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About the Award

The Matt Cohen Award recognizes a lifetime of distinguished work by a Canadian writer working in poetry or prose in either French or English. The prize was established in celebration of the life of Matt Cohen, a founding member of the Writers’ Union of Canada.

2020 Winner


Selection Committee Citation

“Dennis Lee is synonymous with Canadian literature. In 1967 he co-founded House of Anansi Press, and that year published his first book of poetry, Kingdom of Absence. Civil Elegies and Other Poems won the Governor General’s Literary Award in 1972, and he has since published 15 books of poems; was Toronto’s first poet laureate; and received the City of Toronto’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 1995. Lee has also written 28 books of children’s poems, including the iconic Alligator Pie, inspiring three generations of readers with a heightened awareness of rhythm and language. A poet who wrote that he took his vocation ‘to consist of listening into cadence with enough life concentration that it can become words,’ Lee was one of the first Canadian poets to lament our increasing separation from nature, and the dominance of American values in Canadian culture. Poet, editor, and essayist, Lee defines and honours every genre he enters.”

— 2020 Matt Cohen Award Jury (Patsy Aldana, Anita Rau Badami, and Wayne Grady)

Author Page
“Winning the Matt Cohen Award is a really significant and profoundly touching life-changing honour, and I thank you incredibly much.”

— Richard Wagamese

2015 Matt Cohen Award winner

About Matt Cohen

A founding member of the Writers’ Union of Canada, Mr. Cohen was a celebrated and prolific writer who died in 1999 at the age of 56. This prize was established in his name by a group of anonymous donors.


Lorraine Greey

The Writers’ Trust thanks David and Marla Lehberg for their longstanding support of this prize.