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Ann Shin and Bardia Sinaee Win Big at the 35th Annual Trillium Book Awards

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2022 Trillium Book Award winners Bardia Sinaee and Ann Shin

Yesterday, the evening saw writers and publishers gathered at Toronto's historic Arcadian Court to honour the finalists and winners of the 2022 Trillium Book Awards. Ontario Creates, the body which runs the Trillium Awards (formerly the Ontario Media Development Corporation) put on an inspiring celebration, their first in-person since 2019's awards. In that vein, they also invited and honoured the 2020 and 2021 nominees and winners (including winners ), who weren't feted in person for their wins because of pandemic restrictions at the time. 

The English language winners this year were former Open Book columnist Bardia Sinaee, whose debut collection Intruder (House of Anansi Press) won the Trillium Book Award for Poetry, and Ann Shin, an acclaimed poet and filmmaker, whose debut novel The Last Exiles (Park Row/Harlequin Trade Publishing) won the multi-genre Trillium Book Award.

As winner of the Trillium Book Award, Shin, whose novel follows the lives of two North Korean defectors, will receive $20,000, and Sinaee, as winner of the Trillium Book Award for Poetry, will receive $10,000. The poetry award is open only to poets for their first, second, and third collections; any subsequent collections are eligible for submission to the multi-genre award but not the poetry award. 

Ontario Creates also set aside part of the evening to honour the late Janet Hawkins, who spent more than 15 years with the organization, where she was beloved as a tireless champion of the Ontario book publishing sector, supporting publishers and writers and taking an especially active and passionate role in the Trillium Awards each year. A special, honorary Trillium Award was presented to Hawkins' family, who attended the ceremony. Hawkins passed away in 2019. 

The other finalists for the Trillium Award for Poetry were Roxanna Bennett for The Untranslatable I (Gordon Hill Press) and Liz Howard for Letters in a Bruised Cosmos (McClelland & Stewart / Penguin Random House Canada). The other finalists for the multi-genre Trillium Book Award were Brian Francis for Missed Connections: A Memoir in Letters Never Sent (McClelland & Stewart / Penguin Random House); Catherine Graham for Æther: An Out-of-Body Lyric (Buckrider Books / Wolsak & Wynn Publishers); Sydney Hegele for The Pump (Invisible Publishing); and Pamela Korgemagi for The Hunter and the Old Woman (House of Anansi Press). 

The Trillum Awards have been presented for 35th years. The multi-genre award is especially unique as it accepts books in any genre, pitting nonfiction, memoir, poetry, novels, books for children, drama, and short stories against one another in the same category, which is a rarity in the literary prize sector. Previous winners of the Trillium Awards include Dionne Brand, Alice Munro, Margaret Atwood, Timothy Findley, Nino Ricco, Austin Clarke, Wayson Choy, Thomas King, Michael Ondaatje, and many other acclaimed Canadian writers. For more information, including the 2022 French language winners and finalists, visit the Ontario Creates website. 

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In Intruder, acclaimed poet Bardia Sinaee explores with vivid and precise language themes of encroachment in contemporary life.

Bemused and droll, paranoid and demagogic, Sinaee’s much-anticipated debut collection presents a world beset by precarity, illness, and human sprawl. Anxiety, hospitalization, and body paranoia recur in the poems’ imagery — Sinaee went through two-and-a-half years of chemotherapy in his mid-twenties, documented in the vertiginous multipart prose poem “Twelve Storeys” — making Intruder a book that seems especially timely, notably in the dreamlike, minimalist sequence “Half-Life,” written during the lockdown in Toronto in spring 2020.

Progressing from plain-spoken dispatches about city life to lucid nightmares of the calamities of history, the poems in Intruder ultimately grapple with, and even embrace, the daily undertaking of living through whatever the hell it is we’re living through.