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K. Valerie Connor Poetry Competition

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The K. Valerie Connor Poetry Competition is an annual province-wide literary contest run by the Leacock Museum. This competition has been made possible due to the generous support of the Connor family.

Remembering K. Valerie Connor

Valerie Connor original painting of Leacock home

The K. Valerie Connor Poetry Competition honours one of our museum's cherished volunteers. Valerie Connor is best remembered as a local teacher and active community member, participating in groups such as the School Belles and the Orillia Fine Arts Association, and in her free time she was also a talented painter and poet. Val’s late husband Harry Connor created the Connor Prize to honour Valerie, whose love of the arts and people touched many lives. 

This tribute to K. Valerie Connor by her husband Harry carries Val’s love for the arts into the community.  Both Val and Harry are missed dearly.

The artwork shown is a K. Valerie Connor original, gifted to former Museum Coordinator, Jen Martynyshyn. The piece is an untitled work depicting the Leacock Museum house and garden, painted in 2012.

Thank you for being a part of our memorial competition.

The 2024 Competition:


Submissions for the 2024 year are now closed! Thank you to everyone who submitted to this year's competition. Our 2024 winners will be announced August 2nd. Please see "You're Invited" below for more information on our celebration and awards event this August.

Stay tuned here and to our social media (@leacockmuseum) for information on the 10th Annual Competition hosted in 2025!

Rules and Regulations

Adult Rules and Regulations

Intermediate Rules and Regulations

Elementary Rules and Regulations


Adult Category

1st Place: $1000

2nd Place: $500

3rd Place: $100

Intermediate Category

1st Place: $200

2nd Place: $150

3rd Place: $100

Elementary Category

1st Place: $75

2nd Place: $50

3rd Place: $25

You're Invited

Our 2024 winners will be announced publicly by August 2nd (only the top three winners for each category will be contacted).

Our annual celebration will be held August 25, 2024 at 2pm in the living room of the historic Leacock Museum! At this event, winners are awarded their certificates and prizes, and given the opportunity to read their winning poems. The event is accessible via the ramp at the front of the museum and the double-wide doors from the porch. This free event is open to the public, giving all guests the opportunity to hear the winning poems and form connections in the literary and arts communities. No tickets or registration are required. Available judges, winners, and members of the Connor family will be in attendance. 

Cake and light refreshments will be served. 

Meet the 2024 Judges

Amy Rae Miller

Amy Rae Miller (they/them) is a queer, nonbinary, and multiply-disabled poet. Amy Rae is a story teller. Their work is recognized internationally for their descriptive language that paints a picture of their lived experiences in chronic illness, queerness, motherhood, and more. Currently they just finished writing their first book “Rolling Through It: Poems about falling in love, laying in Hospital beds, and doing both simultaneously”, which is not yet published.

Bunny Iskov

I.B. (Bunny) Iskov is the Founder of The Ontario Poetry Society. In 2009, Bunny was the recipient of the R.A.V.E. Award (Recognizing Arts Vaughan Excellence) in recognition of outstanding contribution to the cultural landscape of the City of Vaughan as Art Educator / Mentor in the Literary Arts discipline. In 2017, Bunny received the Absolutely Fabulous Women Award for women over 40, for her contribution to the literary arts in the Golden Horseshoe. Her poems have been published in many anthologies and literary journals. She has won several poetry awards and has a few published poetry collections. Bunny lives and writes in North York, Toronto. Bunny’s forthcoming collection, “One Place the Light Remains”, is being published by Mosaic Press this coming Fall / Winter, 2024.

Information on our 3rd juror, Tyneisha Thomas coming soon!

2023 Winners

View the 2023 winning poems! 

Elementary Winners
1stDeath’s Kiss

By: Sadie James


He once was a creature,

Of monstrous things,

A tyrant, they said.

T’was havoc he brings.


Blood he brought,

To the families of the departed.

And still, he desires,

To fill the burden he carted.


He was grief-stricken, they said.

Torn by the horrors of before,

His heart, they said.

Shattered with the pain he bore.


Brought to his knees,

While he reigned supreme,

By a woman of valor,

Who ended the regime.


As he lay on his deathbed,

With a sword through his heart,

He listened to the whispers,

Of those that made him start.


