In the Poetry category, Harrison was honoured for On Not Losing My Father’s Ashes in the Flood (Wolsak and Wynn Publishers). The Governor General’s Literary Awards peer assessment committee stated, “In these moving poems about the father/son relationship set against the Alberta flood of 2013, Richard Harrison’s intimate yet open voice deftly explores subjects as wide-ranging as childhood, middle-age anxiety, dementia and loss with wonder, humour and resilience.”
The day of his win, Harrison said, “I’m delighted by it, buoyed up and humbled. All day I’ve felt like I’m six and 60 at the same time. Many of my poetry mentors were Governor-General Award winners. From what I think of now as the start of my writing life 40 years ago, the GG was the Prize in front of me. It established, in both its nominee lists and its winners, a community I wanted to be part of.”
Harrison also happily noted that he has “gotten many messages from people who already knew this book intimately, and took the opportunity to talk with me about its meaning to them in detail. And there are people I haven’t heard from in decades writing to me, to look back with me on what I’d written or they’d learned in my classes. And that may be one of this award’s greatest gifts.”
Harrison tips his hat to Concordia for helping him on his way.
“I think of the benefits of both the literary critical classes I took that helped me think better about writing, and of learning how to write better in the creative writing classes I had with poets like Mary di Michele and Gary Geddes,” he said. “I studied with Terence Byrnes [MA 80], as well as with Irving Layton [LLD 76] in his last class before his retirement. Many of my fellow students, who refined their craft at Concordia workshops, have since gone on to do great work themselves. Concordia was part of Montreal’s literary life.”