Books

Jillian Christmas, Bertrand Bickersteth & Ian Williams among finalists for League of Canadian Poets awards

The Gerald Lampert Memorial Award, Pat Lowther Memorial Award and Raymond Souster Award, each worth $2,000, celebrate the best in Canadian poetry.
Jillian Christmas, Bertrand Bickersteth and Ian Williams are among finalists for League of Canadian Poets awards. (K. Ho, NeWest Press, Justin Morris)

Jillian Christmas, Bertrand Bickersteth and Ian Williams are among the 17 writers shortlisted for the League of Canadian Poets' 2021 poetry awards.

The Gerald Lampert Memorial Award, Pat Lowther Memorial Award and Raymond Souster Award, each worth $2,000, celebrate the best in Canadian poetry.

The prizes were created by the League of Canadian Poets, a national nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting poets and poetry in Canada.

Christmas is the only writer to be nominated for two awards. Her poetry collection, the gospel of breaking, is a finalist for the Gerald Lampert Memorial Award and Pat Lowther Memorial Award.

The Gerald Lampert Memorial Award recognizes the best debut book of poetry, while the Pat Lowther Memorial Award recognizes a collection of poetry by a Canadian woman.

The Gospel of Breaking draws on Christmas's politics, family history and queer lineage, telling stories of love lost, friendship and community. 

Christmas is an educator, activist and community organizer who focuses on increasing anti-oppression initiatives in spoken word. She is the former artistic director of Vancouver's Verses Festival of Words. CBC Books named Christmas a 2020 writer to watch.

Bertrand Bickersteth on books that flip the script on traditional explorer narratives.

Bickersteth is also a finalist for the Gerald Lampert Memorial Award for his poetry collection The Response of Weeds.

"Storied soil" is the phrase Bickersteth uses to describe his home province of Alberta in his debut poetry collection The Response of Weeds. The collection brings to life the experience of early Black settlers in Western Canada. The Response of Weeds tells of stories rooted in the prairie landscape, including his own experience growing up as a Black Albertan. 

Bickersteth is a poet, author and educator who was born in Sierra Leone, raised in Alberta, and has lived in the U.K. and the U.S. CBC Books named him one of 6 Black writers to watch in 2021.

Williams is a finalist for the Raymond Souster Award for his poetry collection Word Problems.

The Raymond Souster Award recognizes the best book of poetry published by a member of the League. 

Word Problems uses unusual tools, such as math and grammar to tackle issues facing contemporary society, such as racial inequality, alongside more universal problems — including how people connect to and relate to each other.

Williams is a poet, novelist and professor from Brampton, Ont., who is currently teaching at the University of British Columbia. His debut novel Reproduction won the 2019 Scotiabank Giller Prize. He is also the author of the poetry collection Personals, which was a finalist for the 2013 Griffin Poetry Prize.

You can see the complete shortlists for all three awards below.

The Raymond Souster Award was established in 2013. This year's jury is comprised of Cheryl Antao-Xavier, Jacob MacArthur Mooney and David Martin.

The shortlist is:

The Gerald Lampert Memorial Award was created in 1981. This year's jury was comprised of DA Lockhart, Nisha Patel and Phoebe Wang.

The shortlist is:

The Pat Lowther Memorial Award has been awarded annually since 1981. This year's jury was comprised of Puneet Dutt, Doyali Islam and Cassidy McFadzean.

The shortlist is:

The winners will be announced on May 6, 2021.

Last year's winners were Chantal Gibson, Heather Birrell, Roxanna Bennett and Charlie C Petch.

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