In summer of 1963, Hawkins drove west with his friend Roy MacSkimming to attend a celebrated, one-of-a-kind writing course offered by the University of British Columbia English department: an intensive program for aspiring poets, juried into the program on the quality of their work. The program offered the chance to work with an astonishing "faculty," including Allen Ginsberg, Charles Olson, Robert Duncan and Robert Creeley.
The two young poets returned to self-publish their Shoot Low, Sheriff, They’re Riding Shetland Ponies (Ottawa, 1964), a 56-page, stapled paperback with droll cover portraits by Chris Wells. Bill Roberts of Shirley Leishman Books took over distribution.
Bill’s second collaboration was with Ottawa poet, Harry Howith. Two Longer Poems (Patrician Press. Toronto, 1965) consists of Howith’s "The Seasons of Miss Nicky" and Hawkins’ "Louis Riel". Moved by George F.G. Stanley’s biography of Riel, Bill wrote a 36-page sequence of meditations on Riel’s visions, madness (the poem’s term) and execution.
When Ray Souster was deciding which poets to include in his classic anthology New Wave Canada: The New Explosion in Canadian Poetry (Contact Press, Toronto, 1966) he relied for suggestions on Victor Coleman, the poet and editor at Coach House Press. The anthology included Cull, Hogg, Reid and Wah, as well as Hawkins and MacSkimming. Others among the seventeen contributors included Daphne Buckle (later Marlatt), George Jonas, Barry Lord, bpNichol, David McFadden, Michael Ondaatje and Coleman himself.
The establishment critic A.J.M. Smith was assembling an anthology for Oxford University Press of outstanding Canadian poetry since the rise of modernism in the 1920’s. Smith happened upon the page proofs of New Wave Canada and Hawkins was one of four poets from the Contact Press book who caught Smith’s eye. Three poems of Bill’s duly appeared in Modern Canadian Verse (Oxford University Press, Toronto, 1967).
Ottawa Poems (Weed/flower Press, Kitchener, 1966) was published by the poet, publisher and antiquarian book dealer Nelson Ball.
At 52 pages, Hawkins (Nil Press, Ottawa, 1966) collected Bill’s short poems from the previous three years, post-Vancouver. Cleverly designed by Bob Rosewarne at his Nil Press, the poems looking raw in typewriter font, as if yanked straight from the manuscript, the book again received distribution through Shirley Leishman Books.
The Gift of Space: Selected Poems 1960-1970 (New Press, Toronto, 1971) is a hardcover, unpaginated, with another great cover drawing by Chris Wells.
Bill published a slim volume (32 pages) called The Madman’s War (S.A.W. Publications, Ottawa, 1974)
Dancing Alone: Selected Poems 1960-1990, with a preface by Bruce Cockburn and an introduction by Roy MacSkimming was published by Broken Jaw Press Cauldron Books , 2005.
In 2007 and 2008, editor/publisher rob mclennan’s long-running above/ground press released the chapbook the black prince of bank street and selected poems in Peter F. Yacht Club #11 May 2008 (Edmonton issue, part two). Poems by Hawkins appeared in the ottawater online poetry annuals, issue 0.1, January 2005 and issue 3.0, January 2007.
Sweet & Sour Nothings was to be William Hawkins’ seventh book of poems. Announced in February 1980, the only appearance of these poems followed later in the year in an issue of Anthos Anthology. Following this appearance, and a subsequent broadside (“Still Life”), Hawkins entered a period of extended publishing silence lasting until 2004. No material from Sweet & Sour Nothings appeared in 2005’s Dancing Alone (Broken Jaw), and it is not recorded in existing bibliographies or essays.
Apt. 9 Press is privileged to be (re)publishing the long-lost Hawkins’ Sweet & Sour Nothings, coinciding with the October 2010 release of the Wm Hawkins Folio. The folio began as a bibliographic project, intended to document as completely as possible William Hawkins’ catalogue of work. During the research and writing of the descriptive bibliography which now comprises half of the folio, William Hawkins gave his blessing to reproduce several of the legendary poster poems of the 1960s.
In March 2013, William Hawkins was inducted in VERSeOttawa's Hall of Honour in recognition of his contribution to the Ottawa poetry community.
Chaudiere Books released The Collected Poems of William Hawkins in the spring 2015, edited by Cameron Anstee and is available from All Lit Up. The project began out of an interest in tracking down lost and uncollected Hawkins work and was also sparked by a comment that someone should put together a bibliography of Bill’s little magazine publications from the 1960s.