Jann Arden, Clem Martini, Natalie Meisner finalists for City of Calgary's W.O. Mitchell Book Prize

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Works by singer-songwriter Jann Arden, playwright Clem Martini and Calgary’s former poet laureate Natalie Meisner have been named finalists for this year’s W.O. Mitchell Book Prize.

The finalists were announced Monday morning and include Arden’s darkly comedic family saga, The Bittlemores, Martini’s book of two plays, Canata and the Extinction Therapist, and Meisner’s poetry collection, It Begins in Salt.

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Author Clem Martini. Photo by Riley Brandt /University of Calgary/Riley Bran

The city’s book awards were founded in 1996 and named after CanLit legend W.O. Michell, who spent his latter years in Calgary. The prize is a partnership between the City of Calgary and The Writers’ Guild of Alberta. Past winners include Rona Altrow’s A Run On Hose and Sharon Butala’s Season of Fury and Wonder.

Published by Penguin Random House Canada, The Bittlemores is Arden’s debut novel and tells the dark coming-of-age and mystery tale of a dysfunctional family living in rural Alberta. Martini’s Cantata: Rumours of My Crazy Useless Life is about elder care and mental illness, while his play The Extinction Therapist is about a doctor who offers group support to patients threatened with extinction, including a woolly mammoth, a short-eared shrew, the smallpox virus and a Tyrannosaurus rex.

Natalie Meisner
Calgary poet laureate Natalie Meisner. Courtesy, Mount Royal University. Photo by Leonora Andre /Calgary

Meisner’s It Begins in Salt is a collection of poems that “explore the ways the heart grows” while wandering “the halls of an ocean blue-collar life while rummaging the heart spaces of growing up, and evolves into mothering, labours and loves.” Meisner served as Calgary’s fifth poet laureate from 2020 to 2022.

There were 56 submissions this year. The winner will be announced on June 12 as part of the annual Calgary Awards.

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