Marguerite R. Dow Canadian Heritage Award

Awarded by the Faculty of Arts and Humanities through the generosity of Marguerite R. Dow, Professor Emerita, The University of Western Ontario, who taught English and Drama in the Faculty of Education from 1965 to 1985.

A prize is awarded competitively to a Canadian citizen or permanent resident registered in any undergraduate or graduate program on Main campus at Western. The number and value will vary at the discretion of the selection committee based on funds available.

Warmest congratulations to Gray Brogden (Faculty of Arts and Humanities) who has been awarded the 2023 Marguerite R. Dow Canadian Heritage Award for their submission “Prairie Fire”. 

"Prairie Fire" is a highly effective eco-poem. In just 27 brief but powerful lines, the poet draws us into the speaker's realization—exactly mid-poem, in the only 3-line stanza and the only stanza without figurative language—that they do not know what "true nature" looks like. The poem's structure and figurative dimensions are thought-provoking, beginning with the seemingly innocent imagery of Saskatchewan fields like "patchwork," with "seams" and "threads" of hydro wires holding together a "botanical blanket" of crops of "bright yellow," "dusty brown," "purples" and "blues". But the tone becomes darker, and the gap between image and reality wider, in the poetic treatment of this "manufactured landscape" where "pump jacks litter the fields / like monsters escaped / from under my bed." The compounding of the word litter (its meaning especially charged here in the form of a verb) with the imagined "monsters" of childhood, powerfully concentrates the harm of resource extraction and agribusiness in the poem's second half, just as the wordplay of "crude dreams" prepares us for the poem's final, brilliant juxtaposition: that the "blazing fire" on the horizon is not a sunset but "a funeral pyre." Formally, on the page, the poem's centred lines suggest beauty and balance, but on closer look the careful diction, strong imagery, irony, and tight final rhyme movingly demonstrate that beauty and balance are lost. The legacy of resource extraction and genetically modified crops is a child's fears materialized: the monsters under the bed have turned out to be real.

Honourable Mentions were also awarded this year to Destiny Hopkins (Faculty of Social Science) and Matthew Rooney (Graduate English Studies).

We wish them all the best with their writing in the future!

Thank you to Professors Donna Pennee and M.J. Kidnie who acted as the panel of judges this year.

Contest opens Monday, January 8, 2024

Contest Rules

  1. Entries must be submitted no later than midnight on Wednesday, January 31, 2024.
  2. Participants must be full-time students registered in any undergraduate (baccalaureate) or graduate program on Main campus at Western University.
  3. Previous first-prize winners are not eligible.
  4. Entries to be submitted by email in PDF format to:
  5. Submission must include a separate cover page marked Marguerite R. Dow Canadian Heritage Award with the following information:
    • your name
    • student number (NO SPACES)
    • email address
    • permanent mailing address
    • telephone number
    • contest name: Marguerite R. Dow Canadian Heritage Award
  6. Include the cover page within the same document/pdf file as the creative work (one file in total to be submitted).
  7. Do not include any personally identifiable information on the creative work itself.
  8. Include the title of the submission on the creative work.
  9. Submissions will be coded by a contest organizer who is not a judge.
  10. Participants must submit, in English or French, any personal and recent work of creative writing, in any genre or length, on a theme of Canadian Heritage.
  11. If submitting in French, please include an English translation.
  12. The theme may focus on any subject (such as place, relationships, history, circumstances, etc.).
  13. You should submit work that has not hitherto been published or entered in any other competition.
  14. One entry per person.
  15. One of the following would be a suitable submission:
    • a poem, or a brief series of linked poems
    • a one-act play, or scenes from a longer work
    • a short story or novella, or selections from a longer work of fiction
  16. The winner will be notified by email by April of 2024.
  17. The results will be posted on the Department of English and Writing Studies website and social media channels.



Year First prize Title Adjudicators
2022 Jessica Le "Breakfast at Food Basics" Professors Jo Devereux and Donna Pennee
2021 Zanna Fong "Lost in Translation" Professors Gabrielle Ceraldi and Mark McDayter
2020 Brittany Robinson "27 Kilometers North of Moscow" Professors James Purkis and Gabrielle Ceraldi

2019 Gabrielle Drolet
Noelle Schmidt
"Little Malta" & "an inheritance" Professors Joshua Schuster and James Purkis
2018 Emma Croll-Baehre & Trevor Zaple "Untitled" & "Sodom Road" Professors Madeline Bassnett and Joshua Schuster
2017 Alero Ogbeide “The Best Worst Place I’ve Ever Lived” Professors Madeline Bassnett and Joshua Schuster