Skip to main content Skip to local navigation
Home » Events » Robbie Burns Night & Poetry Contest

Robbie Burns Night & Poetry Contest

In 1992, McLaughlin College decided to hold a Robbie Burns Night on the Scottish poet's birthday (January 25). At the same time, we wanted to stimulate the writing of poetry at York. To this end, we created the McLaughlin Poetry Contest open to everyone at York except faculty. Poems could be in either of Canada's two official languages - English or French.

These two events seemed made for each other. The spirit of Burns inspired us to invite all participating poets to read some of their work on the night itself to give the audience an idea of their quality and the pleasure of seeing the poets live. After the reading, we presented the prizes, with the poets reading (in some cases, again) their prize-winning poems. Following the prize giving, we turned to Burns himself and the traditional celebration: a piper piped in the haggis, which was then addressed with Burns's poem in praise of that delicious winter dish; it was cut open and distributed, after which there was Scottish music and a good time was had by all.

This event was so successful (the Senior Common Room was happily crammed) and the poems so good, that we decided to repeat the experiment. And so it has gone: We have become addicted. The Poetry Contest has gone on and on, and here we are, to our pleased surprise, approaching 30 years of celebrating this McLaughlin College tradition.


The McLaughlin College Poetry Contest is the only one at York in which students can win money with poetry. First prize is $200; second prize, $150; third prize, $100. Moreover, since McLaughlin was once designated the Public Policy college, there is a $75. prize for the best poem written, on a subject of public interest.

2021 Winners

First Prize

"My skin is not a weapon" (PDF)
by Bella Toma

Second Prize

"A Handshake with a Smile" (PDF)
by Shayne Beaucage

Third Prize

"the journal" (PDF)
by Savandhi Silva

Best Public Policy Poem

"Is My Skin a Sin?" (PDF)
by Britney Eseosa Imade

Annual Robbie Burns Poem

"Farewell to the Donald" (PDF)
by Robert Drummond, University Professor Emeritus