The Governor General's Poetry Winners

View all Award Winning Books for Adults book lists; This list was last updated on 10/8/2014
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The Governor General's Literary Awards – known affectionately as “the GGs” – were first awarded in 1936. The GGs were initiated by Governor General Lord Tweedsmuir (John Buchan), a prolific writer himself who published more than 100 works in his lifetime. Each year, the Governor General's Literary Awards honour the best in Canadian literature. As Canada's national literary awards, the GGs represent the rich diversity of Canadian literature. Some 1,600 books are submitted each year from English and French-language publishers representing authors, translators and illustrators from across Canada, in seven categories: Fiction, Poetry, Drama, 

For more book recommendations, please check out New York Times® Best Sellers, Children's Book Recommendations or the complete list of Featured Book Lists and Award Winners

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Celestial Navigation
By the highly acclaimed author of the novel Enemy Women

Winner of the Governor General's Award for Poetry, the Pat Lowther Memorial Award, and the Gerald Lampert Memorial Award

Now back in print, Paulette Jiles's celebrated, multi-award-winning poetry collection. These are poems of scorching intensity, which examine the politics of childhood and love; explore the rigours and blessings of living in the far north; mark the way stations of a life of discovery and exploration. The result is a poetry of singular, telling immediacy.
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Waiting for Saskatchewan
Wah interprets memory--a journey to China and Japan, his father's experience as a Chinese immigrant in small Canadian towns, images from childhood--to locate the influence of genealogy. The procession of narrative reveals Wah's own attempts to find "the relief of exotic identity.""Fred Wah searches for his father within various literary forms and embraces. This is a beautiful book and we are in the muscle and limbs of rough cut clear language--live bright fish slapping on the table."--Michael Ondaatje
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release date: Dec 01, 1992
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Furious
The poetry in Furious is charged with Mouré's characteristic energy and wit as she explores the limits of "pure" reason and the language of power. There is, too, a fresh and often celebratory look at love, and, in an unusual finale, The Acts, Mouré challenges us to explore a feminist aesthetic: of thinking, of the page, of working life and the possibility of poetry.
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The Word for Sand
The poems are informed by the author's long sojourns in both Canada and Europe, and a new horizon appears: the author gets acquainted with a group of refugees from the Near East and in some of the poems describes their predicament and her own identification with these homeless people, who begin to define a new country of the mind. Winner of the Governor General's Award for Poetry and the Pat Lowther Award.
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No Time

"Avison's new volume is a lyrical tribute to a created order suffused with a holy energy--a vitality inaccessible to the statisticians, the engineers, the corporate mandarins. It is not, however, a whimsical, Pollyanish ecstacy that sustains her, but a gritty religious vision grounded in our desperate humanity, the 'roped-in, rotten,/ welted and swollen, sick,/ tempter-take-all/ maggot- ripe end of our fall' ('He himself suffered when he was tempted'), but redeemed, generously redeemed." (Michael Higgins)

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Inventing the Hawk
The poems in this haunting new book are both playful and provocative, witty and intimate. Central to the collection is a powerful elegy for her father. Beginning with his death, it moves back in time to the author's childhood in a small Saskatchewan community.

Inventing the Hawk reveals the small pleasures of day-to-day life, sometimes visited by “Angels” who offer a novel, often shocking perspective on reality. As well, Crozier translates love and the experience of loss into a language resonant with desire and longing. A language that speaks to the most private aspects of ourselves.

This is poetry that will change the way we look at our lives.
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Forests of the Medieval World

All of the poems in Forests of the Medieval World are accomplished; several of the longer ones in particular are memorable. These two are Don Coles at his best: wonderful poems, loose-limbed, articulate, and extremely moving.

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Cantos from a Small Room
In his seventh book of poetry, Hillies describes his feelings of affection and admiration for his mother-in-law, and the sense of loss the family experienced upon her death of cancer in her middle years. An astounding collection of poems, Cantos from a Small Room won the Governor General's Award for poetry.
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Voice

*1995 Governor General's Award for Poetry

Voice, winner of the 1995 Governor General's Award for Poetry, is a unique book combining new paintings by Marie Elyse St. George with prose and poetry by Anne Szumigalski. The paintings will be featured in an exhibition at the Mendel Art Gallery, co-publisher of this book, in November 1995. Anne Szumigalski's words, which were initially inspired by the paintings, combine with the visual images of Marie Elyse St. George in a breathtaking display of beauty and inspiration.

The collaboration between the two artists produces a volume of art which also acts as a tribute to art and its many forms. With precise detail and sensitivity, Szumigalski and St. George explore the complexities of life and of a world where myth and reality, spirit and matter, emotion and intellect come together in a mysterious dance. Voice digs deeply and honestly into the natural world and into the human psyche, revealing intriguing layers of information to arrive at an essential and intimate truth.

