Poet Em Dial wins PEN Canada’s New Voices Award for 2020


TORONTO, Aug.¬†27, 2020 /CNW/ –¬†Emily (Em) Dial has been chosen as the winner of PEN Canada’s 2020 New Voices Award. Dial, whose winning entry is titled¬†Lineage Without the Bullets, won the¬†$3,000¬†prize out of a total of 175 submissions from writers and poets across¬†Canada.

Em Dial Photo credit to Katytarika Bartel (CNW Group/PEN Canada)
Em Dial Photo credit to Katytarika Bartel (CNW Group/PEN Canada)

Em Dial, 25, is a queer, triracial poet, grower, and educator originally from California. A 2021 Kundiman Fellow and recipient of the 2019 Mary C. Mohr Poetry Award, her work also appears in Tinderbox Poetry Journal, Crab Fat Magazine, and Sonora Review. Em lives in Tkaronto (Toronto, Ontario), where she works in urban agriculture.

“A lot of my writing touches on the peculiarities of being triracial and what that looks like in our modern racial and political landscape. For me, being triracial, compounded with other marginalized identities creates a specific loneliness and that’s what I spent almost a year percolating on to create this piece.”

Dial was selected unanimously by the 2020 jury.

“Good writing connects, and this poem does that on so many levels,” said the 2020 jury in its summary. “Sophisticated, surprising, intelligent, compassionate, and formally inventive,¬†Lineage Without the Bullets¬†connects the past to the present to the future, connects the personal to the public and touches in ways that are more than glancing on such timely and complex considerations as race, gender, and violence. This is the work of someone who is more than a writer to watch, but rather one who is fully evolved. This is the piece that made us all say ‘wow.'”

The RBC/PEN Canada New Voices Award supports and celebrates new Canadian writers. Unpublished writers between the ages of 17 and 30 are invited to submit short stories, creative non-fiction, journalism, and poetry to a jury of distinguished PEN Canada members for a chance to win $3,000 and mentorship from a Canadian author.

Previous winners include Claire Battershill,  Laura Legge, Mikko Harvey, Jaclyn Desforges and Noor Naga. The 2020 Jury included Scotiabank Giller Prize-winning authors Ian Williams and Lynn Coady and the broadcaster and novelist Bill Richardson.

The jury shortlisted the following authors who will receive a  complimentary PEN Canada membership for one year.

What Isolation Bred (Harpit Samra)
A haunting story of family dispersal and dysfunction that is both poignant and tautly told. 

The Lot of Girls (Yasmina Jaksic)
Gritty and wry and unsparing, this story of a troubled adolescent friendship and of the lingering consequences of a bad decision is memorably told.

The Jungle (Richard Joseph)
A charming, disarming account of a childhood friendship, told against the backdrop of family and political intrigue. 

How it Feels to Be Asian Me During a Global Pandemic (Jeffrey To)
A confident and precise piece of writing, this compulsively readable essay offers a perspective on how discrimination behaves like an antagonist during a pandemic. 

Note for editors: Em Dial uses the pronouns she/they interchangeably.