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Heritage Toronto honours Milton Acorn and Gwendolyn MacEwen

Milton Acorn and Gwendolyn MacEwan

Acorn and MacEwen, 1960 (photo courtesy of the Estate of Raymond Souster and Heritage Toronto)

Heritage Toronto is due to honour poet and playwright Milton Acorn and his former wife, author and CBC radio docudrama writer Gwendolyn MacEwen*, with a plaque on Toronto’s Ward’s Island.

Acorn (1923–1986), a Charlottetown, P.E.I., native and a Second World War veteran, produced multiple volumes and poetry and other writing that garnered international attention. He was the recipient of a Canadian Poet Award in 1970 and a Governor General’s Award in 1976 for The Island Means Minago. The Milton Acorn People’s Poetry Award was established to commemorate the author in 1987, and two biopics about his life and work have been produced by the National Film Board of Canada.

Toronto-born MacEwen (1941–1987) published more than 20 books in her literary career, and was the winner of two Governor General’s Awards for her poetry – in 1969 for The Shadow-Maker and posthumously in 1987 for Afterworlds – and a Queen’s Silver Jubilee Medal for her contribution to the arts in 1977. She also served as writer-in-residence at the University of Western Ontario, and twice at the University of Toronto in the 1980s. The former Walmer Road Park in Toronto’s Annex neighbourhood was re-named for MacEwen in 1996.

The two were married briefly in 1962, during which time they resided in a Toronto Island home at 10 Second Street.

The plaque will be unveiled at a public ceremony on the island at Lakeshore and Second Street on Aug. 29 at 1 p.m.

*Correction Aug. 19: An earlier version of this post misspelled McEwen’s last name