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release date: Apr 05, 1997
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White stone
These evocative poems move from the icon of Alice in Wonderland to the imagined figure of Alice out of Wonderland—on a Vancouver beach with the poet, underground with Persephone, in Memphis with Elvis. But first they explore the life of the real Alice Liddell (1852–1934), who sat still for Charles Dodgson's camera and inspired the Alice books that prompted his rise to fame as Lewis Carroll. In this powerful sequence, the emotional life of Alice Liddell as girl and woman is depicted in brilliant narrative juxtapositions. Presented is Alice the creation and Alice the person in a cultural context that, on one level, reexamines cognition and dissociation and on another, liberates the poetic sequence from the monotony of story and closure.
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Songs for Relinquishing the Earth
Poetry. Winner of the 1999 Governor General's Award for Poetry and shortlisted for the 1999 Pat Lowther Award and the 1999 Dorothy Livesay Award for Poetry (BC Book Prize). SONGS FOR RELINQUISHING THE EARTH contains many poems of praise and grief for the imperiled earth drawing frequently on Jan Zwicky's experience as a musician and philosopher and on the landscapes of the prairies and rural Ontario.

SONGS FOR RELINQUISHING THE EARTH was first published by the author in 1996 as a handmade book, each copy individually sewn for its reader in response to a request. It appeared between plain covers on recycled stock, with a small photo (of lavender fields) pasted into each copy. The only publicity was word of mouth.

Part of Jan Zwicky's reason for having the author be the maker and distributor of the book was a desire to connect the acts of publication and publicity with the initial act of composition, to have a book whose public gestures were in keeping with the intimacy of the art. She also believed the potential audience was small enough that she could easily sew enough copies to fill requests as they came in. While succeeding in recalling poetry's public life to its roots, she was wrong about the size of that audience and her ability to keep up with demand as word spread, Hence, this facsimile edition. In publishing it, Brick Books has attempted to remain as faithful as possible to the spirit of those original gestures, while making it possible for more readers to have access to this remarkable book.
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Execution Poems

After nine years and nine trade printings, Gaspereau Press is issuing a revised and redesigned second edition of its most popular title. Originally released in 2000 in a limited edition of 66 books handset and printed letterpress in a folio format, Execution Poems has gone on to sell over 6000 copies. It was the winner of the 2001 Governor General's award for poetry and took first place in the poetry category of the 2001 Alcuin Awards for Excellence in Canadian Book Design.

Execution Poems is a suite of poems about Clarke's cousins, George and Rufus Hamilton, who were hanged in July 1949 for the murder of a Fredericton, New Brunswick, taxi driver. In this startling work, Clarke reminds us of racism and poverty and of their brutal, tragic results, blurring the line between the perpetrator and the victim? – a line we'd prefer to be simple and clear. As all true poetry should, Clarke's embodies both damnation and redemption, offering convoluted triumphs alongside tragedy.

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Surrender
*** WINNER OF THE 2002 GOVERNOR GENERAL'S LITERARY AWARD FOR POETRY ***

These poems open into a new space where ideas, identity, documents and authority are questioned, explored, and exploded. They exist in particular forms of apposition and opposition, often in parts that face each other across the page in dialogue, battle, or antiphony. Roy Miki is a brilliant, articulate poet, whose intermixture of the lyrical with the political, the moment with history, and whose exploration of the formation of identity makes him among the most original and powerful of contemporary poets.

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Kill-site
By the winner of the Saskatchewan Book Award for Best Book of the Year

To his virtuoso collection of new poems, Tim Lilburn brings a philosopher's mind and the eyes and ears of a marsh hawk. This series of earthy meditations makes the strange familiar and the familiar strange. Lilburn's close study of goldenrod, an ice sheet, or night opens into surprising interior and subterranean worlds. Pythagoras lurks within the poplars, Socrates in stones, people fly below the ground. Elsewhere, the human presence of motels and beer parlours is ominous. Kill-site is an exploration of a human's animal nature. Lilburn invites the reader to: “Go below the small things… then / walk inside them and you have their kindness.” Though a natural progression from Lilburn's last book, To the River, in Kill-site, the poet moves toward a greater understanding of the human, of sacrifice.
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Processional

Winner of the 2005 Governor General's Award for Poetry

Winner of the 2006 Atlantic Poetry Prize

Shortlisted for the 2006 Pat Lowther Memorial Award

Processional is Anne Compton's second book of poems, the
follow-up to her widely-acclaimed, award-winning debut, Opening the Island.

Here Compton is at the head of a poetic procession, a guide leading readers
through a house affected by both daily life and the extraordinary - stopping only to take in the change of seasons and prepare the outside yard for it. With
one breath, she tells of life and death, with the next, play and metaphysics, joy and heartbreak. She is a guide like no other, accomplished and versatile, leading by example and from a distance at the same time.


