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William New

William New 2013

william_newThe quietly remarkable scholar and poet William New, easily one of the most prolific writers of British Columbia, has been selected to become the twentieth recipient of the annual George Woodcock Lifetime Achievement Award for an outstanding literary career in B.C.

Co-sponsored by the Writers Trust of Canada and Yosef Wosk, the province’s most prestigious literary honour will be presented at the Vancouver Public Library in conjunction with the Mayor’s office of Vancouver, in late June. The winner receives $5,000 and has a plaque added in his honour to the library’s ‘Walk of Fame’ that includes writers such as W.P. Kinsella, Alice Munro, Jane Rule, David Suzuki and Eric Nicol.

In 2012, the Vancouver-born critic and editor also known as W.H. New and Bill New won both the Mayor’s Award for Literary Arts in Vancouver and the City of Vancouver Book Award for his poetry collection, YVR. He was appointed to the Order of Canada in 2006.

Born in Vancouver on March 28, 1938, William Herbert New has written and edited more than 50 books. He enrolled at the University of British Columbia in 1956 and received degrees from UBC in English and Geography (B.Ed. 1961, M.A. 1963), followed by a doctorate from the University of Leeds in 1966. He taught English at UBC from 1965 to 2003, specializing in the English literatures of the Commonwealth.

In 1966, William New became assistant editor of the review publication Canadian Literature, working with George Woodcock and Donald Stephens to produce the seminal critical journal on the emergence of CanLit. He subsequently edited Canadian Literature from 1977 to 1995—17 years—almost as long as his predecessor and friend, George Woodcock, who was the inaugural editor for 18 years.

As critic and editor, New has been an enduring and nurturing presence. In one year, he edited the Encyclopedia of Literature in Canada, released his fourth poetry collection and his second collection of rhyming verse for children, plus a book-length essay on irony in Commonwealth literature, Grandchild of Empire. He has lectured and taught in Australia, India, Italy, China, France and the United States, and held the Brenda & David MacLean Chair in Canadian Studies at UBC. New has also been influential on the advisory board for the New Canadian Library series.

In recent years New has increasingly turned his hand to both adult poetry and whimsical children’s books. Written for ages 8-to-12, his middle school novel The Year I was Grounded is a playful facsimile of a one-year journal kept by a reluctant diarist who learns to enjoy his own introspectiveness. A new book for pre-teen readers, Sam Swallow and the Riddleworld League, will appear this year. In his award-winning tenth poetry collection YVR, New finds subtle and distinctive signs of Vancouver’s past in every neighborhood he visits, from the Blueboy Hotel in South Vancouver to CRAB Park on the waterfront to the two-note warnings of Point Atkinson lighthouse in West Vancouver.


Malcolm Lowry (M&S 1971)
Four Hemispheres (Copp Clark 1971) – editor
Voice and Vision (M&S 1972) – editor, with Jack Hodgins
Dramatists in Canada (UBC Press 1972) – editor
Articulating West (New Press 1972)
Among Worlds: An Introduction to Modern Commonwealth and South African Fiction (Press Porcepic 1975)
Critical Writings on Commonwealth Literatures: A Bibliography (Pennsylvania State University Press 1975) – editor
Modern Stories in English (Copp Clark 1975, 1986, 1991) – editor with H.J. Rosengarten
Modern Canadian Essays (Macmillan 1976) – editor
Margaret Laurence: The Writer and Her Critics (McGraw Hill Ryerson 1977) – editor
Malcolm Lowry: A Reference Guide (Boston: G.K. Hall 1978)
A Political Art: Essays and Images in Honour of George Woodcock (UBC Press 1978) – editor
Active Voice (Prentice-Hall 1980, 1986, 1991) – editor with W.E. Messenger
The Active Stylist (Prentice-Hall 1981) – editor with W.E. Messenger
A 20th Century Anthology (Prentice-Hall 1984) – editor
Canadian Writers in 1984 (UBC Press 1984) – editor
Canadian Short Fiction (Prentice-Hall 1986, 1997) – editor
Canadian Writers Since 1960 (Detroit: Bruccoli-Clark-Gale 1986) – editor
Canadian Writers Since 1960, 2nd series (B-C-G 1987) – editor
Canadian Writers 1920-1959 (B-C-G 1988) – editor
Canadian Writers 1920-1959, 2nd series (B-C-G 1989) – editor
A History of Canadian Literature (Macmillan 1989). Also published as Jia Na Da Wen Xue Shi (Beijing: People’s Literature Publishing House 1994; translated by Wu Chizhe, Wang Qingxiang and Huang Zhigang
Native Writers and Canadian Writing (UBC Press 1990) – editor
Canadian Writers Before 1890 (B-C-G 1990) – editor
Canadian Writers 1890-1920 (B-C-G 1990) – editor
Inside the Poem (Toronto: Oxford University Press 1992) – editor
Literature in English (Prentice-Hall 1993) – editor with W.E. Messenger
Science Lessons: Poems (Oolichan 1996) – poetry
Land Sliding: Imaging Space, Presence & Power in Canadian Writing (UTP 1997)
Literary History of Canada Vol. 4 (UTP 1990) – editor
Jianada wenhua mianmian guan, bing Lunqi yu meiguo wenhua de qubie (How Canadian Culture Differs from American Culture (Hohehot: University of Inner Mongolia 1997)
Borderlands: How We Talk About Canada (UBC Press 1998)
Vanilla Gorilla (Ronsdale 1998) – children’s poetry, illustrated by Vivian Bevis
Reading Mansfield and Metaphors of Form (McGill-Queen’s 1999)
Raucous: Poems (Oolichan 1999) – poetry
Encyclopedia of Literature in Canada (UTP, 2002) – editor
Riverbook and Ocean (Oolichan, 2002) – poetry
Llamas in the Laundry. (Ronsdale, 2002 $12.95) – children’s poetry, illustrated by Vivian Bevis. 0-921870-97-3
Grandchild of Empire. (Ronsdale, 2003)
A History of Canadian Literature. 2nd ed. (McGill-Queen’s, 2003) – editor
Night Room (Oolichan, 2003) – poetry
Underwood Log (Oolichan, 2004) – poetry
Dream Helmet (Ronsdale, 2005) – children’s poetry, illustrated by Vivian Bevis.
Touching Ecuador (Oolichan, 2006) – poetry
Along a Snake Fence Riding (Oolichan, 2007) – poetry
Tropes and Territories (McGill-Queen’s, 2007) – co-edited, with Marta Dvorak
The Year I was Grounded (Tradewind 2008)
The Rope-Maker’s Tale (Oolichan, 2009)
YVR (Fernie: Oolichan, 2011) – poetry
Sam Swallow and the Riddleworld League (Tradewind, 2013)


Gabrielle Roy Prize, 1989.
Jacob Biely Research Prize, 1994.
McLean Chair in Canadian Studies, 1995-6
Killam Teaching Prize, 1996.
Reading Mansfield & Metaphors of Form; shortlisted for Klibansky Prize.
Association of Canadian Studies Award of Merit, 2000.
CUFA (BC) Career Achievement Award, 2001
Killam Professor, 2001
Governor General’s International Award in Canadian Studies, 2004
Lorne Pierce Medal for his contributions to imaginative and critical literature
Shortlisted, Governor General’s Literary Award for Poetry, 2005.
Order of Canada, 2006.
Mayor’s Award for Literary Arts, 2012
City of Vancouver Book Award, 2012
George Woodcock Lifetime Achievement Award, 2013