Iconic literary journal celebrates 50 years of excellence

It’s said nothing succeeds like success, which is an aphorism well-appreciated in the offices of The Malahat Review. Currently celebrating both its 50th anniversary and 200th issue, UVic’s venerable and revered literary journal has served as a springboard for some of the most recognizable names in Canadian publishing over its lifetime.

Writing grad & outgoing Malahat Review editor John Barton (UVic Photo Services)

For instance, the Malahat was the first magazine to publish a short story by Yann Martel — 14 years before he went on to win the Booker Prize for the international bestseller Life of Pi. In 1977, the journal dedicated an entire issue to Margaret Atwood’s work, before she became internationally known. Poets such as Michael Ondaatje, Dionne Brand, Patricia Young and beloved Department of Writing professor Lorna Crozier have frequently graced its pages.

“Publishing in The Malahat is a rite of passage for many writers, who feel that they have ‘arrived,’” says outgoing editor, poet and Writing alumnus John Barton, who has nurtured the journal for more than a decade. “Writers who have won our contests have gone on to win National Magazine Awards, the Journey Prize and to get book contracts.”

Hear Barton discuss the Malahat legacy on this January 9 CFAX Radio interview, or in this January 4 Times Colonist article. He was also interviewed on CBC Radio’s All Points West recently (link not available).

Established in 1967 by fabled Writing professor Robin Skelton and English professor John Peter, The Malahat Review has showcased works by established writers, discovered promising new talent and presented perceptive critical comment on other pieces including essays on both literature and the visual arts.

“Without The Malahat Review, I wouldn’t be the writer I am now,” admits Martel, whose short story “Mister Ali and the Barrelmaker” was published in 1988. The journal has won more National Magazine Awards than any other literary journal in the country and has had six editors over its lifetime, including Writing professor emeritus Derk Wynand, Constance Rooke, Marlene Cookshaw, Barton, and Skelton and Peter.

“The magazine has been an inspiration to generations of writers and students at UVic, in Victoria and across the country — as a place to read some of the best writing from around the world and as a high-profile publication to dream of seeing your own work in one day,” says Writing chair and alumna David Leach. “As a student at UVic, I remember reading one of Yann Martel’s early stories in the Malahat and being blown away by its originality . . . . To have one of the best literary magazines in the world located right here on campus has helped to establish UVic and Victoria as important centres of Canadian literary culture.”

And while the Malahat may have gotten its start back in the days when Writing was part of UVic’s Faculty of Humanities, it has long ties to us here in Fine Arts. “The Malahat Review has a long history with the Faculty of Fine Arts that spans decades,” says Dean Susan Lewis.

“Colleagues in the Department of Writing play key roles on editorial and advisory boards, and our students have learned about the literary publishing industry through the Department of Writing Internship program, established in 2004. The Malahat’s status as one of Canada’s leading literary journals makes it a desirable place for our faculty to publish. The journal enjoys an impressive list of accolades — including 12 times as either winner or finalist of the Western Magazine Award’s ‘Magazine of the Year’ and 14 Malahat authors in the National Magazine Foundation’s roster of finalists, with five gold and four silver awards.”

It’s already been a busy anniversary for the Malahat, given last November’s 200th issue launch party, which paid tribute to the Victoria literary scene and artists — past, present and future — with two previously unpublished poems from the late P.K. Page and creative nonfiction from painter Emily Carr. The issue also offers work by Writing professors (current and past), including Tim Lilburn, Patrick Lane, Lorna Croizer, Shane Book and Patrick Friesen, plus alumni Kyeren Regehr, Danielle Janess, Leah Callen, Philip Kevin Paul, Arlene Pare, Jason Jobin and Annabel Howard, as well as former Writing instructors like Madeline Sonik and Alisa Gordaneer.

To better mark the occasion, UVic Libraries is releasing a limited-edition monograph on January 25, edited by Barton: The Malahat Review at Fifty: Canada’s Iconic Literary Magazine is richly illustrated with archival material from UVic Special Collections and University Archives. Contributing authors include broadcaster and UVic Chancellor Shelagh Rogers, as well as Martel, Paul, Wynand, Young, Eve Joseph, Jay Ruzesky, Nicholas Bradley, Heather Dean, Jonathan Bengtson, Jan Zwicky and rising alumna literary star Eliza Robertson, among others.

The Malahat Review at Fifty features extraordinary stories and memoirs from a range of celebrated contributors, recognizing the vital culture impact of The Malahat Review on the Canadian and international literary scene,” says UVic librarian and local poet Christine Walde,  who, as general editor of the series, led the commemorative project.

