“A society without poetry and the other arts would have broken its mirror and cut out its heart.”
– Margaret Atwood
ABOUT THE LECTURES
The Anne Szumigalski Lecture Series is generously sponsored by Jacques Nolin and Jennifer Boire.
The Anne Szumigalski Lecture Series is hosted each year at the League’s annual conference, commemorating award-winning Saskatchewan poet Anne Szumigalski. The lectures began in 2002, a few years after Szumigalski’s death, and are modeled after the Margaret Laurence series of lectures by distinguished Canadian writers. Szumigalski was a mentor to numerous prairie poets and much loved in the literary community, especially in Saskatchewan and Manitoba. She was a founder of both the Saskatchewan and Manitoba Writers Guilds, and helped establish the literary magazines Grain and Prairie Fire.
For Brick Books’ 40th anniversary celebration, David Waltner-Toews wrote a short post about Anne Szumigalski’s contribution to Canadian poetry and literature.
As a member of the Saskatoon Poets’ Group in the mid-1970s, what I remember most about Anne Szumigalski was her presence. We would sit down in a circle and read our poetry aloud to each other. I remember especially the times at Terry and Carolyn Heath’s on Clarence Avenue, a house in which my wife and I later lived, and in which my son was born. I remember Carolyn’s sharp, perceptive comments, but I remember Anne’s more gentle criticism, as if just by being there she called into question any humbug and pretence I might parade out. This was something new for me, and dangerous – to share works in progress and invite criticism from my peers. It was exactly what I needed.
2019’s ANNE SZUMIGALSKI LECTURER: BILLY-RAY BELCOURT
Billy-Ray Belcourt (he/him) is a writer and academic from the Driftpile Cree Nation. He is a Ph.D. candidate and 2018 Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation Scholar in the Department of English & Film Studies at the University of Alberta; his doctoral project is a creative-theoretical one called “The Conspiracy of NDN Joy.” He is also a 2016 Rhodes Scholar and holds an M.St. in Women’s Studies from the University of Oxford and Wadham College. In the First Nations Youth category, Belcourt was awarded a 2019 Indspire Award, which is the highest honor the Indigenous community bestows on its own leaders. In January 2020, he will be an Assistant Professor of Indigenous Creative Writing at the University of British Columbia.
Billy-Ray’s debut book of poems, This Wound is a World (Frontenac House 2017), won the 2018 Griffin Poetry Prize (making him the youngest winner ever) and the 2018 Robert Kroetsch City of Edmonton Book Prize. It was also named the Most Significant Book of Poetry in English by an Emerging Indigenous Writer at the 2018 Indigenous Voices Awards. This Wound is a World was a finalist for the 2018 Governor General’s Literary Award for Poetry, the 2018 Robert Kroetsch Award for Poetry, the 2018 Gerald Lampert Memorial Award, and the 2018 Raymond Souster Award, both of the latter via the Canadian League of Poets. It was also named by CBC Books as the best “Canadian poetry” collection of 2017. U.S. (University of Minnesota Press) and French (Groupe Nota Bene) editions of the book are forthcoming in 2019.
In 2018, Billy-Ray was named by CBC Books as one of “14 Canadian poets to watch,” one of “18 emerging writers to watch,” and a “Writer to know.” That year, he was also named one of “ten young Canadians to watch” by the CBC. His sophomore book, NDN Coping Mechanisms: Notes from the Field, is due out on Sept. 3, 2019 with House of Anansi Press. His third book, A History of my Brief Body, essays and vignettes on grief, colonial violence, joy, love, and queerness, is due out in May 2020 with Hamish Hamilton, an imprint of Penguin Canada. His creative writing is represented by Stephanie Sinclair at Transantlantic Agency.
You can find Billy-Ray online at billy-raybelcourt.com and, of course, delivering this year’s Alice’s Anne Szumigalski Lecture, which was given remotely on June 7, 2019 at 1:30pm as part of the League’s Annual Conference and Annual General Meeting.
2018 – Alice Major | 2017 – Marilyn Dumont
2015 – Gregory Scofield | 2014 – Lillian Allen | 2013 – A.F. Moritz | 2012 – Robert Currie | 2011 – Glen Sorestad
2010 – Anne Simpson | 2009 – Marilyn Bowering | 2008 – Don McKay | 2007 – Mark Abley | 2006 – Margaret Atwood
2005 – George Elliott Clarke | 2004 – Anne Carson | 2003 – Dionne Brand | 2002 – Tim Lilburn
MEASURES OF ASTONISHMENT: POETS ON POETRY: the Anne Szumigalski Lecture Series anthology.
In June 2016, we were proud to launch an anthology of the first 11 Anne Szumigalski lectures as part of the Canadian Writers’ Summit. In partnership with the University of Regina Press. The anthology includes the lectures delivered annually by some of Canada’s most revered poets – Gregory Scofield, Lillian Allen, Tim Lilburn, Anne Carson, George Elliot Clarke, Margaret Atwood, Mark Abley, Don McKay, Marilyn Bowering, Anne Simpson, Glen Sorestad, Robert Currie, and A.F. Moritz.
The Anne Szumigalski Lecture Series, proposed by Regina poet Paul Wilson in 2001 and approved by the League’s National Council the same year, commemorates the award winning Saskatchewan poet, who died a few years earlier. Szumigalski was a mentor to numerous prairie poets and much loved in the literary community, especially in Saskatchewan and Manitoba. She was a founder of both the Saskatchewan and Manitoba Writers Guilds, and helped establish the literary magazines, Grain and Prairie Fire.
The lecture series was modeled after the Margaret Laurence series of lectures by distinguished Canadian writers, long held as part of the Writers’ Union of Canada’s annual general meetings.
Since its inception in 2002, The Anne Szumigalski Lecture Series has been a rich and ongoing dialogue among poets: a dialogue because, taken together, the lectures present a room where we can stand in the doorway and listen as Tim Lillburn, Anne Carson, George Elliot Clarke, Margaret Atwood, Mark Abley, Don McKay, Marilyn Bowering, Anne Simpson, Glen Sorestad, Robert Currie and A. F. Moritz discuss the art and craft of poetry.
Soon, with the publication of an anthology of the first 11 lectures, we will be invited into the room, and shown to a cozy chair where we can follow at our own pace, go back pause and puzzle, read again, be delighted, challenged, invigorated, charmed and exhilarated by the thoughts and musings of some of Canada’s best poets.
This is a book for student and teacher alike; for beginning poets and those who have found their voice, but mostly it’s a book for all of us who are wise enough and lucky enough to find —no, to take the time to be engaged by these lectures.
Oliver Wendell Holmes said: A mind, once stretched by an idea, can never return to the same shape.
If ever an anthology could bend us out of shape, it’s this one. I am pleased and honoured to have been part of its development.
–Mary Ellen Csamer