Jillian Christmas, Kama La Mackerel & jaye simpson finalists for $10K prize for emerging LGBTQ writers

The annual award is presented to a writer community whose published work demonstrates great literary promise. The winner will be announced on June 23, 2021.
Jillian Christmas (left) Kama La Mackerel (centre) and jaye simpson are the finalists for the 2021 Dayne Ogilvie Prize. (K. Ho, submitted by La Mackerel, submitted by simpson)

Jillian Christmas, Kama La Mackerel and jaye simpson are the finalists for the 2021 Dayne Ogilvie Prize for LGBTQ2S+ Emerging Writers.

The $10,000 award is presented to a writer whose published work demonstrates great literary promise.

Robin Pacific established this prize in 2007 to honour her late friend, Dayne Ogilvie, who was a respected editor, writer and lover of the arts.

The finalists were selected by a jury composed of Daniel Allen Cox, Eva Crocker and Danny Ramadan. They will also select the winner.

Christmas is a queer, Afro-Caribbean writer, educator, curator and consultant based in Vancouver. She is the spoken word curator of the Vancouver Writers Fest, he former Artistic Director of Vancouver's Verses Festival of Words.

Christmas is the author of the poetry collection The Gospel of Breaking. Befitting someone who "speaks things into being," she extracts from family history, queer lineage and the political landscape of a racialized life to create a rich, softly defiant collection of poems.

"The Gospel of Breaking is an unforgettable book that speaks to lineages of Black queerness while showing how poetry and cadence can inhabit a body," the jury said in a statement. 

"A writer of exceptional skill who circles back on memory and consciousness, she challenges us, through her own compassion and vulnerability, to confront oppression and to imagine new possibilities for justice and belonging."

La Mackerel is a Mauritian Canadian multidisciplinary artist, educator, writer, community arts facilitator and literary translator. La Mackerel has exhibited and performed their work internationally and their writing in different languages. They live in Montreal.

In their debut poetry collection ZOM-FAM, La Mackerel mythologizes a queer/trans narrative of and for their home island Mauritius. ZOM-FAM, meaning "man-woman" or "transgender" in Mauritian Kreol, is a voyage into the coming of age of a gender-creative child growing up amidst the legacy of colonial silences. It was named one of CBC Books best Canadian poetry in 2020

"Their multilingual, lyrical poems entrance with hypnotic rhythm and tell a story that spans decades and borders. La Mackerel captures the power of connections maintained in spite of the blunt, relentless pain of distance," said the jury in a statement.

simpson is an Oji-Cree Saulteaux poet from the Sapotaweyak Cree Nation. They are the author of the poetry collection it was never going to be okay. Their work has been featured in publications like Poetry Is Dead, This Magazine, Prism International and Room. They are also nominated for the 2021 Indigenous Voices Award.

it was never going to be okay explores the intimacies of understanding intergenerational trauma, Indigeneity and queerness, while addressing urban Indigenous diaspora and breaking down the limitations of sexual understanding as a trans woman. 

"jaye simpson's poetry is masterful, unpredictable, and artistically undeniable," the jury said.

"They command every corner of the page with authenticity and finesse, taming their work with strength and authority. Not broken by the colonial world they inhabit, but made whole despite it."

The winner of the 2021 Dayne Ogilvie Prize will be announced on June 23, 2021. The remaining finalists will each receive $1,000.

Last year's winner was Arielle Twist.

Other past winners include Kai Cheng Thom, Amber Dawn, Farzana Doctor and Zoe Whittall.

The Writers' Trust of Canada is an organization that supports Canadian writers through literary awards, fellowships, financial grants, mentorships and more.

The organization was founded in 1976 by Margaret Atwood, Pierre Berton, Graeme Gibson, Margaret Laurence and David Young.

It also gives out seven prizes in recognition of the year's best in fiction, nonfiction and short story, as well as mid-career and lifetime achievement awards.


  • An earlier version of this story said that Lindsay Nixon, who now goes by Jas M. Morgan, won the 2020 prize. They won the 2019 prize. Arielle Twist won the 2020 prize.
    May 27, 2021 7:14 AM ET

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