Call for Submissions: The Austin Clarke Prize

The Austin Clarke Prize in Literary Excellence is now open!

The Austin Clarke Prize in Literary Excellence serves to honour the memory of Austin Clarke (1934-2016). Clarke was, above all else, an exceptional writer, one who disrupted the expectations of what Canadian literature could and should become. His literary career was characterized by impressive productivity. In the span of his lifetime, he published eleven novels (including his 2002 Giller-winning The Polished Hoe), nine short story collections, two poetry collections, along with a number of memoirs. In this large body of work, he continually questioned the homogeneity implied with the development of a Canadian cultural establishment. He was deeply critical of the official Canadian position of multiculturalism, but to consider his work a “realist or sociological account of Black life in Canada” would be, as Paul Barrett notes in the introduction to his 2017 “‘Membering Austin Clarke: A Puritan Special Issue,” a fundamental misreading of the value of his writing. Although Clarke began his writing career as a reporter at the Timmins Daily Press and The Globe and Mail, his vast body of literary work has “never been realist, nor has it ever been reportage: it is a polyvocal, hybridizing, experimental, introspective, satirical, patriarchal, offensive, provocative and—at times—outraged artistic reflection on life in Canada” which “demands” a stylistic account.

We at The Ex-Puritan agree. We have long been admirers of Clarke’s work, and with this renaming our annual literary award, we want to encourage our readers and writers to think through what it means to rebuke the Canadian cultural establishment. We want our writers to continue Clarke’s legacy by reimagining the boundaries of Canadian literature. Equally important to this, however, is a focus on style. Although we divide this award by entries into fiction and poetry, we want our submitters to reimagine the boundaries of what fiction and poetry can look like. We actively encourage submissions that are experimental with form and unrelentingly demand an attention to their style. We believe that Austin Clarke would’ve wanted nothing less.

This year, the winners will be selected by CODY CAETANO (for fiction) and BILLY-RAY BELCOURT (for poetry). Past judges have included Francesca Ekwuyasi, Jordan Abel, Casey Plett, and Doyali Islam. Winners in each category will receive:

First Prize: $1,000

Runner-up: $200

We will announce our shortlist at the end of November and announce the winners in December.

The deadline to enter is 11:59 p.m. on November 1, 2023. For full submission guidelines, visit our Submittable!

2023 Judges

FICTION:  CODY CAETANO is a Toronto-based writer with new work in Grain, Esse, and The Ex-Puritan. His debut memoir, Half-Bads in White Regalia, came out through Penguin Canada’s Hamish Hamilton imprint and was an instant national bestseller. It won the 2023 Indigenous Voices Award for Best Published Prose, was longlisted for the 2023 Stephen Leacock Memorial Medal for Humour and Canada Reads 2023, and was named one of the best books of 2022 by The Globe and Mail and CBC Books. Excerpts of Half-Bads in White Regalia received the 2020 Indigenous Voices Award for Best Unpublished Prose. He currently works as a literary agent at CookeMcDermid, where he represents a select list of emerging and acclaimed writers.

POETRY: BILLY-RAY BELCOURT is a writer from the Driftpile Cree Nation in northwest Alberta. He is an Assistant Professor in the School of Creative Writing at the University of British Columbia. He is the author of four books: This Wound is a World, NDN Coping Mechanisms: Notes from the Field, A History of My Brief Body, and A Minor Chorus.

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