There will also be a special art exhibition, Landmarks: The Art of The Malahat Review. Curated by Caroline Riedel of UVic Legacy Art Galleries, Landmarks opens January 25 in UVic’s Legacy Maltwood gallery, located in the lower level of the UVic library. Running until May 13, it highlights the role of art in the journal and includes 200 selected cover images. Canadian artists have dominated the visual identity of The Malahat Review and the synergy between art and literature is particularly evident in the cover art and essays of the journal’s first decade, which featured new work by internationally acclaimed artists such as Henry Moore, Andy Warhol, Mel Ramos and Joan Miró.

Indeed, it would be hard to beat Dean Susan Lewis for a more simple, heartfelt acknowledgement of the magazine’s accomplishments. “My congratulations to The Malahat Review on its 50th anniversary and best wishes for continued excellence in the decades to come.”

Top 10 Fine Arts stories of 2017 – part two

What else happened in Fine Arts in 2017? More than we can mention in one blog post, so here’s part two of our top-10 stories of the year.

International attention

Considering we’re based on an island at the edge of the continent, it’s surprising how much international attention UVic continues to get — and while there’s no arguing our extraordinary sense of place here in Victoria, credit must go to our exceptional faculty who always seem to be busy across the country and around the world.

Ajtony Csaba at the Hungarian Liszt Academy of Music (photo: Réka Érdi-Harmos)

School of Music professor Dániel Péter Biró and some Music students participated in UVic’s interdisciplinary field school “Narratives of Memory, Migration, and Xenophobia” this summer, which brought together scholars, students and artists from Canada and Europe to examine issues including the recent resurgence of nationalist and xenophobic movements in North America and Europe. Biró also had a number of compositions commissioned, premiered and performed in Europe this year, as well as in Brooklyn. Ajtony Csaba was honoured to perform a special Canada 150 concert for the Hungarian Ambassador in Ottawa this summer, as well as having the opportunity to lead the orchestra at the Hungarian Liszt Academy of Music this fall. Merrie Klazek presented a solo recital at the International Women’s Brass Conference in New Jersey in June, Joanna Hood was featured on German radio this fall, and Benjamin Butterfield appeared once again at the Amalfi Coast Music Arts and Music Festival, teaching and directing the opera Gianni Schicchi with some of his UVic voice students, past and present (including Kaden Forsberg, Margaret Lingas, Ai Horton and Nick Allen).

Visual Arts professor Kelly Richardson saw her art exhibited in solo and group exhibits in Scotland, England, France, China and the United States this year, while Paul Walde had two separate exhibits on view in Norway and Scotland, and Cedric Bomford had work in California, as well as an ongoing public art commission in Seattle. And sessional instructor Charles Campbell had work exhibited at both the Los Angeles’ Museum of Latin American Art and San Francisco’s Museum of the African Diaspora this year.

Finally, Theatre professor Patrick Du Wors was the only Canadian selected for the prestigious 2017 World Stage Design exhibition in Taiwan, and Art History & Visual Studies professor Marcus Milwright published a new book, Islamic Arts and Crafts: An Anthology  with Edinburgh University Press.

Indigenous action

Lindsay Delaronde supported by dancers during ACHoRd (Photo: Peruzzo)

Considering the City of Victoria declared 2017 a Year of Reconciliation, it was perhaps fitting that we saw a great deal of activity by Indigenous alumni, guest speakers and faculty — most notable of which was the announcement that Visual Arts MFA alumna Lindsay Delaronde would be Victoria’s first Indigenous Artist in Residence. “I hope to create artworks that reflect the values of this land, which are cultivated and nurtured by the Indigenous peoples of this territory,” she said at the time. “I see my role as a way to bring awareness to and acknowledge that reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples is a process, one in which I can facilitate a collaborative approach for creating strong relationships to produce co-created art projects in Victoria.”

2017 also saw the completion of Rande Cook’s two-year term as the latest Audain Professor in Visual Arts — on top of his duties as chief of Vancouver Island’s ’Namgis Nation and his commitments as an in-demand contemporary artist with an international practice. “Two years in the position allowed me to really reach students,” says Cook. “I was able to delve into the role art plays in politics, and got them to dive deep within themselves. I pushed my students a lot and they seemed to appreciate that — the feedback at the end of the year said it was one of the more profound classes they had ever taken.”

The call is currently out for the next Audain Professor, with a January 31 application deadline.

