Grade 11 and 12 classes put their creativity to the test at the first ever Three-hour Poetry Contest.
Kourtney Bootsma May 2014

The contestants had 180 minutes to create a poem in a specific poetic form revealed at the beginning of the contest. The form the judges selected was the palindrome poem. Often referred to as the mirror poem, it is written in such a way that the second half of the poem is a reflection of the first half, using the same lines in reverse.

“The quality of submissions was very high,” says Okanagan College English Professor and contest organizer Kerry Gilbert. “Participants did really well with the type of poem we chose, which was very challenging.”

“Ultimately, the winner used the form in the most engaging way,” says Gilbert.

In the end, it was first-year Associate of Arts student Kourtney Bootsma from Vernon who was declared the victor for her creation, “One Letter Sent Away,” which was inspired by The Police’s, “Message in a Bottle.”

"The vision for my poem came from the song, and I hint to the idea of a message contained in a bottle throughout,” says Bootsma.

The beginning half of Bootsma’s poem depicts a lonely man who is bitter and hides himself from the world. In the second half, the character is isolated from the world but is desperate to reach out – as if stranded on a desert island.

“For me, the underlying theme is loneliness, and how different people react to it –hoping vs. despairing,” she says.

Motivated by the popularity of Okanagan College’s Three-hour Short Story Contest, Okanagan College’s English department decided to offer writers of the poetic form a similar challenge.

“It’s important for writers to test themselves in demanding situations, it makes them better writers,” says Gilbert.

Bootsma, who attends College at the Vernon campus, was chosen as the overall winner from one of four regional campus winners. The other three regional winners were:

Salmon Arm: Lauren Reaka
Kelowna: Alison Hodgins
Penticton: Sydney Kemp

Regional winners received a $250 Okanagan College tuition credit for their efforts and Bootsma won an additional $250 tuition credit for the grand prize.

“I felt, and still feel, so stunned, exhilarated, and incredibly honoured to win. I entered the contest on a whim for fun at last minute,” says Bootsma.

To read Bootsma’s poem, “One Letter Sent Away,” visit