Trent University alumnus Professor Richard Harrison ’76 has been named the winner of the 2017 Governor General's Literary Award for Poetry for On Not Losing My Father's Ashes in the Flood.
The award is the latest honour for the book, which also won the Stephan G. Stephansson Award for Poetry and the third prize for poetry in the 2017 Alcuin Society's Book Design Awards. On Not Losing My Father's Ashes in the Flood was also shortlisted for the City of Calgary's 2016 W.O. Mitchell Book Prize and was a finalist for the poetry category of the High Plains Book Awards.
Of his award winning collection, Prof. Harrison notes: “There is a pause moment, where many of the things I started 40 years ago [while at Trent] have now come to this point, and in some senses there is completion here.”
Prof. Harrison credits former Lady Eaton College principal Douglas McCalla and faculty members Professor Orm Mitchell and Professor Michael Peterman for hosting readings and introducing him to writers such as Patrick Lane, Robert Kroetsch, Susan Musgrave, Margaret Laurence, and Adele Wiseman during his time at Trent. He found the experience of listening to Patrick Lane read in the college senior common room so powerful that it led him to try his own hand at creative writing.
He also credits Trent with helping feed his curiosity and creativity.
“Trent was small and the faculty were friendly, not just in their discipline, but across disciplines,” Prof. Harrison says. “They were understanding of the nature of inquiry and allowed me to let inquiry lead me to where it wanted to go. And they encouraged me all the time to keep going. My professors understood that what I was doing was looking for a lifetime’s work, and that this was how I would find it.”
He looks back to academic movements such as those found in Trent’s Canadian Studies program as being integral to helping Canada focus on their own unique stories and their own unique literature – something he says has benefited him and his writing.
Prof. Harrison is the author of eight books, including the Governor General’s Award finalist Big Breath of a Wish, and Hero of the Play, the first book of poetry launched at the Hockey Hall of Fame. He teaches English and Creative Writing at Calgary’s Mount Royal University. His work has been published, broadcast and displayed around the world, and his poems have been translated into French, Spanish, Portuguese and Arabic.