Theatre professor Kirsten Sedeghi-Yetka continues her applied theatre work in the area of Indigenous language preservation, and Theatre also hosted acclaimed Indigenous playwright Marie Clement as a guest this fall. AHVS professor Carolyn Butler-Palmer‘s 2017 Legacy Gallery exhibit on early female Indigenous carver Ellen Neel was featured in this national Globe and Mail article, Legacy Gallery also hosted an exhibit by Visual Arts MFA alumna Marianne Nicholson focusing on the impact of smallpox on local first nations, and fellow Visual Arts MFA Hjalmer Wenstob had a high-profile longhouse installation on the lawn of the BC Legislature this summer as part of the OneWave Gathering.

High-profile Indigenous Writing alumni Richard Van Camp and Eden Robinson were in the news repeatedly this year, with Robinson being shortlisted for the Giller Prize and winning a prestigious Writers’ Trust Fellowship. And everyone in Writing and Fine Arts were saddened to hear of the passing of former Southam Lecturere, Richard Wagamese.

Daniel Laskarin with his new public art sculpture, now installed in Richmond

Art with impact

Visual Arts faculty had a busy year with a number of prominent exhibitions and projects. Paul Walde’s Tom Thomson Centennial Swim project received a great deal of local, provincial and national media attention this summer — with 10 different radio interviews and day-of coverage by the Toronto Star — as well as making UVic’s list of top news stories of 2017.

The spotlight was definitely on the recently retired Sandra Meigs — now professor emeritus — who was named a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada in September, opened a solo exhibit at Winchester Galleries early in 2017 featuring work created after winning the Gershon Iskowitz Prize, and launched an impressive solo show at the Art Gallery of Ontario in October, in collaboration with Music’s Christopher Butterfield. Listen to this interview with Meigs on CBC Radio’s Q, in which Butterfield’s audio component is also discussed.

Daniel Laskarin debuted a new public art sculpture at the Cambie Fire Hall No. 3 / Richmond North Ambulance Station and had a local solo show at Deluge Gallery, while Robert Youds had no less than three solo exhibits this fall, with two in Victoria and one in Toronto. Cedric Bomford had his work on view in California, Quebec and Toronto’s Nuit Blanche this summer, and very busy new professor Kelly Richardson participated in 14 solo and group exhibitions across Canada and Europe — with more planned in 2018.

10 years of acclaimed journalists

The stage may have been crowded, but not as much as the audience!

For the past 10 years, Writing students have benefited by learning from veteran journalists and authors, thanks to the Harvey Stevenson Southam Lecturer in Journalism and Nonfiction. In November, Writing celebrated a decade of Southam Lecturers with a special “all-star” anniversary panel featuring six former Southams together for the first time, in a lively moderated discussion on “The Future of Journalism in the Age of #FakeNews”

“The idea for the panel was sparked by a perfect convergence,” says Writing chair David Leach. “A chance to mark the 10th anniversary of the Southam Lectureship, the opportunity to thank the Southam family for their generosity, and to respond to a sense of global urgency around the role of journalists as guardians of our democratic institutions — especially when the most powerful elected official on the planet keeps attacking the free press as #FakeNews.”

Leach acted as emcee and moderator for the event, which broke all previous Southam attendance records and saw close to 250 fill every seat, aisle, ledge and doorway. six returning Southams — Jody Paterson, Terry Glavin, JoAnn Roberts and Tom Hawthorn, plus departmental alumni Mark Leiren-Young and Vivian Smith — as well as recent Writing grad Quinn MacDonald, now the publisher/editor of the local urban agriculture magazine Concrete Garden.

“All were keen to talk about their experiences as guest lecturers and debate the future of journalism,” says Leach. “Taken together, it offers a broad range of ways to look at contemporary journalism.”

A strong year for new donors

Samantha Krzywonos (far right) marks the
98th birthday of longtime donor Tommy Mayne, with three Theatre student recipients of his scholarship, in 2016

Another way to measure a faculty’s health and success is through the strength of its donors. And while Fine Arts couldn’t boast of another monumental donation like the one we received in 2016 from Jefferey Rubinoff — who sadly passed away earlier this year — 2017 remained a healthy year for donors and donations. Fine Arts Development Officer Samantha Krzywonos reports that we attracted 103 first-gift donors this past year — as compared to 48 in 2016 — and received an overall 476 donations for a total of nearly $500,000 that will support students.

