George McWhirter (born September 26, 1939 in Belfast, Northern Ireland) is a Northern Irish-Canadian writer, translator, editor, teacher and Vancouver’s first Poet Laureate.
The son of a shipyard worker, George McWhirter was raised in a large extended family on the Shankill Road in Belfast. He and his extended family spent the war years and then weekends and the summers at their seaside bungalow in Carnalea, now a suburb of Bangor, County Down. In 1957 he began a “combined scholarship” studying English and Spanish at Queen’s University, Belfast, and education at Stranmillis College, Belfast. His tutor at Queen’s was the poet Laurence Lerner, and he was a classmate with the future literary critic Robert Dunbar and the poets Seamus Heaney and Seamus Deane. After graduating, McWhirter taught in Kilkeel and Bangor, County Down, Northern Ireland, and in Barcelona, Spain, before moving to Port Alberni, B.C. Canada. After receiving his M.A. from the University of British Columbia (UBC), where he studied under Michael Bullock and J. Michael Yates, he stayed on to become a Full Professor in 1982 and Head of the Creative Writing Department from 1983 to 1993. He retired as a Professor Emeritus in 2005. He was associated with PRISM international magazine from 1968 to 2005. McWhirter is the author and editor of numerous books and the recipient of many awards. His first book of poetry, Catalan Poems, was a joint winner of the first Commonwealth Poetry Prize with Chinua Achebe’s Beware, Soul Brother. He was made a life member of the League of Canadian Poets in 2005 and is also a member of the Writers’ Union of Canada and PEN International. In March 2007, he was named Vancouver’s inaugural Poet Laureate for a two-year term. He currently writes full–time and lives in Vancouver with his wife. They have two children and three grandchildren.