Barry Dempster

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Barry Edward Dempster (born 17 January 1952) is a Canadian poet, novelist,and editor.

Barry Dempster was born in Toronto, Ontario, and educated in child psychology. He is the author of a novel, a children's book, two volumes of short stories and fourteen collections of poetry. He has been nominated for the Governor General's Award for literature twice, for his first book, Fables for Isolated Men (Guernica), and most recently for The Burning Alphabet (Brick Books) which won the Canadian Authors Association Chalmers Award for poetry. In 2010 he was a finalist for the Ontario Premier's Award of Excellence in the Arts. From 1990 to 1997, he was Poetry and Reviews Editor for Poetry Canada. He is the senior acquisitions editor with Brick Books, where he has discovered and edited many of Canada's finest emerging poets and many of Canada's best poets. He has been on the faculty at The Banff Centre as mentor for the Writing Studio, Wired Writing and Writing with Styles programs and has been the Writer-in-Residence at the Richmond Hill Public Library twice. A new novel "The Outside World" will be published in December 2013.

Dempster's prose was first noticed by renowned editor and writer, John Metcalf, for his anthology Third Impressions (Oberon Press) in which Metcalf showcased three promising young authors. A contract from Oberon Press soon followed for the publication of two collections of highly praised short stories. Quarry Press came forward with an offer to publish his first novel, The Ascension of Jesse Rapture, which also received excellent reviews.

Dempster's editing career began as one of the founding editors of Poetry Canada Review which quickly became one of Canada's most esteemed literary magazines. For over 10 years, he was the mainstay of the publication in the role of Reviews Editor and then Poetry and Reviews Editor, as it changed ownership and staff. During this time, Dempster became known for his helpful, supportive letters to submitting writers, his astute book reviews and his "New Voice" discoveries of some of Canada's finest poets.

In 1999, he was invited by poet and founder, Don McKay, to join the prestigious Brick Books as an Editor. Since then, he has edited 18 books, two of which garnered a Griffin Prize nomination and win, a Governor General's Award, and another which won the 2005 Trillium Book Award. In addition to working with upcoming and established authors, Dempster is the Senior Acquisitions Editor for Brick. Equally comfortable with poetry and prose, Dempster also has extensive experience as a creative writing instructor, having run hundreds of workshops in Ontario elementary schools and high schools, stints at the Upper Canada Writers' Workshop in Kingston, Ontario, the Banff Centre for the Arts, Sage Hill Saskatchewan, master classes in Santiago, Chile; Mahone Bay, Nova Scotia; Ottawa; Winnipeg; Hamilton; and Victoria, and as writer in residence at the Richmond Hill Public Library. Dempster currently lives in York Region where he runs a very popular film series "Southlake Cinemania," which has raised funds to support literacy through the arts.

Two of his collections, Fables For Isolated Men (1982) and The Burning Alphabet (2005), were nominated for Governor General's Awards. The Burning Alphabet (2005) won the Canadian Authors Association Jack Chalmers Poetry Award in 2006.



  • Fables For Isolated Men – (poetry)Guernica, 1982 (nominated for a Governor General's Award)
  • Globe Doubts – 1983
  • Positions to Pray In – 1989
  • The Unavoidable Man – 1990
  • The Ascension of Jesse Rapture – 1993
  • Fire and Brimstone – 1997
  • The Salvation of Desire – 2000
  • The Words Wanting Out: Selected and New Poems – 2003
  • The Burning Alphabet – 2005 (winner of the 2006 Canadian Authors Association Jack Chalmers Poetry Award and nominated for a Governor General's Award)
  • Love Outlandish – (poetry), Brick Books,2009
  • Ivan's Birches – (poetry) Pedlar Press, 2009
  • Blue Wherever – 2010[1]
  • Dying a Little (poetry), Wolsak and Wynn 2011
  • Invisible Dogs (poetry), Brick Books, London, Ontario 2013


  • Real Places and Imaginary Men (short stories, 174 pages).Oberon Press, Ottawa
  • 1984 Writing Home(short stories, 191 pages).Oberon Press, Ottawa
  • 1989 The Ascension of Jesse Rapture (novel, 258 pages).Quarry Press, Kingston 1993
  • The Outside World (novel) Pedlar Press, December 2013

Children's Books

  • David and the Daydreams (children's fiction, 143 pages).Guernica Editions, Montreal 1985


  • Tributaries: Writer to Writer (poetry).Mosaic Press, Oakville
  • 1980: Best Canadian Stories (short stories).Oberon Press, 1980
  • Third Impressions (short stories).Oberon Press 1982
  • Canadian Poetry Now:20 Poets of the 80s (poetry).Anansi, 1984
  • And Other Travels (poetry).Moonstone Press, 1988
  • Christian Poetry in Canada (poetry).ECW Press, 1989
  • More Garden Varieties Two (poetry).The Mercury Press, 1990
  • The Oberon Reader (short stories).HarperCollins, 1991
  • Vintage 95 (poetry).Quarry Press, 1996
  • We All Begin in a Little Magazine, Arc and the Promise of Canada's Poets 1978–1998 (poetry).Carleton/Arc,
  • 1998 A Matter of Spirit, Recovery of the Sacred in Contemporary Canadian Poetry (poetry).Ekstasis Editions, 1998
  • Literatura na swiecie Canada (poetry). Poland
  • I Want to Be the Poet of Your Kneecaps, Poems of Quirky Romance(poetry).Black Moss Press, 1999
  • New Life in Dark Seas:Brick Books 25 (poetry).Brick Books, 2000
  • Henry's Creature, Poems and Stories on the automobile (poetry).Black Moss Press, 2000
  • Why I Sing the Blues, Lyrics and Poems (poetry).Smoking Lung Press, 2001
  • Smaller Than God, Words of Spiritual Longing (poetry).Black Moss Press, 2001
  • Best Canadian Poetry in English (poetry). Tightrope Books, 2008
  • How the Light Gets In…Anthology of Poetry from Canada (poetry). University College, Dublin, 2009
  • Best Canadian Poetry in English (poetry), Tightrope Books, 2009
  • A Verdant Green (poetry), The Battered Silicon Dispatch Box, 2010
  • Best Canadian Poetry in English (poetry) (fall 2010), Tightrope Books, 2010
  • Best Canadian Poetry in English (poetry)(fall 2011), Tightrope Books, 2011


  • Governor General's Award for Poetry, Shortlist, 1982
  • League of Canadian Poets National Poetry Contest, Honorable Mention, 1990
  • Confederation Poets Prize, Honorable Mention, 1994
  • Confederation Poets Prize, Winner, 1995
  • League of Canadian Poets National Poetry Contest, Honorable Mention, 1995
  • Scarborough Bi-Centennial Award of Merit, 1996
  • Canadian Literary Awards, Finalist, 2002
  • The National Magazine Awards, Shortlist, 2002
  • Petra Kenney Poetry Competition, England, 2nd Prize, 2002
  • Governor General's Award for Poetry, Shortlist, 2005
  • Canadian Authors Association Jack Chalmers Award for Poetry, 2006
  • Prairie Fire Poetry Contest, 3rd Prize, 2009
  • Ontario Premiere's Award for Excellence in the Arts finalist, 2010
  • Trillium Book Award finalist,for novel "The Outside World", 2014
  • Ontario Premiere's Award for Excellence second time finalist, 2015