Donations of all sizes are essential not only for scholarships and awards, but also for the need for innovative technology, space modifications and equipment upgrades — all of which contribute to the success of Fine Arts students in all our departments. Donors can range from alumni and retired faculty to parents of students, corporate partners, arts patrons, current and former staff, and community members. Indeed, we currently have over 250 active donors and nearly $10 million in planned gift expectancies invested in Fine Arts students.

Krzywonos feels meeting with donors is the most rewarding aspect of her job. “It’s all about saying thank-you and sharing the impact of that support. If a student can focus on their studies and not have to take on extra work just to get by, that donor support can make a huge difference in their life.”

Top 10 Fine Arts stories of 2017 – part one

There’s no easier measure of just how creative the activity is here in the Faculty of Fine Arts than by looking back at what happened over the previous year. From classes and guest lecturers to concerts, exhibits, plays, readings, seminars and our core research and creative practice, it’s often hard to believe just how much happens in a given year. In fact, a recent tally of this year’s media coverage showed our faculty, students and alumni had been covered more than 250 times in 2017 — and those are just the stories we know about.

In no particular order, here’s part one of our annual wrap-up featuring some — but certainly not all — of the leading Fine Arts stories of the year.

50 years and counting

Christopher Butterfield, Susan Lewis & Jamie Cassels at the School of Music’s Gala Anniversary Concert in December

2017 saw the wrap-up of 50th anniversaries in both Theatre and Art History & Visual Studies, and the ongoing half-century celebrations in the School of Music. Theatre completed its celebrations with a trio of final events in the spring: their Human Library Project, the Tempest Orion Project, and the public mounting of A Queer Trial, a brand new play by professor Jennifer Wise, in downtown’s Bastion Square. “The people who started our department were fearless in their vision and commitment,” Theatre chair Allana Lindgren said at the time. “They transformed one of the old military huts on campus into a stage and that ‘can do’ attitude has never left.”

AVHS finished their golden anniversary year with a public panel on “Why Art Matters in Dangerous Times” and their extensive Learning Through Looking exhibit at the Legacy Maltwood Gallery. “We were pioneers in the field when we were founded 50 years ago — not just in Canada but across North America,” noted department chair Erin Campbell of what was then the History in Art program. “At the time, art history was very Western-focused but we were one of the few institutions willing to look at Asian and Indigenous art. And we are still one of the largest world art history departments in Canada.”

While the School of Music just wrapped up its own 50th gala and reunion weekend earlier in December, they’ve still got their New Music & Digital Music Festival coming up from February 2-4. Music director Christopher Butterfield feels it’s their unique connection between faculty, students, alumni and the community that sets the School of Music apart. “We’re never going to be the place for everybody, but the people who do come here soon realize we’re punching way above our weight,” he says.

With three anniversaries down and two to go — including the Faculty’s own 50th in 2019 — it’s not hard to see the impact Fine Arts has had on the evolution of UVic itself, which is currently only 54 years old.

Award-winning achievements

Zhao Si presents Tim Lilburn with the Homer Medal

It’s been another year of outstanding achievement for our faculty, with a number of notable recognitions. Department of Writing professor and acclaimed poet Tim Lilburn was the first Canadian to win the prestigious international Homer Prize, while School of Music professor Dániel Péter Biró earned a coveted Guggenheim Fellowship, and Visual Arts professor emeritus Sandra Meigs became a Fellow of the Royal Society,

Internally, AHVS professor Victoria Wyatt won the Fine Arts award for Excellence in Teaching, while School of Music professor Suzanne Snizek‘s research into the forgotten works of suppressed composers earned her a place among the 10 recipients of UVic’s inaugural REACH Award, alumna Althea Thauberger was honoured as the faculty’s 2017 Distinguished Alumni, and POV Maestro Timothy Vernon being named an Honorary Doctor of Music at spring convocation.

Grad student successes

Fine Arts saw exceptional success in 2017 when it comes to the research and creative activities of our current doctoral and graduate students. Art History & Visual Studies had three successful SSHRC doctoral recipients — international students Atri Hatef and Hamed Yeganehfarzand (Iran) and Zahra Kazani (Pakistan) — which, considering only 20 were awarded to UVic as a whole, makes AHVS responsible for a remarkable 15 percent across campus in this category. Kazani also holds a CSRS Fellowship, as well as the Sheila & John Hackett Research Travel Award and a top-up to assist with international research at the Warburg Institute and the Wellcome Collection and Library, both in London.

