"It is all a lottery." -- P.K. Page

P.K. (Patricia) Page was the tenth recipient of the George Woodcock (formerly Terasen) Lifetime Achievement Award for an Outstanding Literary Career in British Columbia in association with the City of Vancouver, the Vancouver Public Library and BC BookWorld. Although she regarded herself primarily as a poet, Page once noted she wrote more prose than poetry. She died at her Oak Bay home at age 93 on January 14, 2010.

Born at Swanage, Dorset in the south of England on November 23, 1916, P.K. Page came to Canada in 1919 when her parents Major General Lionel Frank Page and Rosa Laura Whitehouse settled in Red Deer, Alberta. "I am grateful to have grown up in an age when Grimm, Andersen, Perrault and the Arabian Nights were not considered too frightening for children," she recalled in The Filled Pen, a collection of her non-fiction. "These tales must have laid a basis for my continuing acceptance of worlds other than this immediately tangible one-worlds where anything is possible-where one can defy gravity, become invisible, pass through brick walls."

After completing high school at St Hilda's School for Girls in Calgary, she spent a year in Europe, and later worked in a store and on radio in Saint John, New Brunswick. She has lived in many other parts of Canada, including Montreal where in 1941 she became a member of the Preview Group with F.R. Scott and A.M. Klein, co-editing the literary periodical Preview. P.K. Page first lived on the West Coast from 1944 to 1946, participating in the development of Alan Crawley's Contemporary Verse. In Ottawa she worked as a screenwriter at the National Film Board where she met and married (in 1950) the new NFB chair W. Arthur Irwin who had previously been editor of Maclean's magazine, having first worked for that publication in 1925. In 1953 the couple moved to Australia for three years when Irwin was appointed Canadian High Commissioner. They moved to Brazil in 1956, and Mexico in 1960, due to Irwin's appointments as Canadian Ambassador. In Rio de Janeiro she began to study painting. In 1964, upon his retirement from External Affairs, Irwin accepted the job of publisher for the Victoria Daily Times, and the couple moved to Victoria where Page brought Alice Munro to the attention of publisher Jack McClelland in 1966.

While maintaining a parallel career as a painter for much of her life, Patricia Kathleen Page became one of the most esteemed and beloved writers of British Columbia, sharing ideas with Atom Egoyan, Margaret Atwood, Michael Ondaatje, Rosemary Sullivan, Constance Rooke, Brian Brett, Susan Musgrave, Marilyn Bowering, Lorna Crozier, Patrick Lane, Alice Munro and many others. "She was very generous, I think, with [such] help--even with a young writer, like me, whose style and subject matter were quite different than her own," recalls Alice Munro. "But what was really important to me was just her existence, as a good Canadian writer, whom I read in the Forties and Fifties when Canadian writers were so rare." Page remained active as a mentor to writers such as Marilyn Bowering and Patricia Young, and helped to organize the Signal Hill Poetry Group in the 1980s, and a season of readings at Open Space, with poet Doug Beardsley. She was an early member of the League of Canadian Poets.

As a painter, she exhibited at countless galleries under her married name P.K. Irwin. She has works in the National Gallery, the AGO, the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, and private collections in Canada, Mexico and Europe. A symposium called 'Extraordinary Presences: The Worlds of P.K. Page' was held at Trent University, Ontario in 2002. Her poem 'Planet Earth' was chosen by the United Nations as the centrepiece for a year-long Dialogue Among Nations through Poetry; 2000. Other highlights of her career include a dramatized version of 'Unless the Eye Catch Fire', l994; 'A Children's Hymn', music by Harry Somers, for the 50th anniversary of the founding of the United Nations, l995; a two-part sound feature about her work, 'The White Glass', for CBC Ideas; a special issue of The Malahat Review in l996; The Margaret Laurence Memorial Lecture, l999; 'A Somewhat Irregular Renga' with Philip Stratford, for the CBC, 1999; text (poems) for 'The Invisible Reality', an oratorio by Derek Holman, 2000; and 'A Children's Millennium Song', music by Oscar Peterson, for the opening of the Trans-Canada Trail. She is the subject of a film, 'Still Waters: The Poetry of P.K. Page', produced by the National Film Board of Canada.

When her father served with the Canadian forces in World War I, he sent back verses for his young daughter. Her mother illustrated them. Almost 50 years later, Page added a short memoir to the combined poems and drawings for 'Wisdom from Nonsense Land' (Beach Holme, 1992). Her husband William Arthur Irwin was born in Ontario on May 27, 1898. He died in Victoria at age 101. "For the past forty years, P.K. Page has been an enduring influence on younger British Columbia writers, poets and filmmakers," wrote her biographer Sandra Djwa. In May of 2004 P.K. Page became the inaugural recipient of the Lieutenant Governor's Award for Literary Excellence. In 2006, to mark her ninetieth birthday, she donated monies to The Malahat Review for an annual prize to be named in her honour. Initially judged by Marilyn Bowering, the P. K. Page Founders' Award for Poetry is a $1000 prize for the best poem or sequence of poems to have appeared in the magazine's quarterly issues during the previous calendar year.

