Cassandra Blanchard Wins ReLit Award

Cassandra Blanchard Wins ReLit Award

Cassandra Blanchard’s first book of poetry, Fresh Pack of Smokes (Nightwood Editions, $18.95), published in 2019, has won the 2020 ReLit Award for Poetry.

Dissecting herself and the transient life she once knew, which included time on Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside as a drug addict, Blanchard writes candidly in Fresh Pack of Smokes about violence, drug use and sex work, offering fresh and absorbing insight into an often overlooked and misunderstood world.

The result is a collection that juxtaposes gritty detail with flashes of insight, tenderness and vulnerability. Film director and poet Daniel Scott Tysdal describes Fresh Pack of Smokes as probing “the pain and elation, the silence and clamour, the confinement and the freedom of life on the street. The power of Blanchard’s poetry arises from its rare combination of raw honesty, remarkable detail and spiralling accumulation, producing a collection that is as difficult and unrelenting as it is exceptional, necessary and wise.”

The ReLit Awards have been described by The Globe and Mail as “the country’s pre-eminent literary prize recognizing independent presses.” They are awarded annually to book-length works in the novel, short story and poetry categories. They were founded in 2000 by Newfoundland filmmaker and author Kenneth J. Harvey and are now run by Katherine Alexandra Harvey.

“ReLit” is short for Regarding Literature, Reinventing Literature and Relighting Literature. The awards were conceived by Harvey as an alternative to larger mainstream prizes such as the Giller Prize and the Governor General’s Literary Awards.

The complete list of the winning and shortlisted books in all categories is available at