Latner Writers' Trust Poetry Prize

Winner: $25,000
Sponsored by Latner Family Foundation

2017 Winner

Louise Bernice Halfe

Louise Bernice Halfe


Jury Citation

In the works of Louise Bernice Halfe, we are in the presence of an extraordinary storyteller, okihcihtâw-iskwew (a warrior woman): one whose voice emerges from profound solitude, and simultaneously opens to a vast polyphony of voices. Halfe’s poems are highly attuned to speech, silence, and stillness; to breath, to incantation; creating a taut, resonant relationship between the page and the reader. She leaves no experience unturned:  her own life, the violence experienced by Indigenous women, and the painful legacy of the residential school system.

Halfe’s poetics refuse the hierarchies of colonial literary critique, instead affirming the equality of the contemporary, the ancestral, and the mythological; holding a multiplicity of cosmologies and quotidian realities as relevant and urgent. In so doing she will not allow any of us to read Indigenous narrative as an elegy. She resists the lyric as a strategy for making experience, and especially the process of Truth and Reconciliation, forgiving and safe, requiring instead a vigorous accountability. Halfe reminds us not only of the consciousnesses that want to be heard, but that listen back; that listen to our listening.

Her work cannot be assimilated in the canon of contemporary Canadian literature; instead, it must be ingested, transforming our collective literature on a cellular level, reimagining our identities, languages, and memories as denizens of Turtle Island.

– Jurors Alice Burdick, Soraya Peerbaye, and Gregory Scofield


Sohkeyihta: The Poetry of Sky Dancer Louise Bernice Halfe (forthcoming, 2018)
Burning in this Midnight Dream (2016) 
The Crooked Good (2007) 
Blue Marrow (2004) 
Bear Bones & Feathers (1994) 

Louise Bernice Halfe books

About the Author

Louise Bernice Halfe was born in Two Hills, Alberta. Her Cree name is Sky Dancer. She was raised on the Saddle Lake Indian Reserve and attended Blue Quills Residential School.  

Halfe’s first published poetry appeared in Writing the Circle: Women of Western Canada. She has since published four collections. Bear Bones & Feathers was published in 1994. It received the Canadian People’s Poet Award and was a finalist for the Spirit of Saskatchewan Award. Blue Marrow was published in 1998 and was a finalist for the Governor General’s Award for Poetry, Pat Lowther Award, and Saskatchewan Book of the Year Award. The Crooked Good was published in 2007.

Her most recent collection, Burning in this Midnight Dream, was published last year and details Halfe’s personal response to the Truth and Reconciliation process and how the experiences of residential school children continue to haunt those who survive, and how the effects are passed down for generations. The book won three Saskatchewan Book Awards and the League of Canadian Poets Raymond Souster Award. 

Halfe has served as poet laureate of Saskatchewan and is widely recognized for weaving Cree language and teachings into her works. She was recently honored at the Indigenous Writers’ Gathering for her lifetime achievement. A collection of Halfe’s work, Sohkeyihta, containing poems written across the expanse of her career, will be published by Wilfrid Laurier Press next spring.

Halfe has a Bachelor of Social Work, and received a Honoorary Degree of Letters from Wilfrid Laurier University. She currently works with Elders in an organization called Opikinawasowin (“raising our children”).

Halfe lives outside of Saskatoon with her husband. 

About the Jury

Alice Burdick is the author of four poetry collections, including Book of Short Sentences, published in 2016. A collection of selected works, Deportment, is forthcoming from Wilfrid Laurier University Press next year. Her work has appeared in several anthologies and magazines and was shortlisted for the Lemonhound Poetry Prize in 2014. She is the co-owner of Lexicon Books in Lunenburg and lives in Mahone Bay, Nova Scotia.

Soraya Peerbaye has published two collections of poetry: Poems for the Advisory Committee on Antarctic Names, which was nominated for the Gerald Lampert Award in 2009; and Tell: Poems for a Girlhood, which was a finalist for the Griffin Poetry Prize in 2016. She holds an MFA in creative writing from the University of Guelph. Peerbaye lives in Toronto.

Gregory Scofield won the Latner Writers’ Trust Poetry Prize in 2016. He is the author of eight collections of poetry, including Louis, Singing Home the Bones, and Witness, I Am, published last year. A speaker of Cree, he incorporates the language into his poetry. Scofield lives in Sudbury, Ontario, where he is an assistant professor of English at Laurentian University.

About the Prize

The Latner Writers' Trust Poetry Prize is given to a mid-career poet in recognition of a remarkable body of work, and in anticipation of future contributions to Canadian poetry. Poets are judged on their body of work – no less than three published collections – rather than a single book. All Canadian poets are considered and no age restrictions apply. The winner, selected by a three-member, independent judging panel, is announced annually at the Writers’ Trust Awards.

About the Sponsor

Founded in 1972 by Albert and the late Temmy Latner, the Latner Family Foundation has been providing support to health care, education, social development, and the arts in the Greater Toronto Area.




Woodcock Fund



Shaughnessy Cohen Prize for Political Writing


September 19 for books published between June 20 and September 18, 2018


Hilary Weston Writers' Trust Prize for Nonfiction
and Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize


July 18 for books published between May 16 and Sept 30, 2018


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