Born in 1940 in Ottawa, Ontario, legendary poet and musician William Hawkins was one of the most important artists to emerge from Canada’s capital. He published six books from 1964-1974, attended the 1963 UBC Summer Poetry Seminar, organized poetry readings at Ottawa’s infamous Le Hibou Coffeehouse, wrote songs and performed in bands (with the likes of Bruce Cockburn, David Wiffen, Darius Brubeck, and others), and published widely in Canada’s most important little magazines of the 1960s before retreating into silence in the 1970s and working as a cab driver until his retirement in 2012. Hawkins died in 2016. The Collected Poems of William Hawkins gathers Hawkins’s complete output. His books are printed alongside previously unpublished and uncollected poems including early magazine publications, the long-lost book Sweet and Sour Nothings, poems from the time of his extended silence, as well as all work produced since his gradual re-appearance in the 1990s. Edited by Cameron Anstee, this volume presents the generous, defiant, idiosyncratic, and compelling work of William Hawkins in its entirety.
William Hawkins (1940-2016) was born in Ottawa. After side trips to the West Coast and Mexico, he resided in the capital, pursuing enlightenment or a reasonable alternative thereto. Hawkins worked as a truck driver, cook, journalist and musician before settling on the taxi profession as a means of preserving integrity and ensuring near-poverty. His work appeared in the seminal anthology New Wave Canada: The New Explosion in Canadian Poetry (Toronto: Contact Press, 1966) edited by Raymond Souster and Modern Canadian Verse (Toronto: Oxford, 1967) edited by A.J.M. Smith. His books include Ottawa Poems (Kitchener: Weed/Flower Press, 1966) and The Madman’s War (Ottawa: S.A.W. Publications, 1974). Broken Jaw Press published his Dancing Alone: Selected Poems in 2005. Also an acclaimed songwriter, a tribute CD (Dancing Alone: The Songs of William Hawkins) was released in 2008. In 2013, Hawkins was inducted into the VerseOttawa Hall of Honour.
“Everyone should read these poems.”
— Bruce Cockburn, Dancing Alone
“This is a grand addition to the William Hawkins revival. So good to have this comprehensive gathering of his poems. Bill’s poems are imbued with his sardonic wit and the affecting poignancy of his plaintive existential cry. Bill was a dynamo in poetry and music circles in the 1960s and a mentor to grateful young musicians and poets including me. Cameron Anstee is to be praised for bringing this project to fruition. His meticulous notes on the poems are masterpieces of textual and bibliographic research. This is a truly wonderful book!”—Nelson Ball
“William Hawkins is a rarity among poets: he assimilated early influences from Beat and Black Mountain sources to emerge with a unique poetic voice, ideally suited to his mordant, incisively ironic sensibility. This book, collating and documenting Hawkins’s entire poetic output, is a signal literary event. It reminds us that, like Leonard Cohen, Hawkins is not only a wonderful songwriter but a gifted poet with much to tell the world.”—Roy MacSkimming