Applied theatre PhD candidate Taiwo Afolabi

Also notable are two outstanding international PhD candidates in Theatre: national Vanier Scholar recipient Dennis Gupta, who also received the Ada Slaight Drama in Education Award, and Queen Elizabeth Scholar Taiwo Afolabi, a Crossing Borders Scholar with UVic’s Centre for Asia-Pacic Initiatives and a graduate fellow with the Centre for Global Studies.

Additionally, we’ve had great success when it comes to Canada Graduate Scholarships – Master’s Awards, with three CGS M’s in AHVS, two in Writing, and one each in Visual Arts and the School of Music. With seven out of 36 awards on campus, Fine Arts earned an impressive 19.5 percent of UVic’s allocations. Two other high-achieving graduate students include AHVS’s Su Yen Chong, another CAPI Crossing Borders Queen Elizabeth Scholar, and Elsie-May Mountford, the Ian H. Stewart Graduate Student Fellow with UVic’s Centre for Studies in Religion and Society.

Amazing alumni

Composer & celebrated Music alumnus Rodney Sharman (photo: Bell Ancell)

It’s also worth noting that 2017 has been a remarkable year for alumni achievement. In November, School of Music alumnus Rodney Sharman received the Canada Council’s $50,000 Walter Carsen Prize for Excellence in the Performing Arts, while composer Tobin Stokes saw one of his compositions performed for Queen Elizabeth II as part of the Canada 150 celebrations in London this summer, sung by alumna soprano Eve Daniell. Several School of Music alumni are featured in the 10-CD Canadian Composers Series on the UK’s Another Timbre record label — including the likes of Cassandra Miller, Alex Jang and Lance Austin Olsen — which also comes with an accompanying book. And Musicworks magazine has a feature on Victoria composers — including current concert manager Kristy Farkas — which comes with an accompanying CD.

Writing alumni have also been receiving a good deal of attention this fall, with Eden Robinson winning the $50,000 Writers’ Trust Fellowship, Yasuko Thanh winning the Victoria Book Prize, Connor Gaston and Karolinka Zuzalek both winning Leo Awards for their latest film projects, Shanna Baker winning the photojournalism category in the Canadian Online Publishing Awards for this Hakai magazine piece, Theatre alumna-turned-author Carleigh Baker winning the Vancouver Book Award, and Writing professor and alumna Joan MacLeod’s 1987 play Toronto, Mississippi being named one of Canada’s 14 essential plays.

In the nominations department, both Deborah Willis and Eden Robinson received Giller Prize nominations, Ashley Little and Steven Price were nominated for the €100,000 International Dublin Literary Award, Carleigh Baker was nominated for the Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize and Writing chair David Leach — himself a departmental alum — was nominated for the Vine Award for Canadian Jewish Literature.

Xiao Xue with her award-winning walking camper

Visual Arts saw MFA alumna Lindsay Delaronde named the City of Victoria’s inaugural Indigenous Artist in Residence, while two 2017 alumni won two categories in the national BMO 1st Art! Invitational Student Art Competition: national prize winner Xiao Xue, and BC provincial prize winner James Fermor. But while graduate students may be taking centrestage, And two very recent alumni were nominated for the Lind Prize in photography: Brandon Poole (for the second time) and Laura Gildner.

In Theatre, alumnus Chris Wilson has joined the cast of CBC TV’s legendary Air Farce comedy troupe, Meg Braem was recently announced as the newest Lee Playwright in Residence at the University of Alberta Department of Drama, Amiel Gladstone continues to reap accolades with the award-winning musical Onegin, which he co-created and directed, and continues to tour across Canada (including a recent Belfry Theatre production starring Meg Roe), and former CBC TV Being Erica star Erin Karpluk continues to pop up on such TV shows as Masters of Sex, Criminal Minds and the continuing A Fixer Upper Mystery.

The Mercer Report

Rick Mercer sings the headlines

And there’s nothing like a bit of celebrity to wrap up part one of this post: the School of Music (and UVic as a whole) was thrilled when legendary CBC TV host Rick Mercer came to campus in October to film a segment for the final season of The Rick Mercer Report — including a live, on-camera singing lesson with voice professor Benjamin Butterfield and student Taylor Fawcett. A highlight was hearing Mercer sing the day’s Globe & Mail headlines!  “I always thought I couldn’t sing but [Butterfield] convinced me that I, maybe, potentially, might be able to in the future. So I’ll be back doing my degree in opera,” quipped Mercer in this Martlet interview with Writing student Cormac O’Brien.

That’s part one—be sure to check back for part two of our top-10 stories of 2017.

