U of M writers sweep local awards
U of M writers racked up a substantial proportion of this year’s Manitoba Book Awards, held on April 28. Of the 13 awards handed at this year’s event, eight of them went to writers associated with the U of M.
Méira Cook, alumna and former Writer-In-Residence, won the $5,000 McNally Robinson Book of the Year Award for The House on Sugarbush Road. Described as powerful and lyrical, the story follows a once-prominent Afrikaner family and their domestic servant of 30 years.
Cook immigrated to Winnipeg in the early 90s from her native Johannesburg, South Africa. After receiving her PhD here at the U of M, she worked as a creative writing instructor for the department of English, film and theatre and in 2011 served as Writer-in-Residence at the Centre for Creative Writing and Oral Culture, also at U of M. Cook has published numerous poetry collections, most recently, A Walker in the City, a portion of which won first place in the CBC’s Literary Awards of 2007. Her poem also won the Walrus Poetry Prize in 2012.
Jonathan Ball, an instructor in the department of English, film and theatre, won the Aqua Books Lansdowne Prize for Poetry for his book The Politics of Knives (Coach House Books). The collection uses mirrors and cutting imagery alongside takes on Hitchcock’s films. Says Ball on his work, “I am an oddity as a writer in that I often mimic avant-garde techniques (in this case, the “cut-up” technique) rather than actually executing them. I also tend to be densely allusive [in my work].”
Graduate student Kristian Enright took two prizes, one for most promising Manitoba writer and the other for best first book. Sonar (Turnstone Press) wrestles with language, mental health and identity through the eyes of an artist boxed in by tradition. Besides his status as a PhD candidate in the department of English, film and theatre, Enright is also an alumnus (MA, English, film and theatre) of the U of M.
Esyllt Jones’ popular book Imagining Winnipeg: History through the Photographs of L.B. Foote, published by University of Manitoba Press, won top honours for Best Illustrated Book of the Year, in addition to its nomination for book of the year.
Also in the design category, Warehouse Journal Vol. 21, edited and designed by students Nicole Hunt and Brandon Bergem, U of M Faculty of Architecture, took the Manuela Dias Book Design of the Year award.
Inuit art curator at the Winnipeg Art Gallery (WAG) and recipient of an honorary Doctorate of Letters from the U of M in October 2012, Darlene Coward Wight, won the Alexander Kennedy Isbister Award for Non-Fiction for her book entitled Creation and Transformation: Defining Moments in Inuit Art (Douglas and MacIntyre and the WAG).
Finally, Dennis Cooley, esteemed senior scholar in the department of English, film and theatre and well-known poet and writer, was presented with a special Lifetime Achievement Award. A literary critic, co-founder of author of 15 books, he says this about his writing: “I write largely about things that really excite and interest me. I’m hoping at the same time that will happen for a lot of readers….I’m always surprised at writers who say they find writing painful because I find it enormously joyful and do it every chance I get.”
The Manitoba Book Awards are annual awards that celebrate Manitoba writers, publishers and books. They were established in 1988.