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Poet Anne Carson speaks after winning the Griffin Poetry Prize for her genre-bending Red Doc, in 2014.

Tom Sandler/The Canadian Press

Renowned poet Anne Carson and author Thomas King are among the veteran writers nominated for the Governor General’s Literary Awards.

Each will face stiff competition from a rising class of wordsmiths to clinch the $25,000 prize in their respective categories.

Organizers named the finalists for the 2020 awards, which are administered by the Canada Council for the Arts, on Tuesday – several months later than the usual fall announcement.

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They say the review process was delayed because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the schedule should return to normal for the 2021 competition.

Peer assessment committees selected 70 titles published last year to be shortlisted across seven categories in both English and French.

The winners will be revealed on June 1.

Guelph, Ont.-based King is in the running for the fiction prize for his anti-travelogue, Indians on Vacation, from HarperCollins Canada, which was a Writers’ Trust runner-up last year.

Cree lawyer and author Michelle Good also snagged twin nods from the Writers’ Trust and Governor General’s awards for Five Little Indians, from HarperCollins Canada. The debut novel follows a group of residential school survivors trying to forge new lives in Vancouver.

Also among the fiction finalists are Halifax’s Francesca Ekwuyasi with her Giller-longlisted debut tracing the intergenerational saga of three Nigerian women Butter Honey Pig Bread, from Arsenal Pulp Press; Michi Saagiig Nishnaabeg writer Leanne Betasamosake Simpson for the genre-defying Noopiming: The Cure for White Ladies, from House of Anansi Press; and Toronto-born poet Lisa Robertson’s first foray in novel-writing The Baudelaire Fractal, from Coach House Books.

Toronto-born, Ann Arbor, Mich.-based Carson is adding to her lengthy list of accolades as a nominee in the poetry category for Norma Jeane Baker of Troy, from New Directions Publishing.

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She’ll face off against emerging awards darling Canisia Lubrin of Whitby, Ont., who is nominated for The Dyzgraphxst, published by McClelland & Stewart, which is up for this year’s Griffin Poetry Prize.

Other poetry contenders include Montreal’s Oana Avasilichioaei for Eight Track, from Talonbooks; Donna Kane of Rolla, B.C., for Orrery, from Harbour Publishing; and Sachiko Murakami of Toronto for Render, from Arsenal Pulp Press.

Cree writer and scholar Billy-Ray Belcourt, who won the Griffin Poetry Prize in 2018, is establishing his cross-genre bona fides as a non-fiction nominee for A History of My Brief Body, from Hamish Hamilton.

Hamilton disability rights advocate Amanda Leduc also scored a non-fiction nod for Disfigured: On Fairy Tales, Disability, and Making Space, from Coach House Books.

Rounding out the category are Ivan Coyote in Vancouver for Rebent Sinner, from Arsenal Pulp Press; Guyanese-born Canadian author Tessa McWatt for Shame on Me: An Anatomy of Race and Belonging, from Random House Canada; and Guelph, Ont.-based Madhur Anand for This Red Line Goes Straight to Your Heart: A Memoir in Halves.

The finalists in the drama category are: Yolanda Bonnell of Toronto for “bug,” from Scirocco Drama / J. Gordon Shillingford Publishing; Charlotte Corbeil-Coleman of Toronto for Guarded Girls, from Playwrights Canada Press; Kim Senklip Harvey of Vancouver for Kamloopa: An Indigenous Matriarch Story, from Talonbooks; Christopher Cook of Vancouver for Quick Bright Things, from Playwrights Canada Press; and Donna-Michelle St. Bernard of Hamilton for Sound of the Beast, from Playwrights Canada Press.

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Honours will also be doled out for writing and illustration in children’s literature, as well as French-to-English translation. There are separate French-language categories for francophone writing.

The awards hand out a total annual prize value of $450,000.

Each winner receives $25,000, while the publisher of each winning book receives $3,000 to support promotional activities. Finalists each receive $1,000.

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