His mother,

His father,

His wife,

His daughter.


They whispered memories,

Stories of love and joy,

Before the tragedy,

That did destroy.


In a pool of his blood,

The tyrant had lain,

Listening to those,

That he had slain.


Born from fire and rage,

As this man was,

Heard the murmurs,

Who knew he could change.


They propped him up,

For the battles he fought,

Not out, but in,

As they knew he rethought.


And as time went on,

He grew and grew,

The flora, the fauna,

With the glistening dew.


Shelter was offered,

And homes were made,

In the belly of the skeleton,

Where flowers were laid.




Throughout the decades,

With blood and blades,

People stopped to listen,

To sounds of the remains.

2nd: A Feather’s Journey

By: Esther Schmidt 


A feather glides gently on the breeze;

Tossed by sunshine's unseen sneeze.

Its course stays steady; solidly west;

Drifting farther from its departing nest.


It gracefully spins in nature's air;

The wind gently rustling it, steady, yet fair.

The feather, the wind kindly uplifts,

Showing it guidance as neighbourly gifts.


The feather flutters softly, as if in a dream,

Down over a sparkling, crystal clear stream.

Its journey continues past moor and meadow;

Late through the day 'til the sun casts its shadows.


Finally, its pilgrimage ends in a tree's silhouette;

Tiny droplets of dew make it shining and wet.

There it rests through night's peaceful reign;

And will start its graceful path in the dawn once again.

3rd: Ode to the Dream

By: Margaret Kimbugwe


A Sonnet


My clever dream, you inspire me to write.

How I love the way you nice, sleep and dream,

Invading my mind day and through the night,

Always dreaming about the grappling sky.


Let me compare you to an active moon?

You are more epic and hyperactive

Big sun heats the cunning peaches of June,

And summertime has the refracting.


How do I love you? Let me count the ways.

I love your smile and personality.

Thinking of your first-class smile fills my days.

My love for you is the normality.


Now I must away with a gripping heart,

Remember my kind words whilst we're apart



Intermediate Winners
1stThe Beach

By: Elise Holla

A Rimas Dissolutas


Circling birds scythe the sunless sky,

tearing holes through the leaden clouds.

Their razor-sharp wings find ether,

reintroduce light to the beach.


The sand is already bone-dry.

Waves froth whiteley, but kelp enshrouds

that strip of shoreline where neither

bustle nor human footsteps breach.


Instead, the grasses shrivel, die,

fall earthward in reverent crowds.

And the sun, that cruel deceiver,

hoards what land her brightness can reach.


2ndThe Return Home

By: Maha Ahtesham

the door taunts me.

ebony with the colour of your pupils,

that darkness in your iris that would dilate at me.


i reach my hand for that brass-plated handle before hesitating,

lustrous and golden,

like the chain you'd don around the porcelain neck my hands once held.

i knock,

asking acceptance for my plea of entry.

i hear nothing in return as the echo resounds in emptiness behind this barrier of ours.


i enter anyway,

it was unlocked.


the smell consumes me with familiarity,

absorbing my surroundings.

the air burns with the scent of nostalgia,

drawing me to the kitchen,

the florals of your cologne trace to the wilting flowers situated on the counter.

you bought me that vase, too.


the carpeted staircase calls me as i shift towards it.

the warmth once welcomed the skin on my soles,

but my shoes don't care for the floor's comfort anymore.


i reach the top and glance at the photo on the wall.

our smiles stare back at me while i indulge the memories of its hanging.


we had written on the back.

i trace my fingers along the top of the frame to correct its misalignment,

pausing momentarily.

your gentle touch once caressed my face with the same promises.


i walk back outside.

i sit pensively on the front steps,

gazing at the sunset,

intrusively remembering your head on my shoulders.

we'd remark the mysteries of the orange.


that feeling never evades you,

you always miss home.


3rd: Dollar Beers

By: June Lin


March and the months are falling

like dominoes.

I'm in a room full of people

I don't want to know.

I don't dance like I'm in front of a camera anymore,

just like one is about to walk through the door.

These student bars are an object lesson in self-sabotage.

The sticky floors. The 10-dollar cover.

