Noor Naga Wins 2019 RBC/PEN Canada New Voices Award

Noor Naga has won the 2019 RBC/PEN Canada New Voices Award for young, unpublished writers. The award is funded by the RBC Emerging Artists Project and includes a $3,000 cash prize and mentorship from a Canadian author.
Naga is the fourth writer to receive the prize since RBC and PEN partnered to create the New Voices award in 2016. Jurists Esi Edugyan, Omar El Akkad, and Lisa Moore selected Naga’s sequence of poems, nouf and the breath in the jar, from over a hundred submissions.
“There is a chaotic soulfulness about nouf and the breath in the jar, an intimacy with the unpredictable, unmerciful nature of life,” said the jurists. “The author’s use of language is at times fiercely kinetic, at times surgical, but in both cases inventive and exquisite. This is a beautiful meditation on what it means to only partially belong, to live as the product of someone’s half-realized dreams.”
Naga lives in Alexandria, Egypt. She received her MA in creative writing from the University of Toronto, and is the winner of the 2017 RBC Bronwen Wallace Award for Emerging Writers. Her writing has also appeared in The Walrus, Granta, and The Common, and her verse-novel Washes, Prays is forthcoming in Spring 2020 from McClelland & Stewart.
“As the largest organization advocating for freedom of speech and the rights of writers worldwide, PEN is vital in protecting our ability to do what we do—safely,” said Naga. “It’s an honor to be recognized by an institution that has helped release so many writers from persecution and censorship, and to be supported at this stage in my career through their mentorship program.”
The runners-up for the 2019 New Voices Award were Brad Donaldson’s Sinking, Jade Wallace’s Half-Done Work, Ian MacLean’s The Inhabited, and Juhyun Tony Bae’s Buried.
The RBC Emerging Artists Project provides financial support to organizations like PEN Canada to help emerging artists become better established. Jaclyn Desforges, the 2018 New Voices Award winner, published her debut poetry chapbook Hello Nice Man with Anstruther Press in early 2019. Mikko Harvey, winner of the 2017 prize, published Unstable Neighbourhood Rabbit, his first collection of poetry, in 2018. Laura Legge, the 2016 winner, won the PEN International New Voices Award later that year and published her first novel, Cala, in Spring 2019.