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Stumbling In The Bloom
Winner - Governor General's Award (2006)

The poems in Stumbling in the Bloom engage the ever-present enticements and entanglements of beauty on life's, and art's, home ground - in wilderness and garden. But this surprising volume, the finale of John Pass's quartet of poetry books, At Large, takes intriguing side trips on the home-stretch, including a wry excursion to the chiropractor, a fanciful flight from a student driver's parallel parking practice, up an "Everest" in Alberta, and on a singularly moving Canadian journey towards and away from the "ground zero" of the 9/11 tragedy. The book, and Pass's aesthetic, come to rest finally on a fulcrum, a paradox, of acceptance: the embrace of uncertainty and unhappy accident that purpose and effort alone make possible.

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All Our Wonder Unavenged
Poetry. Don Domanski's eighth book of poetry is full of a meditative alertness that, through metaphor and insight, manages to simultaneously transform our reality and reveal it. In fluid, intensely moving poems, Domanski shows us what Roo Borson calls a "mirror for the inexhaustible" and is nothing less than an illuminating distillation of what it means to be alive in a sentient universe. This is a book to renew one's belief in the sacredness of writing. "As far as I am concerned, there is no better poet writing in English."--Mark Strand. Don Domanki was born and raised in Cape Breton Island and now lives in Halifax, Nova Scotia. In 1999 he won the Canadian Literary Award for Poetry. Published and reviewed internationally, his work has been translated into Czech, Portuguese, and Spanish.
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More to Keep Us Warm
Both chronicle and confrontation, the poems of Jacob Scheier's debut work out and through notions of loss. As the death of a young man's mother instigates and informs these investigations, the realities of romantic failures become inextricably connected, and in the process More to Keep Us Warm maps the limitations, and breaking points, of the human heart. Questioning how and why we fall in and out of love becomes the collection's haunting refrain. At the same time, Scheier's poems mourn the absence of both religious and cultural identity. Facing the painful and confusing losses of his life, the support of the only “tradition” the writer knows — an atheist, socialist upbringing — proves unsatisfying. In response, More to Keep Us Warm explores the formation of a new, complex sense of self as inherited belief systems fail. With humour, sardonic wit, and conversational charm, this search engages and struggles with Judeo-Christian tradition to become an intimate meditation on the nature of God in a secular world.
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The Fly in Autumn
Selected for Poetry in Transit 2009

The Fly in Autumn is a nuanced work with an absurdist twist in which recognizable landscapes--of North Vancouver quays and piers and harbour fog--are sometimes irrevocably altered by "water-light" into places of the mind alive with "the hundred thousand thoughts everyone collects in a day." Risking unease, using language both tender and ironic, Zieroth's poems range from the cockiness of flight, from Dick and Jane readers to insurance clerks and blind nurses, and to the inevitability of decline. Still, the poet remains alert to the re-emergence of "his boyhood hope: to be brave, to ship out, to learn to sleep on waves."
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Boxing the Compass
Boxing the Compass is a poetry collection of mid-life reassessments that also makes room for the martyrdom of Saint Polycarp, tone-deaf church choirs, the last of the Newfoundland whalers, and vividly remembered Portuguese fishermen. Spiritually searching and intellectually rich, Richard Greene's third book --which ranges from intimate to ironic to satiric --shuns easy answers in poems of unfashionable eloquence comprised of colloquial textures, clear-eyed narratives, political subtexts, and no-nonsense introspection.
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Killdeer: essay-poems
Poetry. These are poems of critical thought that have been influenced by old fiddle tunes. These are essays that are not out to persuade so much as ruminate, invite, accrue. Hall is a surruralist (rural and surreal), and a terroir-ist (township-specific regionalist). He offers memories of, and homages to—Margaret Laurence, Bronwen Wallace, Libby Scheier, and Daniel Jones, among others. He writes of the embarrassing process of becoming a poet, and of his push-pull relationship with the whole concept of home. His notorious 2004 chapbook essay "The Bad Sequence" is also included here, for a wider readership, at last. It has been revised. (Its teeth have been sharpened.) In this book, the line is the unit of composition; the reading is wide; the perspective personal: each take a give, and logic a drawback. In Fred Wah's phrase, what is offered here is "the music at the heart of thinking."
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Monkey Ranch
Poetry. "I have long considered Julie Bruck to be one of our most committed and humane voices. Bruck sees everything we do; she just seems to see it wiser. Her poems sing and roil with everything complicated and joyous we human monkeys are."—Cornelius Eady

"MONKEY RANCH has all the antic sensuality and thrilling precision we've come to expect from Julie Bruck's work. This volume has a pitch-perfect elegance that calms the ruckus just long enough for us to glimpse the vulnerability of everyone involved. MONKEY RANCH is like the best sort of letter from a friend—full of gossip, lively observation, and serious wit."—Sharon Thesen
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