George McWhirter

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George McWhirter
George McWhirter June 2009.jpg
BornSeptember 26, 1939
Belfast, Northern Ireland

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.[1] 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.[2] 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.[3] His first book of poetry, Catalan Poems, was a joint winner of the first Commonwealth Poetry Prize with Chinua Achebe's Beware, Soul Brother.[4] 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.



  • Catalan Poems (1971, winner of the 1972 Commonwealth Poetry Prize, shared with Chinua Achebe)
  • Queen of the Sea (1976)
  • Twenty-Five (1978)
  • The Island Man (1981)
  • Fire before Dark (1983)
  • A Staircase for All Souls (1996)
  • Incubus: The Dark Side of the Light (1997)
  • The Book of Contradictions (2002)
  • The Incorrection (2007, finalist for the Dorothy Livesay Poetry Prize)
  • The Anachronicles (2008)


  • Bodyworks (1974)
  • God's Eye (1981)
  • Coming to Grips with Lucy (1982)
  • A Bad Day to Be Winning (1984)
  • Paula Lake (1985)
  • Cage (1987, winner of the Ethel Wilson Fiction Prize)
  • The Listeners (1991)
  • Musical Dogs (1996)
  • A Gift of Women (2014)

Anthologies edited[edit]

  • Contemporary Poetry of British Columbia (1970, with J. Michael Yates and Andreas Schroeder)
  • Words From Inside: Prison Arts Foundation (1974, 1975)
  • Where Words Like Monarchs Fly: A Cross-generational Anthology of Mexican Poets in Translation (1998)
  • A Verse Map of Vancouver (2009)

Selected poems edited and translations[edit]

  • Jose Emilio Pacheco: Selected Poems (1987, winner of the F.R. Scott Prize for Translation)
  • Eyes to See Otherwise/Ojos de Otro by Homero Aridjis (2001, 2002, with Betty Aridjis)
  • Solar Poems/Poemas Solares by Homero Aridjis (City Lights, San Francisco, 2010)
  • Tiempo de angeles/Time of Angels by Homero Ardjis, Contributions by Francisco Toledo (City Lights, San Francisco, 2012)
  • The Selected Poetry of Gabriel Zaid (Paul Dry Books, Philadelphia, 2014)

In Anthology[edit]

  • New Generation Poetry (Ann Arbor Review Book, 1971)
  • Soundings '72 (Blackstaff Press, 1972)
  • The Wearing of the Black An Anthology of Contemporary Ulster Poetry (Blackstaff Press, 1974)
  • The Penguin Book of Canadian Verse (Penguin Books, 1975)
  • New: West Coast: 72 Contemporary BC Poets (Intermedia,1977)
  • The Poets of Canada (Hurtig,1978)
  • Ilusion Two: fables, fantasies and metafictions (Aya Press,1983)
  • Shoes and Shit: STORIES FOR PEDESTRIANS (Aya Press, 1984)
  • Vancouver Soul of a City (Douglas & McIntyre, 1986)
  • Moving Off the Map: from "story" to "fiction" (Black Moss Press,1986)
  • The Blackstaff book of Short Stories (Blackstaff Press, 1988)
  • Compañeros: An Anthology of Writings about Latin America (Cormorant Books,1990)
  • The Second Book of Blackstaff Short Stories (Blackstaff Press, 1991)
  • Best Canadian Stories (Oberon Press, 1991)
  • Witness to Wilderness: The Clayoquot Sound Anthology (Arsenal Pulp Press, 1994)
  • Thru the Smoky End Boards: Canadian Poetry About Sports & Games (Polestar, 1996)
  • Irish Writing in the Twentieth Century (Cork University Press, 2000)
  • When I Was a Child:Stories for Grown-ups and Children (Oberon Press, 2003)
  • THE BLACKBIRD'S NEST An Anthology of Poetry from Queen's University Belfast (Blackstaff Press, 2003)
  • In Fine Form The Canadian Book of Form Poetry (Polestar, 2005)
  • LONG JOURNEY Contemporary Northwest Poets (OSU Press, 2006)
  • JAILBREAKS: 99 Canadian Sonnets (Biblioasis, 2008)
  • ROCKSALT: An Anthology of Contemporary BC Poetry (Mother Tongue Press, 2008)
  • How the Light Gets in ... Anthology of Poetry from Canada (Waterford Institute of Technology, Ireland, 2009)
  • The Stony Thursday Book: A Collection of Contemporary Poetry (Limerick, Ireland, 2010)
  • Making Waves: Reading BC and Pacific Northwest Literature (Anvil Press,2010)
  • CVC Carter V. Cooper Short Fiction Anthology Series Book Three (EXILE editions,2013)
  • Naked in Academe: Celebrating Fifty Years of Creative Writing at UBC (McClelland & Stewart,2014)
  • CLI FI:Canadian Tales of Climate Change (EXILE editions, 2017)
  • Legions of the Sun: Poems of the Great War edited with an introduction by JOSEPH HUTCHISON (Harmony Hill Press, 2018)
  • Ghost Fishing: An Eco-Justice Poetry Anthology (University of Georgia Press, 2018)

See also[edit]

  • The Canadian Who's Who
  • The Oxford Companion to Canadian Literature 1997
  • The Concise Oxford Companion to Canadian Literature 2001


  1. ^ Brian Edwards, Daddy was a German Spy and other scandals (2008) 271 –276
  2. ^ Henri Cole, Interview with Seamus Heaney: "The Art of Poetry LXXV" The Paris Review 144 (Fall 1997): 92
  3. ^ George Woodcock, "The Magic of the Ordinary: Various Fictions of George McWhirter", Canadian Fiction Magazine 89 (1994) 39 - 53
  4. ^ Under Another Sky: The Commonwealth Poetry Anthology ed. Alastair Niven (1987)12-13, 22-24

External links[edit]