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Interviews, Recommendations, and More

The Chat with 2022 Governor General's Award Winner Annick MacAskill


Halifax writer Annick MacAskill has won this year’s Governor General’s Literary Award for poetry for her collection Shadow Blight (Gaspereau Press).

The 2022 peer assessment committee says,

"MacAskill brings the mythological Niobe back from the contempt of history to play the role of emissary. It is a book about how mothers become what they love, as well as a survival story: how not to turn to stone. The stolen child haunts the lines, a deep defiance burdened by hope. This rare achievement combines formal poetic mastery with honesty and vulnerability."

Annick MacAskill is the author of No Meeting Without Body (Gaspereau Press, 2018), which was nominated for the Gerald Lampert Memorial Award and shortlisted for the J.M. Abraham Award, Murmurations (Gaspereau Press, 2020), and Shadow Blight (Gaspereau Press, 2022), winner of the Governor General's Award for Poetry. Her poems have appeared in journals and magazines across Canada and abroad and in the Best Canadian Poetry anthology series. She lives in Halifax, Nova Scotia. 



Imagine you could spend a day with any author, living or dead. Who would you choose, what would you do, and what would you learn?

I would like to hang out with Sappho on Lesbos, so that I might hear her sing. I’d love to witness her process of composition, which, from what I understand, likely involved a lot of improvisation.
What advice would you give your ten-year-old self about the future?
There’s no shame in spending recess with your nose in a book.
Shadow Blight is your third full-length collection of poetry. How does it feel to be recognized by your peers with the Governor General’s Award at this point in your career?
It’s wonderful. I’m incredibly grateful for this acknowledgement of my poetry, and this book, which was so difficult to write, in particular. I don’t take it lightly. And one of the nicest things about the process was being shortlisted alongside poets I admire—David Bradford, Anne Carson, Aaron Kreuter, and Avery Lake.
In an alternate version of the world, who would you be if you weren’t a poet?
Well, in terms of how I spend my time, I’m mostly an instructor these days. I like learning and teaching languages, as well as translation, which is its own kind of poetry. So, something in that (this) realm.
What was the last book by a Canadian author that changed you in some way?
Of course there are so many I could list! But Suzette Mayr’s incredible novel, The Sleeping Car Porter, comes to mind. Besides being a simply beautiful work of fiction, it shares a story of queer life in the early twentieth century. A true balm.
Excerpt from Shadow Blight

On the invention of the seasons

You can’t blame that part on the heavens &/or hell

For Hades hath no such fury

Nor Jove

But a woman can do anything in her pain

If she had to lose so the world would lose

First she tore at her hair

She beat her breast

Then she turned her rage to the black soil itself

& to the sheep like tufts of cloud

& the Sicilian shepherds w/ their felt caps 

They say she broke the plows w/ her own hands

That in her sorrow the mother became the blight

Reprinted with permission of the publisher

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