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R.I.P. Barry McKinnon (1944 – 2023)

November 14th, 2023

Prince George poet and publisher, Barry McKinnon died on October 30. His collection, Pulplog (Caitlin, 1991) won the 1992 Dorothy Livesay Poetry Prize, and his preceding book, The the (Coach House Press, 1980) was shortlisted for a Governor-General’s Award in 1981.

Some of McKinnon’s most recent published titles are The Centre: Poems 1970-2000 (Talonbooks, 2004); the thirteen-part collection of his poetry drawn from a ten-year period, In the Millennium (New Star, 2009); and Gone South (Above/Ground Press, 2012).

Born in Calgary in 1944, McKinnon earned his BA from Sir George Williams University in Montreal (where he studied with Irving Layton) and his MA from the University of British Columbia. A position as a founding faculty member of the newly-opened College of New Caledonia took him to Prince George in 1969, leaving Vancouver where he had become a veteran of the poetry scene.

McKinnon also operated Gorse Press (that published Victoria Walker’s Suitcase, winner of the Livesay Prize for poetry in 1990), and brought acclaimed Canadian writers such as Margaret Atwood, Michael Ondaatje and Al Purdy to Prince George for reading events. Over the years he amassed a sizeable archive of what he called “really good smelling” small press items such old issues of Tish magazine and gestetnered books.

A lover of chapbooks, McKinnon won the bpNichol Chapbook Best Poetry Award for his title Arrythmia in 1994. His chapbook Surety Disappears was the runner-up for the bp Nichol Award in 2008.

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