Expert panel celebrates a decade of inspiring journalists

For the past 10 years, students in UVic’s Department of Writing have benefited by learning from veteran journalists and authors, thanks to the Harvey Stevenson Southam Lecturer in Journalism and Nonfiction.

Named for UVic alumnus Harvey Southam — who, before his unexpected death in 1991, worked as a journalist before serving as director for a number of companies owned by one of the country’s leading publishing families — this influential journalist-in-residence program sees a mid-career writer join the Writing department each year to teach a course and give a public lecture on their chosen topic. Courses have varied widely, ranging from print and broadcast journalism to sports, humour, popular culture, Indigenous perspectives on storytelling, and changes in the media landscape itself.

Now you can join the Writing department in celebrating a decade of this prestigious position with a special 10th anniversary panel: “The Future of Journalism in the Age of #FakeNews” brings six former Southam Lecturers together for the first time for a lively moderated discussion at 7pm Tuesday, November 7, in room 105 of UVic’s Hickman Building.

“The idea for the panel was sparked by a perfect convergence,” says Writing chair David Leach, author of Chasing Utopia: The Future of the Kibbutz in a Divided Israel. “A chance to mark the 10th anniversary of the Southam Lectureship, the opportunity to thank the Southam family for their generosity, and to respond to a sense of global urgency around the role of journalists as guardians of our democratic institutions — especially when the most powerful elected official on the planet keeps attacking the free press as #FakeNews.”

Leach, who will act as emcee and moderator, will be joined by recent Writing grad Quinn MacDonald — now the publisher/editor of the local urban agriculture magazine Concrete Garden — as well as six returning Southam Lecturers:

  • Jody Paterson: former Times Colonist columnist, whose course focused on experiential and activist journalism
  • Terry Glavin: current Ottawa Citizen columnist and author of Come From the Shadows: The Long and Lonely Struggle for Peace in Afghanistan, who focused on foreign affairs
  • JoAnn Roberts: CBC veteran and retired host of CBC Radio’s All Points West, who focused on public broadcasting
  • Tom Hawthorn: freelance writer and author most recently of The Year Canadians Lost Their Minds and Found Their Country, who focused on sports media
  • Mark Leiren-Young: freelance writer, whose most recent book is The Killer Whale Who Changed the World and whose course focused on satire
  • Vivian Smith: former Globe & Mail editor and author of Outsiders Still: Why Women Journalists Love — and Leave — Their Newspaper Careers, who focused on women in journalism

“All were keen to talk about their experiences as guest lecturers and debate the future of journalism,” says Leach. “Taken together, it offers a broad range of ways to look at contemporary journalism.”

Jo-Ann Roberts holds the crowd’s attention at her public lecture in 2013

And it’s that diversity of voices and experiences that sets the Southam Lectureship apart from other courses with embedded journalists. “We try not to think of ‘journalism’ in too narrow or stereotyped of a way,” he continues. “We are always looking for a different voice, a different background, a guest lecturer who has an interesting ‘hook’ that will interest both our professional writing students and also curious undergraduates from across campus.”

Fake news causes outcry

Given the almost daily outcry over “fake news” — both real and perceived — in the media today, is Leach legitimately concerned about the future of journalism?

“Absolutely, we should all be. There are very powerful forces — political and corporate, domestic and international — feeding misinformation to the general public in ways that undermine our democratic institutions, increase inequities and even incite hatred against vulnerable groups of people,” he says.

Terry Glavin at his lecture in 2012

“The role of good journalism has always been as a BS detector that speaks truth to such abuses of power. We need to remember and support that vital function before we all disappear into our private filter bubbles of socially mediated information in which we only hear echoes of our own points of view and declare anything contrary to our own biases as #FakeNews.”

Not that the solutions aren’t without their own challenges, says Leach. “How do we fund the time-consuming and often dangerous investigative work that is the beating heart of great journalism? And how do we inspire and train the next generation of intrepid writers and reporters to do that work?”

The answers to those questions will come from the panelists themselves, along with recent Writing grad Quinn MacDonald —  not only a graduate of the Professional Writing Minor in Journalism & Publishing and a teaching assistant for many of the Southam Lecturers, but is already out in the trenches herself.

Tom Hawthorn’s sports talk was a crowd favourite in 2014

“Quinn is the future of journalism, so we figured we better get her thoughts,” says Leach. “I want to hear how she can connect the hard-earned wisdom from our six other panelists to the kind of journalism needed to inspire her generation . . . and the generations to follow.”

Read more about the Southam Lecture in this November 2 Times Colonist interview with David Leach.

