Book wins Canadian Jewish Literary Award in Yiddish category

Photo: Courtesy of Deborah Winer

Earlier this year, The University of Ottawa Press received the prestigious Professional and Scholarly Publishing Division of the Association of American Publishers Award for publication in literature for The Collected Poems of Miriam Waddington.

Now, the volume is receiving its second award, the 2015 Canadian Jewish Literary Award, in the Yiddish category.

A Canadian born to Russian-Jewish parents, Miriam Waddington was a modernist poet and the first Jewish-Canadian woman to publish poetry in English. She studied at the University of Toronto, taught at York University, and was a prominent member of the arts scene in Montreal.

The collection includes both new translations of Waddington’s work as well as poems published for the first time.

Ruth Panofsky, a professor at Ryerson University, edited the collection in collaboration with the U of O Press. She became interested in Waddington’s work during her M.A. in Canadian Literature, intrigued by Waddington’s revolutionary texts.

“Her poetry really spoke to me because she explored women’s experience at a time when that was new,” says Panofsky.

She says the collection combines her experience with Jewish-Canadian women writers, textual scholarship, and publishing history.

“As a Canadian, I’m most deeply moved by Canadian writing as a way to identify myself in the world. As a Jewish woman, I’m drawn to that material. It all came together through my various research interests.”

The publication began as part of a national project, Editing Modernism in Canada (EMIC), and was selected for the project’s Canadian Literature Collection.

“It flowed naturally from the EMIC project to our series,” says Lara Mainville, the director of the U of O Press. “This is a really important contribution to Canadian literature, women studies, as well as Jewish studies.”

“She was a social worker by profession, and she brought that perspective to her writing. She wrote socially aware poetry,” says Panofsky.

Although Waddington, who passed away in 2004, won multiple poetry awards while alive, she is often forgotten as she wrote alongside well-known Canadian poets such as Louis Dudek and Irving Layton.

Much of her work, including her 1958 poetry collection The Season’s Lovers, focuses on the city life of Montreal and working as a social worker in the 1940-60s.

“The combination of somebody who was involved in the world brought an empathetic and compassionate perspective to her verse. She wrote as a woman in the world.”

Having only been published last year, Panofksy’s volume is already receiving well-deserved recognition with two national awards in a matter of months.

“Ruth has done an amazing job on gathering all of the poetry that Miriam Waddington has produced,” says Mainville. “It wasn’t a question, of course we were going to publish this important work. We’re very proud of the series. It’s doing so well, and we’re making such an significant contribution to Canadian literature.”

The Collected Poems of Miriam Waddington is available in all bookstores and online retailers, as well as on the the U of O Press website http://www.press.uottawa.ca/the-collected-poems-of-miriam-waddington.