Canadian literary icon P.K. Page dies: UPDATED

January 14, 2010 by · 3 Comments 

Canada has lost a literary giant. The renowned poet P.K. Page died today at the age of 93, according to the Victoria Times-Colonist. The “grand dame of Canadian letters,” Page came to Canada from her native England in 1919. A member companion of the Order of Canada, Page won the Governor General’s Award for her 1954 collection The Metal and the Flower, and she also won two National Magazine Awards, the B.C. Book Prizes Hubert Evans Award for Non-Fiction, the Canadian Authors Association Literary Award, and the Lieutenant Governor’s Award for Literary Excellence.

Her 2003 collection Planet Earth was shortlisted for the Griffin Poetry Prize. (The book was also ranked ninth on’s list of 50 Canadian Essential Books. The Griffin Poetry Prize website features an archived video of Page reading from that collection.

In a 2006 Times-Colonist article, Page displayed a defiant insouciance about her passing, saying that she hoped she died before humanity irrevocably ruined planet Earth:

“We absolutely seem to ignore [global warming], don’t we? I’m not too sure it isn’t too late,” she said.

“People are blind. It isn’t convenient for them to face it. It means they’d have to make vast changes in their lives … Civilizations have died from their own stupidity before. Look at the Easter Islanders. And we’ll do it. I may be gone before that, I hope. Oh God, I hope. I’m too old already.”

UPDATE: I had to share one anecdote from the Quill & Quire obituary, because I think it’s just about the coolest thing I’ve heard in ages. It involves Page and her one of her publishers, Tim Inkster of The Porcupine’s Quill.

Inkster last heard from Page on Wednesday afternoon, several hours before she was reported to have died. Apparently, an interior designer in Vancouver had used one of the poems from Coal and Roses in a custom-made wallpaper pattern without seeking permission from the author. To thank Inkster for resolving the issue, Page personally called the LCBO manager in a nearby town and had him hand deliver a six-pack of Heineken to Inkster’s home.

Honestly, the woman exuded class (and, apparently, good taste in beer).


3 Responses to “Canadian literary icon P.K. Page dies: UPDATED”
  1. Jack says:

    Tiny correction — she was a Companion of the Order of Canada, not a member.

    “Defiant insouciance” is very apt. I only met her once, but she was the boldest and straighted speaker I’ve ever run across. I miss her already.

  2. Steven W. Beattie says:

    Thanks, Jack.

  3. LH says:

    I regret never meeting PK Page. I did pass on my appreciation of her work through a mutual friend, and I’m glad I at least did that. What struck me immediately was how much more I would have liked to hear from about her… Sometimes, with all the noise of poetry, we miss the voices that perhaps have more to say.

    Thanks for the post, Steven.