Looking ahead to the next decade (and beyond), does Leach have a “dream list” for future Southam Lecturers? “I’d love to attract more writers and reporters with strong voices who are also shedding light on communities and stories that are under-reported by our traditional media: people like Kamal Al-Solaylee and his investigative book Brown: What Being Brown in the World Today Means (to Everyone), or culture writer Scaachi Koul and her work for BuzzFeed, as well as her personal memoir and Twitter presence. Or perhaps some of our own graduates, such as Rebecca Collard, who has been doing fearless reporting about the various conflicts in the Middle East.”

Richard Wagamese talks to a packed house at his public lecture in 2011

Finally, the evening will also include a memorial to former Southam Lecturer, Richard Wagamase, who passed away earlier this year. “His course challenged our students to think about First Nations history and forms of storytelling in new ways,” says Leach. “He was an amazing presence when he was here as a guest lecturer.”

And while this event celebrates the first decade of the Southam Lectureship, the 2018 Southam Lecturer is ready to go: Judith Pike is a social-issues documentary filmmaker, whose January class and public lecture will look at investigating and telling stories through film, and reaching different audiences.

Whatever the future holds for our students, there’s no denying the first 10 years of the Southam Lectureship have laid a strong foundation for whatever comes next.

This event is free and open to the public. It will be followed by a book signing and reception.

A fresh crop of book prize nominations

Fall is traditionally book prize season and, as with most years, our Department of Writing has a fresh crop of alumni and faculty currently up for prizes.

Alumna Eden Robinson is a Giller Prize finalist for her latest novel, Son of A Trickster (Penguin Random House). This is Robinson’s second Giller nomination, following her debut Monkey Beach back in 2000. Robinson is one of five finalists chosen from a longlist of 12 books — which also included alumna Deborah Willis for her story collection The Dark and Other Love Stories (Hamish Hamilton) — and the winner will be announced on November 20.

Robinson was also announced on November 7 as the recipient of the 2017 Writers’ Trust Fellowship, which comes with a $50,000 award. “I’m a little stunned,” Robinson told the Globe & Mail in reaction to the news.

Writing professor emeritus and beloved poet Lorna Crozier is a finalist — again — for the Governor General’s Literary Awards, this time for her poetry collection, What the Soul Doesn’t Want (Broadview Press). Crozier won her first Governor-General’s Award back in 1992, and we’ll find out on November 1 if she wins again.

MFA alumna Yasuko Thanh took home the 2017 City of Victoria Butler Book Prize on October 11. She was awarded the $5,000 cash prize for her first novel, Mysterious Fragrance of the Yellow Mountains (Hamish Hamilton Canada), which was reported in both this Times Colonist article and this CHEK news broadcast, while Thanh spoke about the writing life in this CFAX 1070 Radio interview.

Jurors described Yellow Mountains as “a haunting book that explores the harsh impact of colonialism, the blind, random damage it drags in its wake, and the puny nature of ill-thought out resistance versus the well-oiled wheels of imperialism. Thanh’s book is a sensory treat, a complex collage of images and themes. Original sharp and spiky language brings the reader fully into the narrative moment.”

Also nominated for the 2017 Victoria Book Prize were fellow alumni Patricia Young for her poetry collection Short Takes on the Apocalypse (Biblioasis) and Steven Price for his novel By Gaslight (McClelland & Stewart).

Theatre alumna Carleigh Baker was announced as the winner of the 2017 Vancouver Book Award on October 13 for her short story collection Bad Endings (Anvil Press), which explores a range of human experiences, from the death of a relationship to struggles with mental health. The $3,000 prize recognizes authors of any genre, who evoke an appreciation and understanding of Vancouver’s history and people. Bad Endings is also nominated for the $50,000 Rogers’ Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize, and Baker was named one of CBC Books’ writers to watch in 2017.

Congratulations also go out to current Writing undergrad Kade Bound, who was recently announced as the winner of the Lambda Foundation’s annual Candis Graham Writing Scholarship.

Finally, Writing professor Tim Lilburn was named the first Canadian recipient of the prestigious European Medal of Poetry & Art on October 10. Commonly referred to as the “Homer Medal,” Lilburn was presented the award by visiting Chinese poet and editor Zhao Si at a small reception on campus.

 

 

 

 

 

Tim Lilburn becomes first Canadian to receive international award

Distinguished poet and respected Department of Writing professor Tim Lilburn has become the first Canadian to receive the European Medal of Poetry and Art.

