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Shoshana Wasser

Associate Director of Public Affairs and Communications
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Ontario Arts Council and League of Canadian Poets announce Lillian Allen Prizes for spoken word poetry

April 23, 2024

The Ontario Arts Council (OAC), in partnership with the League of Canadian Poets (LCP), is pleased to announce the creation of the Lillian Allen Prize and the Lillian Allen Emerging Artist Prize, which recognize and celebrate spoken word poetry artists working in English or French. Two prizes will be awarded annually: one to an established artist and one to an emerging artist, based on their respective bodies of work.  

Lillian Allen
The prize is named after Canadian poet, spoken word artist, educator and activist Lillian Allen. Lillian is the author of several books of poetry (including her newest collection Make the World New), plus books and recordings for children and young people. She is a globally recognized poet and recording artist who performs, lectures and gives workshops internationally, and founded the Toronto International Dub Poetry Festival, as well as a variety of cultural and youth-empowerment organizations such as Toronto Arts Council’s Fresh Arts. She’s a two-time winner of the Juno Award for Best Reggae / Calypso Recording, a creative writing professor at Ontario College of Art and Design University (OCAD U), and has held the post of distinguished Writer-in-Residence at Queen’s University and the University of Windsor. She was appointed to a three-year term as Toronto Poet Laureate in 2023.

Allen’s distinctive approach to poetry through language, music and social consciousness continues to capture attention and make change. She embodies the excellence, creativity and professionalism she has brought to the form. The OAC, through consultation with the LCP, is recognizing her legacy of community building and generosity of spirit by naming this prize in her honour. 


  • “What a beautiful honour, and even more beautiful is to witness the worldwide movement of young people (and the young at heart) waging love, dialogue and peaceful coexistence with their poetry as they make community and stand up to be counted in the world. Much gratitude to the Ontario Arts Council for this recognition and for creating these awards to laud outstanding practitioners of the exciting and eclectic 21st-century form called Spoken Word Poetry. More words in the world, more voices, more people coming to voice, more poetry, more communities engaged with the arts; what's not to love.” – Lillian Allen
  • “The Ontario Arts Council is delighted to be partnering with the League of Canadian Poets to honour Lillian Allen and her vast artistic contribution over the years. Her inspiring works have not only influenced the content and form of spoken word poetry but also have reached countless burgeoning poets and poetry-lovers, helping to shape the Canadian poetry scene overall. The prize in her name celebrates Lillian Allen’s legacy and seeks to elevate the spoken word artists making contributions of their own.” - Rita Davies, C.M., Chair, Ontario Arts Council to a three-year term as Toronto’s poet laureate in 2023.    

About the Lillian Allen Prizes

  • Two prizes of $2,000 will be awarded on an annual basis: one to a poet who has been working professionally for more than five years, and one to an emerging poet who has been working professionally for fewer than five years.
  • The prize will recognize poets from Ontario and Canada on a rotating basis. Year one will recognize poets based in Ontario, and year two will recognize poets based anywhere in Canada.
  • The nomination process will be managed by the League of Canadian Poets. Nominations can be made by a third party or by the artists themselves; more details to come in May 2024.
  • Visit the information page for more details.

Photo credit: Randall Edwards