Soon, Nova Scotia will no longer be one of the two provinces without a poetry book award. For Halifax poet Matt Robinson, this is an important step to recognize local writers.

“You can never have enough opportunities to celebrate poetry and books,” he says.

The Writers’ Federation of Nova Scotia is fundraising to create a biennial book award for Nova Scotian poetry. The award will join the Federation’s other Atlantic Book Awards, including the J.M. Abraham Atlantic Poetry Award open to Atlantic Canadian poets.

To help with the fundraising, Robinson gave away copies of his work to five people who donated to the fundraiser. The bundles included his chapbooks Against and a fist made and then un-made.

Annick MacAskill, a writer and programming and membership officer at the WFNS, had the idea when she was on the jury for another provincial book award. To support the project, MacAskill donated copies of her book, Murmurations, to help fundraise and created an information package for other authors also interested in donating. Even though MacAskill took the steps to start the project, she says she’s not the first person to think of establishing a Nova Scotian poetry book award.

“Since we announced the fundraiser, several poets in the community have reached out to share that they’ve suggested such an award in the past,” she says. “We’re very grateful to these writers for their efforts and for their support of the fundraiser we’re holding now.”

The project began with a fundraising goal of $5,000. Now, it’s raised over $4,600. Any extra donations will help grow and sustain the award, potentially increasing the initial prize. The goal is to have a biennial award with a $500 prize. But organizers would ideally like to offer more money, award it more frequently, and compensate the finalists who make the shortlist. The Federation offers four other Atlantic Book Awards annually, compensates the shortlisted finalists of those awards, and gives prizes of $2,000 or $25,000 for the Thomas Raddall Atlantic Fiction Award.  

With the success of the fundraiser, it’s likely that publishers can submit titles this fall with the same deadline as the other awards.

“This province is home to a significant number of fine poets, many of whom have won prizes and accolades across the country and abroad,” MacAskill says. “It seemed a real shame not to have a provincial award here at home to acknowledge this talent. In the end this is really about celebrating arts and culture in our province.”

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