The late award-winning poet and novelist Patrick Lane will receive one final honour when he is posthumously presented with the European Medal for Poetry and Art on June 7. Beijing-based poet Dr. Zhao Si Fang, vice-president of the award, will make the presentation at a small private gathering of poets. Lane’s wife, Department of Writing Professor Emeritus Lorna Crozier, will receive the award in the garden of their North Saanich home.
Commonly referred to as the Homer Prize, there has only been one other Canadian recipient in the award’s short history: UVic Writing professor Tim Lilburn, in 2017.
“This is a significant honour,” says Lilburn. “Patrick’s stature as a poet is international as well as national. His work has long been of interest to translators in China and a large ‘selected poems’ collection is now being prepared for release in Beijing in 2020, as a result of the Homer Prize.”
Initiated in 2015, the Homer Prize is a relatively new international award administered by an international chamber with representatives from Poland, China, North Africa and elsewhere. Previous laureates include Ataol Berghamoglu (Turkey), Tomas Venclova (Lituania), Juan Carlos Mestre (Spain) and Tim Lilburn (Canada). Plans to present Lane with the Homer Prize had been underway prior to his passing on March 7.
Lane was also posthumously honoured with the George Woodcock Lifetime Achievement Award on April 20 at his memorial service at UVic. With nearly 300 people gathered at the memorial event, Howard White—president of the Pacific BookWorld News Society and a longtime friend of Lane—presented Crozier with the award, a $5,000 cheque and a civic proclamation in honour of Lane. Crozier received the same award the previous year.
“Although our timing with this presentation was just a little too slow, I was able to deliver the news to Patrick while he was still with us,” said White at the event. “I remember his first response: ‘Are you sure you haven’t given me that one already?’ He was really very moved, however, and wrote [the following email] the prize administrator Alan Twigg.”
“It is nice to be associated with George [Woodcock],” noted Lane. “He wrote a chapbook summary of my poetry back in mid-career and compared my verse to poets such as Yeats, which, God knows, was excessive in the extreme, but still nice to imagine it might echo some small qualities of such a master, a poet I admired when I was young and still do . . . . Thank you for this award. It is most kind.”
Described as “one of Canada’s most renowned writers,” Lane’s death made headlines in media outlets nationwide. His distinguished career spanned 50 years and 25 volumes of poetry, as well as award-winning books of fiction and non-fiction, published in over a dozen countries. Winner of the Governor General’s Award for Poetry, the Lieutenant Governor’s Award for Literary Excellence, the Canadian Authors Association Award, among others, he was named an officer of the Order of Canada in 2014. Lane with a long association with UVic and received a Doctor of Letters (honoris causa) in November 2013 in recognition of his service to Canadian literature.
“Patrick has been celebrated in this country for many decades,” says Lilburn. “Soon a full range of poetry lovers in China will be able to feast on the brilliance and compassion of this extraordinary writer.”