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‘In Search of Baghdad’ by Karen Quevillon – second prize winner in the 2021 TripFiction ‘Voyages by Verse’ Poetry Competition

25th July 2021

'In Search of Baghdad' by Karen Quevillon - second prize winner in the 2021 TripFiction 'Voyages by Verse' Poetry Competition‘In Search of Baghdad’ by Karen Quevillon – second prize winner in the 2021 TripFiction ‘Voyages by Verse’ Poetry Competition

Karen Quevillon is an award-winning Ontario-based author of poetry, short fiction, and creative nonfiction. Her recently published début novel, The Parasol Flower, is set in British Malaya and her work has appeared in literary journals across North America such as Geist Magazine, Grain, The Fieldstone Review, In/Words, FreeFall, Cargo Literary, Philosophy Now. Karen earned a PhD in Philosophy from Northwestern University, and two Master of Arts degrees (University of Toronto, York University).

In Search of Baghdad was inspired by and (in part) created from the article written by Nabil Salih, “Baghdad: a solitary walk through a crime scene”, March 14, 2021, Aljazeera.

In Search of Baghdad

Once-elegant Abu Nawas Street is     rubbish being burned

stray dogs

solitary men

who gulp beer

from plastic bags

who raised children


by American liberation

who gulp

endless politicians’ endless

pledges and threats


The ornate Cinema al-Zawra       plays no movies

you can see


by the few working

street lamps

the spot where

security forces

swarmed and killed

another countryman

on the block

outside the renowned

masgouf restaurants

serving traditional grilled carp


by the municipality


  Nearby is al-Rashid Street         where armed men

assassinate unarmed youth

–902 civilians in 2020–

for demanding

a safe homeland

they received

live bullets

stun grenades

tear gas canisters

that lodged in bone

they received

amputations for

peaceful protest


At the statues of Shahryar

     and Sheherazade    the schoolchildren stand

in mismatched


selling soda

trading on




 See how McKenzie bookshop     sells shoes now

because nobody

reads books

they walk out

in new shoes

looking for phantom jobs

they come home

in coffins

become portraits

on walls


their mothers’

endless pain


Follow Karen on Twitter or via her website

Click on the titles below to read the other two prizewinning poems

Tripoli Dreaming by Rebecca Stonehill

On Cefalù Beach by Tom Benjamin

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Enter the 2021TripFiction 'Sense of Place' Creative Writing Competition!

A story in which the location plays as important a role as the rest of your words.

2,500 word maximum, 750 word minimum

Judges include Victoria Hislop and Rosanna Ley

First Prize of £1,000 / US$1,350

Prizes total £1,750 / US$2,362 

Winning entry published on TripFiction site and publicised on Social Media

Entries close 6th November 2021