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Winners & Finalists

Winner! 2005 Lieutenant Governor’s Award for Literary Excellence

Robert Bringhurst

bringhurstThe Lieutenant Governor’s Award for Literary Excellence was established in 2003 by the Honourable Iona Campagnolo to recognize British Columbia writers who have contributed to the development of literary excellence in the Province. As the inaugural winner, P. K. Page was selected by an independent jury consisting of three prominent figures from the British Columbia literary community. This year the Lieutenant Governor’s Award for Literary Excellence is awarded to Robert Bringhurst.

Robert Bringhurst is a poet, typographer, linguist, critic, designer, translator, teacher, and cultural historian. He has published more than thirty books, eighteen of them books of poetry. His book, The Black Canoe, a study of Bill Reid’s sculpture, is a classic of Native American art history and his book The Elements of Typographic Style is considered the “bible” for typographers the world over. In Canada, Bringhurst is best known for his groundbreaking study of Native Canadian oral literature, A Story As Sharp as a Knife: The Classical Haida Mythtellers and Their World (1999), a work that startled many readers and sparked intense academic and public debate. Two volumes of translation from classical Haida complete the trilogy: Nine Visits to the Mythworld and Being In Being. In 2004, the trilogy earned Bringhurst the Edward Sapir Prize, awarded by the Society for Linguistic Anthropology. Among his more recent books of poetry is Ursa Major (2003), a multilingual work in which characters tell simultaneous stories in English, Latin, Greek, and Cree.

The jury for this year’s Lieutenant Governor’s Award, Celia Duthie, Daniel Francis, and P. K. Page (2004 recipient), described Bringhurst as “a true Renaissance man” and noted the extraordinary breadth of his outstanding contribution to Canadian letters:

“It is not easy to get the breadth of him in a few words,” said the jury. “As a poet he is both scientist and visionary, and his use of language is impeccable. There seems to be no end to his inventiveness. Bringhurst’s collaborations with his friend and mentor Bill Reid have illuminated the Haida master sculptor’s work, and his three magisterial books on Haida oral literature, which have been compared to The Iliad in their significance, bring a remarkable BC indigenous literary tradition to the attention of a wide audience. It is impossible to imagine a more worthy recipient of this year’s Lieutenant Governor’s Award for Literary Excellence.

Born in Los Angeles in 1946, Robert Bringhurst was brought to Canada at the age of five, raised largely in Alberta, and has lived and worked in British Columbia since 1973. He currently lives near Heriot Bay on Quadra Island.

The Lieutenant Governor’s Award for Literary Excellence was first conceived of in the Spring of 2002. Led by the late Carol Shields, a group of respected British Columbia writers met with the Honourable Iona Campagnolo to initiate a special Provincial Literary Arts Award. Inspired by Ms. Shields, this meeting resulted in the establishment of the Lieutenant Governor’s Award for Literary Excellence. The award recognizes a writer who has contributed significantly to the development of literary excellence in British Columbia, and who has written a substantial body of literary work throughout his/her career. The recipient receives a cash award of $5,000 and a commemorative certificate.

The Honourable Iona Campagnolo will present the award to Robert Bringhurst at the Lieutenant Governor’s BC Book Prize Gala, to be held on Saturday, April 30, at the Renaissance Hotel Vancouver Harbourside.