St. Lucia-born poet Canisia Lubrin wins Writers’ Trust Rising Star award

Canisia Lubrin with her book cover

Score another major literary accomplishment for a Caribbean Canadian author. Earlier this week, Whitby poet Canisia Lubrin was one of  five young writers to earn the Writers’ Trust Rising Star award.

Vancouver playwright Anosh Irani chose the St Lucia-born writer because he considers her to be one of Canada’s top new writers. “Already a gifted poet,” Irani says, “it will be extremely rewarding for us as she turns her devastating gifts to prose. She will push us and break us in ways that will continue to let the light in.”.

The Rising Stars award is a national development program that recognizes talented authors in the early stages of their careers with a $5,000 purse and highlights their work with an endorsement from a proven, influential author. In addition to receiving one-on-one guidance, the five Rising Stars will attend a series of professional and networking events and attend a two-week self-directed writing residency at the Banff Centre for the Arts and Creativity in Alberta.

Lubrin is a writer, editor, and teacher. Her first book, a poetry collection called Voodoo Hypothesis was published three years ago. It was named a CBC Best Poetry Book and was nominated for a whack of poetry prizes.  Her second book, The Dyzgraphxst, came out a few weeks ago, just in time for the virus shutdown.

“The pandemic has thrown the world of book publishing off its axis,” she told the Caribbean Camera. “Much of the promotional work that happens for new books require people to be in close proximity: festivals, readings, panels, school visits, and that sort of thing. So, yes, getting the word out about The Dyzgraphxst, is now limited to what can be done online, in print and on radio.”

“I have been fortunate to still be offered virtual events (readings and panel discussions) through festivals here and in the Caribbean.”

Lubrin, 36, came to Canada after finishing high school in St Lucia.  She holds an MFA in creative writing from the University of Guelph and was recently the writer-in-residence at Queen’s University. In addition to her career as a writer, she teaches at Humber College and works as an editor with Buckrider Books.

She has already begun work on her next project. “I am delighted to get to work with Anosh on my novel which I started as my MFA thesis at the University of Guelph years ago. We’ve already begun our mentorship already and I am so fortunate to have his skills brought to bear on this work.”

In  receiving the Rising Star award, Lubrin joins an elite group of  prize-winning Caribbean Canadian writers. In the past three years six authors have won the top literary awards given out in Canada.  In March, Trinidadian Canadian Simone Dalton won the $10,000 Taylor Prize Emerging Author Award. Late last year Ian Williams won the $100,000 Giller Prize for his novel Reproduction. Andre Alexis has won the Writer’s Trust Prize twice (2015 and 2019), CBC’s Canada Reads and the Giller Prize for his books 15 Dogs and Days by Moonlight.  David Chaudhary won the Giller Prize for Brother, his 2017 novel about moving from Trinidad and growing up in Malvern. Dionne Brand is a much-awarded poet who last year won the Blue Metropolis Violet Prize. She has also won the $25,000 Governor Generals Award, The Trillium Award, the City of Toronto Book Award and one of the world’s richest poetry awards, the annual $65,000 Griffin Prize.

“St. Lucia is always home in a sense. I go back as often as I can afford to, not the least because so many of my family members and lifelong friends are there. I am in close contact with our small and mighty St. Lucian writers both in the diaspora and in St. Lucia: John Robert Lee, Vladimir Lucien, Jane King, Kendel Hippolyte, and others.”

“I know that a lot more needs to be invested in St. Lucian literature by governments. It is astounding how much St. Lucian writers have contributed to literature at home, in the Caribbean and in the world, even with the limited resources available.”