The boy three feet over, 5'9 and mediocre,

who I'll make eye contact with and ignore

when he moves to stand behind my shoulder.

The thing about playing with a motive is

that to win, you have to commit.

Wanting to be loved and lonely only leaves you alone.

When I grow up I'll just be a city,

beautiful and terrible,

an idol who will never quite love you back

I'll be your mid-life crisis and quarter-life reinvention.

One seating summer. One sunlit haze.

A four- month infatuation, seamless and brilliant,

that you'll still dream about ten years down the line.

But what do I know.

I'm standing in the middle of a bar thinking about

how I want to be wanted but not to be touched.

If this is an object lesson in self-sabotage,

then I'm going to be valedictorian.

The boy by my shoulder is still hovering,

hopeful. He thinks he can take me

out of and into my body again.

Sparrow into frosted glass,

he doesn't know how violently this will have to end.


Adult Winners
1stEchoes of Babylon: An Ode to Iraqi Immigrants

By: Zina Hirmiz


"Who are you?" the world asks

And hands me a shattered mirror,

Where a ghostly figure grows,

A nightgown-wrapped form on a stage bare,

Not yet ordinary, my mind starts to dream,

Eyes fixed on my reflection.


I am a blank space, a tangled pattern

Hundreds of wet eyelashes and disordered braids,

My people's roots knotted,

A web that pervades,

Trapped in an old house filled with memories and dust,

With a thousand lights and reminiscences,

Fear that lingers on their tongue,

The ancient ruins of Babylon's embrace,

Sharp skin, a symbol of strength.


My nose is prominent, my eyes are black

Veins flowing with Arabic blood,

My father's sunken eyes and muddy hands,

Clutched to his suitcase,

Photographs of him kissing my tiny elbow

Assembling my every piece,

Reminding me that love is not a frame you hang on the

wall, But a warm bath you rest and hide in--

All that I know of home.


2nd: The Dishwasher is Broken

By: Shannon Bird


One week after Dad dies, the dishwasher breaks.


The last spoon he used holds onto his fingerprints.


His bedroom remains untouched by the passing months.


The dishes pile up.


The laundry piles up.


Grief is the only clean blanket in the house.


It weighs down the family until they reach a Pompeii stillness.


They all sit alone, wishing for death, for life, for numbness, for feeling.


The clock hands reach out, unable to lift the grief.


The neighbour's hands reach out, filling the house with more dirty casserole dishes and moulding vases.


The storm clouds keep leaking.


Miraculously, the trees keep growing, even though the earth has stopped spinning.


Fifteen months after Dad dies, the grief blanket starts wearing thin.


The family crawls out from under the blanket, and returns to it each night, each week.


The hostage taker slips out in the night, replaced with an old friend, in the morning.


Two years after Dad dies, the dishwasher gets out of bed.


She takes a walk in the early morning sun and buries his ashes in the forest.


She remembers the feeling of sun, of laughter, of community.


She returns home.


She's not really repaired, but the mosaic of broken pieces is beautiful, too.


She cleans the dishes.


3rdThe Day That Nothing Died 

By: Colin McKim


The Day That Nothing Died


The moment

the fire fighter

caught the falling baby,

a rubber boot

got jammed in the gears

of Death.


And for a whole day

everything lived.


A spider trapped

in a bathtub

climbed out

on a cast-off stocking.


Ants safely threaded

their way around

tires and shoes.


Fish escaped

by the thousands

through holes

in drifting nets.


Sprouting wings,

impala left lions

pawing at fleeting shadows.


It was the day that nothing died.


Crossing the border,

missiles forgot

their destinations

and burst

into swirling flocks

of starlings.


Bullets crawled off

like shiny beetles,


into the long grass.


The apple was too tart

and Eve spat it out,


while high above her head

a thunder cloud

holstered its lightning.


On the day that nothing died


volcanoes sat in circles

in church basements,

learning about

anger management.


The Hangman

dipped his noose

in soapy water

and blew bubbles

the size of watermelons.


Highways turned into rivers and everyone


when inflatable boats,

loaded with passengers,

collided and harmlessly

bounced back.


On the day that nothing died


the chickens all went camping


and cattle trucks drove to the beach.



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