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Sheridan Repatriates Griffin Prize Finalist

Dr. Ian Williams, a Brampton native and Sheridan full time faculty member, has been named a finalist for one of the world’s most lucrative and prestigious poetry prizes, The Griffin Poetry Prize.


Williams, who returned to Canada last fall to teach at Sheridan’s Oakville campus, was selected for Personals, which he calls “a collection of really strange, almost- love poems – where people are often forced to mediate their relationships through technology.” Far from the old-school ‘how-do- I- love- thee-let-me-count-the ways’ genre, Williams’ work has a distinctly edgy and modern appeal.

The Making of Personals

“The collection took three or four years to write,” explains Williams, who didn’t start out with the intention to publish on this particular subject.  “For people like me, the compulsion to write is even stronger than the compulsion to talk. It really comes down to a need for communication and expression. And there comes a time in your life where certain themes keep reappearing.  That’s when the editor in you steps in and notices a pattern.  The order for the book really emerged quite naturally.”

The three-person jury  – a cast of world renowned poets – narrowed down a field of 509 volumes of poetry from 40 countries to just three Canadian and four international finalists.  Two of the three Canadians, including Williams, are young writers, perhaps suggesting that the prize is acknowledging the future potential of Canadian poetry and literature.  Winners will be announced in Toronto on June 13, where they will receive a $65,000 prize. The remaining finalists will each receive $10,000.

“Having one of our faculty members celebrated on the world stage provides a tremendous source of pride and inspiration for everyone at Sheridan,” says Dr. Jeff Zabudsky, President and CEO of Sheridan.  Dr. Has Malik, Dean of the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences adds, “Last year, Ian was the recipient of the Danuta Gleed Literary Award for the best debut short story collection in English and he also made CBC’s list of 10 Writers to Watch.  While news of this nomination was anything but a foregone conclusion, it certainly comes as no surprise to people who know him and who have read his work.”

Coming Back to Canada

Williams returned to Canada to accept his position at Sheridan last fall after teaching English literature and poetry in Massachusetts at Fitchburg State University for seven years.  “I was excited by the potential.  I took the risk because I recognized that we’re in a great transformative moment at Sheridan. It’s not just the transition to become a university, but the fact that there’s this whole influx of people who are being drawn here, excited by the chance to reinvent the curriculum. I wanted to get in early on that.”

For his part, Williams is designing new courses on creative writing and poetry. He also sits on the search committee for two positions at Sheridan that have garnered a lot of recent attention – a Professor of Storytelling and Narrativity and a Professor of Creativity and Creative Thinking.

“I love my students,” says Williams.  “They’re doing amazing things that are slightly outside of the box. They think differently and they envision education differently.  On the first day of term, I told them that I was writing a book. I want them to know that I understand their frustration when it comes to producing art.  I’m flipping through their portfolios, pouring over their websites or asking them about their own creative process.  And there’s so much untold and untapped goodness and sweetness in this place, in students and in faculty.”