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Professor Emeritus named to the Order of Canada


January 28, 2011

By Janice Lee

Photo courtesy Christopher WisemanDr. Christopher Wiseman, Professor Emeritus of English, has been named to the Order of Canada, one of Canada’s highest civilian honours.

Wiseman was appointed a Member to the order for “his contributions to the development of creative writing as a poet and a professor.”

Born and educated in Britain, Wiseman completed his PhD in English at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow. He taught at the University of Iowa and the University of Strathclyde before coming to the University of Calgary in 1969. While at the U of C, he founded creative writing in the Department of English in the 1970s.

One of Canada’s major poets, Wiseman has published 11 books including Waiting for the Barbarians, Crossing the Salt Flats and, most recently, 36 Cornelian Avenue.

"This award, I am told, was given not just for my own writing, but for the starting of the creative writing program at the U of C and my promotion of literature in Calgary and elsewhere,” says Wiseman. “My ex-creative writing students include three winners of the Governor General's Award, three shortlisted for that same award, one member of the Order of Canada, two winners of the Marian Engel Prize, a Hawthornden Fellowship, several Writers Guild of Alberta awards, and more than 140 books have been published by my ex-students at the university. To a large degree I share this honour with them and with those faculty in the Department of English who supported my hopes for the writing program and its development."

"Chris’s appointment to the Order is Canada is well-deserved,” says Dr. Anne McWhir, Head of the Department of English. “When I first came as an Assistant Professor back in 1979, I remember Chris as one of the wittiest members of the English Department. He was a passionate champion of creative writing, successfully advocating for a creative-writing thesis option in our graduate program. Chris had a clear vision of what could be done, and it was his vision that started us in the direction we continue to follow."

The first Calgarian to be a member of the League of Canadian Poets, Wiseman was founding vice-president, and later president, of the Writers' Guild of Alberta and served as the poetry editor of ARIEL and dandelion. He has been awarded two Government of Alberta Poetry Prizes, the Writers' Guild of Alberta poetry prize and an Alberta Achievement Award for Excellence in the literary arts. In 2006, he won the W.O. Mitchell City of Calgary Writer's Award for In John Updike's Room: New and Selected Poems. His literary papers are housed in Special Collections of the University of Calgary Library.

Wiseman is one of 54 new appointees who will be inducted into the Order at a ceremony at Rideau Hall later this year.