David
Helwig

Awards

2007 Winner

Matt Cohen Award: In Celebration of a Writing Life

Selection Committee Citation

“I first met David in 1981, when I was writing a story about Kingston writers for Books in Canada. I found him standing in a half-finished room with a hammer in his hand; he was renovating an 1840s stone house on Kingston’s Montreal Street. Since graduating from the University of Toronto in 1960 and the University of Liverpool in 1962, he had worked in television and radio, and had just left his teaching position at Queen’s University to become a full-time writer.

His first novel, Streets of Summer, appeared in 1969, when he was 31 years old, and was quickly followed by The Day Before Tomorrow (1971), The Glass Knight (1976), Jennifer (1979), and The King’s Evil (1981). Novels and short stories have continued to appear every two or three years since then.

His is also a prolific and accomplished poet: Figures in a Landscape came out in 1968, and, as with fiction, a new book of poems has appeared every three or four years. He has now published more than 20 books.

Since moving to Prince Edward Island in 1996, the pace hasn’t slackened a bit. His trilogy of novellas — The Stand-In (2002), Duet (2004), and Smuggling Donkeys (2007) — is among his finest work. His most recent book of poems, The Year One, which came out in 2004 and is both a memoir and a quietly intense look at the present, won the Atlantic Poetry Prize for that year. The cover of his recent memoir The Names of Things shows David standing in the middle of an unfinished room with a hammer in his hand — just as I remember him.

In 2007, David was named Poet Laureate of Prince Edward Island.”
— Wayne Grady on behalf of the 2007 Matt Cohen Award Committee (Patsy Aldana, Graeme Gibson, and Wayne Grady)