Woodcock Trust Award, 2015
Wigtown Poetry Competition, Honourable Mention, 2006
Critic’s Desk Award, Arc 48, 2002
Pat Lowther Memorial Award, 1986, 1989, 2002, shortlisted 2008
Senior Arts Grant
The Canada Council,
2000-2001-2002, 2005, 2007, 2017
CBC Literary Prize, 1991
Senior Arts Grant, The Canada Council, 1990, 1991
The Governor General’s Award for Poetry, 1989
Arts Grant B, The Canada Council, 1984
Bronfman Award, 1964
photo – Aline Talatinian
Heather Spears was educated at the University of British Columbia, The Vancouver School of Art and the University of Copenhagen. She is survived by 4 children. An award-winning poet (the Governor-General’s award, 3x the Pat Lowther Award, and the CBC Literary Prize), she published 15 collections of poetry and 5 novels. The Creative Eye: Drawing, Vision and the Brain (Arcturus, 2010, illustrated 2012, reissued in 2020 as a black-and-white drawing manual). She has 3 books of drawings: Drawn from the Fire (1989) Massacre (1990); and Line by Line (2002). Drawings from the Newborn (1986), The Panum Poems (1996) and Required Reading (2000) contain both poems and full-page drawings. Her last collection of poetry is I can still draw (2008). She illustrated numerous books and articles; drew at literary festivals, courtroom, dance, theatre and childbirth. Specializing in drawing children, in particular premature and other threatened infants, she exhibited and traveled widely and drew in hospitals in the Middle East, Europe and America. She was working actively on several projects in the months before she fell ill, including a new book of poetry, which may be published posthumously.
“mastery of line and movement,”… “the sureness of her hand and the sympathy of her eye. She writes poems in the same way.”
“very fluid lines that come out in words rather than in charcoal … an almost Zen quality to her attention and emotional rectitude.”
“Coming into a book of Heather Spears’ poems is to take your life in your hands. Nothing is hidden, the poem follows a line like a sketch, but it is a line which traces a crack in the cosmos.”
“She goes looking for trouble, you could say, and finds it in almost every medium.”
“I could understand returning to this book (I can still draw) throughout one’s life, which is the mark of a true classic.”
“…an intelligent, compassionate engagement with contemporary life….This collection will be seen as a continuation of, and valuable addition to, a mature poet’s faithful documentation of her world.”
Spears spent most of her time in Denmark while making annual reading and lecture tours to Canada. She attended numerous literary conferences and festivals both as participant and Artist-in-Residence, including Hay-on Wye (1997), Mantua Fesitvaletteratura (97 and 98) and The Cheltenham festival (1992, 1993, 1999 – 2003). She was Visiting Writing Professional, University of Windsor (1999), and Visiting Lecturer in the Humanities, Dalhousie Medical School (99) and Biomedical Communications, University of Toronto (2004 and 2006).
She held over 85 solo exhibitions of her drawings including at Bethesda and the UN in Geneva and New York. Paintings from the Vancouver Art Gallery collection shown in exhibitions 2008, 2014. Canadian Women Modernists 2008. Drawing included in the Scandinavian exhibition Portræt Nu! (Portrait Now!), National-Historic Museum, Denmark, and Ljungbergmuseet Sweden, Akureyri Museum Iceland, Tikanoyas Konsthem Finland, Norsk Folkemuseum Norway 2010-2011, Retrospective, Righshospitalet, Copenhagen, 2013, John Radcliffe Hospital Gallery, Oxford, 2016. Her most recent exhibition was held in My Beautiful Gallery in Copenhagen in 2020, between lockdowns.
Heather Spears was a member of PEN, The League of Canadian Poets, The Writers’ Union of Canada, SF Canada, The Society of Authors, and Tegnerforbundet af 1919 (Danish drawing association).
The Heather Spears Archive is housed at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver and is available for use by researchers and others interested. Hundreds of her drawings are collected at the Wellcome Trust, London, and the Merril Collection, Toronto, and are available for reproduction.