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Retired Newmarket teacher wins national contest for ‘goat song’ poem

‘I was surprised,’ says former Pickering College Head of English Dean Gessie on first-place win with his ‘protest’ poem
Award-winning poet Dean Gessie won the 2023 Dr. William Henry Drummond Poetry Contest for his poem 'goat song'.

A retired English teacher who taught at Pickering College has added another title to his award-winning library.

Now living in Midland, Dean Gessie has won the 2023 Dr. William Henry Drummond Poetry Contest for his poem ‘goat song’, described by one of his peers as a protest song to human, animal and planetary suffering.

“I was surprised because my submission is written from the perspective of a Congolese refugee in England and includes references and jargon particular to that country,” Gessie said. “Nonetheless, the final judge obviously appreciated the poem in spite of its situation, language and setting located overseas.”

Described as Canada’s oldest non-governmental national poetry contest as of 1970, its attribution goes to Dr. William Henry Drummond, who was best known as a 19th century poet from northern Ontario specializing in dialect humour.

“I have also had a life-long interest in human rights and social justice, which are common themes in my creative writing to this day,” added Gessie.

As the Head of English at Pickering College for 25 years, where Gessie was also the director of the Joshua Weinzweig creative writing program, he retired to Midland with his wife in 2015 to be closer to her Lafontaine family.

Since then, Gessie has published five books and won more than 200 international awards and prizes. His award-winning inclusion into the Spring Pulse Poetry Festival netted him publication of the poem and a $300 prize.

According to contemporary writer Anne Casey: “Dean Gessie's scintillating ‘goat song’ reveals a poet and writer at the height of his powers. Equal parts alchemy, threnody and rebel gospel, (Gessie’s poetry) is a potent protest song to human, animal and planetary suffering.”

Gessie’s poem will be read at an upcoming awards ceremony in Cobalt, Ontario.