P.K. Page was increasingly drawn to writing for young readers in her old age. While pondering the source of the term blue-blood, she was inspired to write a conventional fairy tale in which a prince must prove himself worthy of the hand of a princess, The Sky Tree (Oolichan $19.95). It takes the form of a connected trilogy of fables. In the landlocked kingdom of Ure, three competing young men set off to complete the king's challenge: bring him back a flask of sea water. The eventual winner, Galaad, who truly loves the princess, falls under the spell of a wizard and forgets his quest until he takes the wizard's goats to an Eastern Sea, where the goats are transformed back into young men and women. Ultimately, King Galaad and his queen ascend to heaven, leaving their son Treece to rule Ure. Illustrated by Kristi Bridgeman, it's a happy ending at the end of a long writing career.

CITY/TOWN: Victoria

DATE OF BIRTH: 23/11/16






The Sun and the Moon, Macmillan Publishing,(novel), l944, pseud. Judith Cape;
As Ten as Twenty, (poetry), l946;
The Metal and the Flower, McClelland & Stewart (poetry), l954;
Cry Ararat!--Poems New and Selected, McClelland & Stewart, l967;
The Sun and the Moon and Other Fictions, Anansi, l973;
Poems Selected and New, Anansi, l974;
ed. To Say the Least, (anthology of short poems)Press Porcépic, l979;
Evening Dance of the Grey Flies, Oxford, (poems and a short story), l981;
The Glass Air, (poetry, essays and drawings), Oxford, l985;
Brazilian Journal, Lester & Orpen Dennys, prose - with drawings), l988;
A Flask of Sea Water, (fairy story), Oxford, 1989; The Glass Air - Poems Selected and New, Oxford, l99l;
The Travelling Musicians, Kids Can,(children's book) 1991;
The Goat that Flew (sequel to A Flask of Sea Water), Beach Holme, l994;
Hologram - A Book of Glosas (poems), Brick Books, l994;
The Hidden Room Vols. 1 and 2 - Collected Poems, Porcupine's Quill, l997;
Compass Rose (poems in Italian translation) Longo Editore, l998;
Alphabetical - Hawthorne Society, l998;
And Once More Saw the Stars - Four Poems for Two Voices, (letters and poems) with Philip Stratford, BuschekBooks, 2001;
A Kind of Fiction - (short stories), Porcupine's Quill, 2001;
Poem Canzonic with Love to AMK (broadside), www.mothertonguepress.com, 2001
Alphabetical, Cosmologies, (poems), de luxe editions, Poppy Press, 2001;
Planet Earth, Poems New and Selected, Porcupine's Quill, 2002;
A Grain of Sand, Fizthenry & Whiteside, 2003;
Cosmologies: Poems Selected and New (David R. Godine, 2003).
A Brazilian Alphabet for the Younger Reader (The Porcupine's Quill, 2005).
Hand Luggage: A Memoir in Verse (The Porcupine's Quill, 2006).
The Filled Pen: Selected Non-Fiction of P.K. Page (UTP, 2006). Edited by Zailig Pollock. $21.95. 0-8020-9399-X
Jake the Baker Makes a Cake (Oolichan 2008). Illustrated by Ruth Campbell.
The Essential P.K. Page (Porcupine's Quill 2008). Selected by Arlene Lampert and Thea Gray.
There Once Was A Camel (Cherubim / Ekstasis 2008). Illustrated by Kristi Bridgeman
Coal and Roses: Twenty-One Glosas (Porcupine's Quill, 2009).
The Old Woman and the Hen (Porcupine's Quill 2009). Wood engravings by Jim Westergard. $10.95 978-0-88984-309-7
The Sky Tree: A Trilogy of Fables (Oolichan 2010). Illustrated by Kristi Bridgeman. 978-088982-258-0


Djwa, Sandra. Journey with No Maps: A Life of P.K. Page (McGill-Queen's 2012) 9780773540613 $39.95



The Bertram Warr Award for a group of poems awarded by Contemporary Verse, l940;
Oscar Blumenthal Award for a group of poems awarded by Poetry (Chicago), l944;
The Governor General's Award in Poetry for The Metal and the Flower, l954;
National Magazines Award (Gold), l985;
Canadian Authors' Association Literary Award for Poetry, l985-86;
Brazilian Journal, winner Hubert Evans Non-Fiction Prize, 1988; also shortlisted for the Governor-General's Award
Banff Centre School of Fine Arts National Award, 1989;
National Magazine Award (Silver) l989; Readers' Choice Award, Prairie Schooner, 1994;
bpNichol Chapbook Award, 1999; (for Alphabetical)
short-listed for the Griffin Prize, 2003; (for Planet Earth)


Officer of the Order of Canada, l977;
Doctor of Letters, (Honoris Causa), University of Victoria, l985;
Doctor of Laws (Honoris Causa), University of Calgary, l989;
Doctor of Letters, (Honoris Causa), University of Guelph, l990;
Doctor of Laws (Honoris Causa), Simon Fraser University, l990;
Doctor of Letters, (Honoris Causa) University of Toronto, l998;
Companion of the Order of Canada, l999;
Doctor of Letters, (Honoris Causa) University of Winnipeg. Tribute at the Vancouver Writers' Festival, 2000;
Distinguished Writer, Banff, 2002;
Ambassador for the Arts, awarded by the Metchosin International Summer School of the Arts, 2002;
Tribute at the Sechelt Festival of the Arts, 2002;
Order of BC, 2003.
Lieutenant Governor's Award for Literary Excellence, 2004
George Woodcock (formerly Terasen) Lifetime Achievement Award for an Outstanding Literary Career in British Columbia, 2004

[Porcupine's Quill photo]

[Alan Twigg / BCBW 2012] "Poetry" "Kidlit"