Governor General's Literary Awards

Wayside Sang

Wayside Sang

By Cecily Nicholson

Talonbooks; distributed by PGC Books/Raincoast



Wayside Sang concerns entwined migrations of Black-other diaspora coming to terms with fossil-fuel psyches in times of trauma and movement. This is a poetic account of economy travel on North American roadways. Nicholson reimagines the trajectories of her birth father and his labour as it crisscrossed these borders in a study that engages the automobile object, its industry, roadways and hospitality, through and beyond the Great Lakes region. This study is, in part, a matter of strengthening relations and being situated despite displacement. It is an effort to be relevant at a time of rebellion as Black networks, community, and aesthetics gain new qualities. The work is also attentive to, entwined with, and influenced by, Indigenous resurgence and poetics. It looks to Anishinaabeg, Haudenosaunee, and Attawandaron presence and histories—to Indigenous memory as a constant to land, as constitutive elements of Nicholson’s poetic practice.

"‘there are times that a car bends perspective
  in its motion 
                           making room’

In this hypnotic suite of long poems, Cecily Nicholson makes room, offering glimpses and echoes of the Canadian landscape as she explores ideas of borders, identity, industry and travel. She offers a catalogue of impressions, a collage of the ephemeral, held together by image and the pulsing phrase that stays with you long after the journey is over."

Peer assessment committee: Garry Gottfriedson, Sachiko Murakami, Patrick Warner

Cecily Nicholson
Photo: Jef Clarke


Cecily Nicholson, from small-town Ontario via Toronto and South Bend, relocated to the Pacific coast almost two decades ago. On Musqueam-, Squamish-, and Tsleil-Waututh- land known as Vancouver, she has worked in the Downtown Eastside neighbourhood for the last 18 years—most recently as administrator of the artist-run centre and mental health resource, Gallery Gachet. A part of the Joint Effort prison abolitionist group and a member of the Research Ethics Board for Emily Carr University of Art and Design, Cecily is the newly appointed Interpretive Programmer at the Surrey Art Gallery. She is the author of Triage and From the Poplars, winner of the 2015 Dorothy Livesay Poetry Prize.

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