Kingston poet and writer Steven Heighton, a prominent figure in Kingston’s literary scene, died of cancer Tuesday at age 60.
Heighton, who won the Governor General’s Literary Award for Poetry in 2016, wrote seven books of poetry (the last one a selection of old and new poems), four novels, a memoir and several essays and short stories. He even released an album, “The Devil’s Share,” in 2021.
“We received the news of Steven Heighton’s passing with great sadness and send our deepest condolences to his loved ones,” reads a statement from publisher House of Anansi Press and Groundwood Books. “We had the distinct pleasure of working with Steven on both his poetry by him at House of Anansi and his work for children at Groundwood Books. We are honored that so many of us had the opportunity to know Steven and interact with his writing.
“Steven was a prolific and prize-winning author, poet, and musician. He was also a kind friend and a true talent. He will be so missed.”
Another one of his publishers, Biblioasis, posted a note on social media about Heighton’s death.
“It’s with great sadness that we’ve learned of the passing of Steven Heighton, a fine poet, essayist, short story writer, novelist, and an even better man,” @biblioasis tweeted. “He will be missed by all of us here at Biblioasis, and by so many others. Our condolences to his family and loved ones.”
“It is with deep sadness that we’ve learned of the passing of Steven Heighton, a talented poet, short story writer, novelist, and a wonderful person,” Penguin Random House tweeted. “It has been a true privilege to share his words with so many readers, and to have known him; we are all heartbroken.”
Born in Toronto and raised in Red Lake, Ont., Heighton first moved to Kingston to attend Queen’s University and returned after traveling through Asia for a couple of years.
Since he began writing, Heighton has compiled an impressive list of awards in addition to the Governor General literary prize in 2016 for his fifth book of poetry titled “The Waking Comes Late.”
His first poetry prize came in 1990, when he won the Gerald Lampert Award for best first poetry collection for “Stalin’s Carnival” (he also had “Foreign Ghosts” published in 1989). He also took home the Petra Kenney Prize for Poetry in 2002 and the PK Page Founder’s Award in 2011. He was named a finalist for the Governor General’s Award in Poetry in 1995 for “The Ecstasy of Skeptics” and finalist for the Moth International Poetry Prize for “Christmas Work Detail, Samos.”
Heighton also won a number of prizes for his short stories. In 1991, he won first place in the Prism International Short Story Competition. He was a finalist for the Trilliam Award for “Flight Paths of the Emperor” in 2003 and for “The Dead Are More Visible” a decade later.
Heighton, who won five National Magazine Awards for his fiction and poetry, wrote four novels, the last being 2017’s “The Nightingale Won’t Let You Sleep.”
In 2020, I have had two books published. One was the memoir “Reaching Mithymna: Among the Volunteers and Refugees on Lesvos,” which would go on to be shortlisted for the 2020 Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust Prize for Nonfiction.
The same month that “Reaching Mithymna” came out, his only children’s book, “The Stray and the Stranger,” was also published. It, too, came as a result of his volunteer work overseas in 2015.