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25th Annual Hamilton Literary Awards: Poetry Finalists
Stephen Near

This is the first in a four part blog series showcasing the finalists of this year's 25th Annual Hamilton Literary Awards. Find out which authors will take home the prizes by attending the gala celebration on Dec. 10, 2018 at Theatre Aquarius.

Hamilton is a city that abounds in poets, and this year's finalists speak to the diversity of the poetry being written in our city. From the struggles of mental illness, to a playful and provocative exploration of language, to the ghostly voices of Dundurn Castle, these books move from the conversational to the surreal and blur the boundaries between genres.

In No TV for Woodpeckers celebrated Hamilton author Gary Barwin straddles and crosses the lines between haunting and hilarious, wondrous and weird, beautiful and beastly in a unique new collection of poems. Through the realities conjured in these poetic lines, Barwin explores the connection between bodies, language, culture, and the environment all while being both philosophical and hilarious. Gary Barwin is a Canadian poet, writer, composer, multimedia artist, performer and educator. His novel Yiddish for Pirates won the 2017 Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour, the Canadian Jewish Literary Award (Fiction), and was shortlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize and the Governor General's Award for English-language fiction.

Dysphoria by Shane Neilson is a heart-rending and deeply affecting commentary on the pain and anxiety of mental illness as well as the negotiation between a doctor, their patient, and an outside observer. Dysphoria follows Neilson’s previous collections of poetry; Complete Physical and On Shaving Off His Face, and in his own words it "throws acid from half-glasses but drinks some first to be fair." Shane Neilson is a poet and physician who, in addition to several collections of poetry, has published in the genres of memoir, short fiction, biography and literary criticism. 

In Elizabeth Tessier’s The Words They Cannot Say, the poet took inspiration from the city’s heritage sites and museums. In words that are inviting and beautiful, Tessier conjures the stories of all those ghosts at Hamilton’s Dundurn Castle that she says have been her muse for years now.Inviting readers into the lives and voices of both well known and mysterious figures form the past, Tessier allows readers to eavesdrop on a time far removed yet altogether close to Hamiltonians. Tessier has previously been published in the Hamilton Arts & Letters and Thema and lives in Hamilton where she has worked in the city’s civic museums for thirty years.

This year's Award for Poetry is sponsored by:

Next: the finalists for Non-Fiction