Governor General's Literary Awards

On Not Losing My Father's Ashes in the Flood

On Not Losing My Father's Ashes in the Flood

By Richard Harrison

Buckrider Books / Wolsak and Wynn Publishers; distributed by University of Toronto Press



The great Alberta flood of 2013 slides through Richard Harrison’s latest collection, its rising waters pulling his books of poetry off their shelves, washing the ink from letters kept in boxes in the basement and threatening to carry off his father’s ashes. On these waters float Harrison’s mourning for his father, who suffered a form of dementia later in life but never forgot the poems he’d memorized as a young man. Alongside these, the waters also carry Harrison’s love of comic books, his struggles with haiku and his willingness to stay in the game, to "try again." Combining elements of memoir, elegy, lyrical essay and personal correspondence, On Not Losing My Father’s Ashes in the Flood is a generous and enchanting book, one that leaves you, like the poet, thinking about the way "characters in a novel can escape anything / except their story."

"In these moving poems about the father/son relationship set against the Alberta flood of 2013, Richard Harrison’s intimate yet open voice deftly explores subjects as wide-ranging as childhood, middle-age anxiety, dementia and loss with wonder, humour and resilience."

- Peer assessment committee

Richard Harrison
Richard Harrison


Richard Harrison wins his first Governor General’s Literary Award in 2017 with On Not Losing My Father’s Ashes in the Flood. He was a GGBooks finalist for Big Breath of a Wish (1998) and his collection Hero of the Play (1994) was the first book of poetry launched at the Hockey Hall of Fame. He teaches English and Creative Writing at Calgary's Mount Royal University, a position he took up after being the Distinguished Writer-in-Residence at the University of Calgary in 1995. His work has been published, broadcast and displayed around the world, and his poems have been translated into French, Spanish, Portuguese and Arabic. Richard Harrison is based in Calgary, where he has lived since 1995.

Photo: Keeghan Rouleau

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