Canadian poet, musician, journalist and composer William Hawkins was born in Ottawa, Ontario, in 1940, where he continues to live and sporadically write poems.
From '64 to '71, Hawkins published five collections of poetry, appeared in two landmark anthologies, and started to become recognized nationally as a poet. He had a major impact on the Ottawa music scene as a singer-songwriter and instigator of adventurous new bands.
Ottawa had its own bohemian underground in those days, and the hub was Le Hibou, a legendary downtown coffee house. Musically speaking, Le Hibou was the only place to perform between Montreal and Toronto. At Le Hibou, William got to play host to the likes of Gordon Lightfoot, Judy Collins and Joni Mitchell. Jimi Hendrix dropped by one night. Richie Havens came to party. Le Hibou gave local musicians their start, and played host to an all-star poetry series featuring Irving Layton, Leonard Cohen, Louis Dudek, Raymond Souster, Gwendolyn MacEwen, Jacques Godbout, John Robert Colombo and Bill Hawkins.
His force of personality, worldliness and relative maturity made Hawkins a natural leader. Just as importantly, he was writing plenty of strong, original material for his musicians to play. Harvey Glatt, then owner of Treble Clef record stores and Bass Clef Entertainments, and later founder and principal owner of CHEZ-FM, was there in the background, advising them on artistic, legal and financial matters, investing in their talent, giving them a chance. Harvey was, and remains, a quietly influential animator of Ottawa’s artistic life, an entrepreneur with soul. He was always a supporter of Hawkin’s peculiar genius.
In October 2010, Apt. 9 Press released Sweet & Sour Nothings which was to be Hawkins’ seventh book of poems. Originally announced in February 1980, the only appearance of these poems followed in an issue of Anthos. The text has been edited for this new edition by Roy MacSkimming. Apt. 9 is privileged to be (re)publishing this Hawkins title, coinciding with the release of the Wm Hawkins Folio.
In 2013, VERSeOttawa decided to create the VERSeOttawa Hall of Honour as a way of recognizing the important contributions made to the Ottawa poetry community. VERSeOttawa was proud to recognize William Hawkins in an induction ceremony held on March 17th at the Knox Presbyterian Church.
Chaudiere Books launched "The Collected Poems of William Hawkins" in Spring 2015. The book is edited by Cameron Anstee who has collated and documented Hawkins's entire poetic output. A tribute to wonderful songwriter and a gifted poet.
Poet, singer and songwriter, William was an inspiration and mentor to writers and musicians in the nation's capital and beyond. He died peacefully in Ottawa on July 4, 2016.