Musgrave gets Woodcock Award
March 26th, 2023
Nominated for three Governor General’s Awards, Susan Musgrave’s witty, observant and insightful work has received much recognition including the $20,000 Matt Cohen Award from the Writers Trust in 2014.
Now she can add the George Woodcock Award for Outstanding Literary Achievement in British Columbia to her list.
Susan Musgrave will officially receive the George Woodcock Award on Tuesday May 9 at the Vancouver Public Library, 350 West Georgia Street in Vancouver, along with the recipient of the George Ryga Award for Social Awareness in Literature won by Alan Twigg for his book Out of Hiding: Holocaust Literature of British Columbia (Ronsdale $24.95). This event is open to the public.
Also of note, Musgrave made the 2023 shortlist of five poets for the prestigious Griffin Poetry Prize, worth $130,000 for the winner and $10,000 for the shortlisted finalists. The winner will be announced at the Griffin Poetry Prize Readings on Wednesday, June 7.
Known primarily as a poet, the prolific Musgrave has also penned at least four novels, four books of non-fiction, eight children’s books and a chapbook, and she has edited more than a dozen other books. In addition, Musgrave writes essays and has frequently been published in magazines and newspapers.
Here is a sampling of the books for which Musgrave has been nominated for awards in the past: The Charcoal Burners was a finalist in the Seal First Novel Competition and was shortlisted for a Governor General’s Award; Things That Keep and Do Not Change was included on The Globe and Mail’s Best 100 Books of the Year List for 1999 and made her a finalist for the Dorothy Livesay Poetry Prize in 2000; A Man To Marry, A Man to Bury was shortlisted for a Governor General’s Award; Grave-Dirt and Selected Strawberries was shortlisted for a Governor General’s Award; Great Musgrave was shortlisted for the 1990 Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour; and Nerves out Loud was shortlisted for the Norman Fleck Award.
Musgrave’s brilliant and amusing personal essays in You’re in Canada Now… are also irresistibly thoughtful. “In our culture, these days, there is no core, no authenticity to our lives,” she wrote. “We have become dangerously preoccupied with safety; have dedicated ourselves to ease. We live without risk, hence without adventure, without discovery of ourselves or others. The moral measure of man is: for what will he risk all, risk his life?”
Musgrave has contributed to the writing community at large by serving on dozens of writing juries; and she has performed at hundreds of readings since 1975.
Although Musgrave has been less active in public in the 21st century, her remarkable range and expertise as a poet, editor, novelist, critic, essayist and humorist endures. Long time literary writer, Alan Twigg says: “Along with the experimentalist bill bissett and logging poet Peter Trower, Musgrave has been the embodiment of the maverick, unclassifiable, non-university-coddled B.C. literary tradition that is far more attuned to Haight-Ashbury than Yonge & Bloor. Like Anne Cameron was in Tahsis, Musgrave has veered away from urbanity, away from anything ‘safe’.”
Twigg adds that Musgrave’s novels “like The Charcoal Burners (1980), The Dancing Chicken (1987) and Cargo of Orchids (2000) and her noteworthy poetry collections, such as Songs of the Sea-Witch (1970), Grave-Dirt and Selected Strawberries (1973) and A Man to Marry, a Man to Bury (1979), will likely be anthologized for many years to come.”
Musgrave has increasingly made her home near Masset on Haida Gwaii where she is the guest house proprietor of the historic Copper Beech House. She continues to write and publish, and her latest collection of poetry is Exculpatory Lilies (M&S, 2022), which mourns the deaths of husband Stephen Reid in 2018 and her daughter Sophie Musgrave Reid in 2021.
Both the George Woodcock Award for Outstanding Literary Achievement in British Columbia and the George Ryga Award for Social Awareness in Literature by a BC author are sponsored by Yosef Wosk, the Writers’ Trust of Canada, the Vancouver Public Library and the Pacific BookWorld News Society.