Nation honours SFU poets

Nov 28, 2002, vol. 25, no. 7
By Marianne Meadahl

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SFU professor emeritus George Bowering (left) has been appointed Canada's first poet laureate, while colleague Roy Miki has been honoured with a Governor-General literary award.

They are best of friends whose poetic talents are being simultaneously propelled on a national scale.

SFU professor emeritus George Bowering has been appointed Canada's first poet laureate, while colleague Roy Miki has been honoured with a prestigious Governor-General literary award for his book of poetry, Surrender.

Becoming Canada's first poet laureate is a little like crossing uncharted land, but Bowering is up for the journey. “We are all a little in the dark,” says Bowering of his new post.

“My role has really yet to be determined. I like that. It's the way poetry should be. Nothing is for certain when you set out to write it.” Besides his new appointment, which comes with a $12,000 stipend and an office in Ottawa, Bowering is currently working on a history of Canada and has just launched a new literary book called Cars, co-written with recent SFU graduate Ryan Knighton.

Bowering, who is 67, has twice won a Governor-General literary award, once for poetry and once for fiction. He has written nearly three dozen books of poetry, 10 novels and six plays.

While Bowering settles into his new role, his best friend, SFU English professor Roy Miki, was honoured at a ceremony in Ottawa Nov. 19. Governor-General Adrienne Clarkson presented him with $15,000 and a specially bound copy of his winning book, which is described as a response to this century through political, intellectual and emotional word play.

“I was completely stunned,” says Miki, who has written half a dozen books and edited several others, noting that poets “even at the best of times, don't often get a lot of attention.” He adds: “When you think of poetry, you don't think of big awards. Writing poetry is an end in itself, and it can be a highly personal act.”

A poet and teacher for three decades, Miki says the award is particularly sweet because it is culturally based, not driven by marketplace appeal. “It's nice to see through these recent announcements that poetry coming out of the West Coast is being recognized,” he adds.

Add to the list of English's recent achievements colleague and former chair Sandra Djwa.

She has just returned from Ottawa, where she received the Royal Society of Canada's prestigious Lorne Pierce medal, announced earlier this year.

The medal is awarded for an achievement of special significance in imaginative or critical literature written in either English or French. The award recognizes her biography of Roy Daniells, professor of English at UBC and describes her as one of the pioneers of biography in Canada.

“It's been an amazing year in the department, given the achievements of all of these distinguished writers,” says David Stouck of the department's action committee.

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