Tim Lilburn with the Homer Medal and visiting poet Zhao Si

Commonly referred to as the “Homer Medal,” Lilburn was presented with the 2017 prize by visiting Beijing poet and editor Dr. Zhao Si Fang, vice-president of the award committee. Following the tradition of presenting the medal in the country where the writer resides, Zhao Si traveled to Victoria to present the award at a small on-campus reception on October 10.

“The members of the council wish to emphasize the importance of your poetry for contemporary Canadian culture and the world,” noted Zhao Si in her presentation. “You belong to a group that includes some of the greatest poets of our time.”

A prominent Chinese poet, Fang has been translating Lilburn’s work since 2008, including his acclaimed 2012 collection, Assiniboia. She is also the editor of the Chinese magazine Contemporary International Poetry in Translation; their special 2016 Canadian issue included Lilburn’s work, as well as that of retired Writing professors Lorna Crozier and Patrick Lane.

“To be part of a group that includes [former winners] like the Lithuanian poet Tomas Venclova, who would complain?” Lilburn told the Times Colonist in this September 29 interview. “It is a great honour.” Lilburn was also interviewed on October 8 on the provincial CBC Radio show North By Northwest about his award.

Created in 2015 in association with the European Union, the Homer Medal is awarded annually by a jury to outstanding creators in the worlds of literature and the visual arts. Previous winners include Turkish poet Ataol Behramoğlu, Armenian poet Gagik Davtyan, Iraqi poet Gulala Nouri and American poet Stanley H. Barkan.

The Homer Medal now joins Lilburn’s other prestigious awards, including the Governor General’s Award for Literature, the Canadian Authors Association Award and the Saskatchewan Book of the Year Award, among others. A Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada in 2014, Lilburn is the author of 12 books of poetry and essays, and his work has been translated into French, Chinese, Serbian, German, Spanish, and Polish.

“I can think of no more worthy a recipient for this international award,” said Writing chair David Leach at the reception.

Dr. Susan Lewis, Dean of Fine Arts, was quick to praise Lilburn’s work. “The quality and depth of Tim’s poetry create a model of excellence in research and creative activity for faculty, and it’s through his teaching that he provides a strong example for how our artistic practice informs the learning process for our students,” she said before a group that included Writing professor emeritus Lorna Crozier, Governor General’s Award winner Arleen Paré, visiting American poet GC Waldrep, award-winning MFA alumnus and WSÁ,NEC Nation poet Kevin Paul, Writing alumnus and Malahat Review editor John Barton, and a number of Writing department colleagues.

“Tim’s accomplishments and commitment to our students and community exemplify the mission of the Faculty of Fine Arts to provide the finest training and learning environment for artists, professionals and students through the integration of the creation of art in a dynamic learning environment.”

After receiving his award, a clearly moved Lilburn spoke briefly but emotionally about the role of poetry in society.

“We are in a historical moment, where poets can be especially conflicted about what they do. Poetry can seem ineffectual before climate change, the rise of fascism, the need to decolonize and work toward reconciliation with First Nations,” he said. “Some poets could be tempted to set poetry aside in favour of activism, or make their poetry overtly political and turn it into pages of declaration and denunciation . . . . but we should not be so quick to abandon poetry in these extreme, dire times.”

Citing the works of Chilean poet Pablo Neruda — who was himself influenced by Mexican muralist Diego Rivera — Lilburn used the example of Neruda’s poem Let the Woodcutter Awaken, which was written while in exile from Chilean totalitarianism, to describe the impact poetry can have on people’s lives. “He learned from Rivera that if you present large, sweeping depictions of society and history, you can free people and give them a sense of power . . . . he also learned to describe in detail distinct lives, which helps to establish empathy, love, respect and a commonwealth of courtesy, civility and solidarity in his readers.”

Zhao Si presents Tim Lilburn with the Homer Medal

The small room was quiet as Lilburn spoke, his voice embodying poetry’s simple power. “I believe the act of poetry-making itself . . . can have deep, social effect. In my books, poetry is not relegated to the social margins; it is not an adjunct to life and politics. It stands in the very centre of both, quietly and anonymously; in its empathy, imagination, narrative range, and commitment to the assemblage of beautiful, arresting patterns, it creates the political centre.”

In addition to receiving the Homer Medal, Lilburn has two news books coming out shortly: The Larger Conversation: Contemplation and Place, an essay collection being released in November by University of Alberta Press, and The House of Charlemagne, a book-length poem being released in Spring 2018 by the University of Regina Press.