Tonja Gunvaldsen Klaasen


Tonja Gunvaldsen Klaassen was born and raised on the prairies, where she learned, among other things, how to make relish and flapper pie. She studied literature at the University of Saskatchewan and since then has published two collections of poetry. Clay Birds, published by Coteau Books, was shortlisted for the Gerald Lampert Award and won the Saskatchewan Poetry Award in 1996. Ör, published by Brick Books, won a John V. Hicks manuscript prize and was shortlisted for the 2004 Pat Lowther Award. Her suite of poems titled August won a CBC Literary Award in 2004 and is published by Gaspereau Press in their Devil’s Whim Chapbook Series.

The 2010 Atlantic Poetry Prize was awarded to Tonja Gunvaldsen Klaassen for Lean-To (Gaspereau), with judges’ comments stating that “By the time I finished this carefully crafted book, I felt like I knew her.”

Tonja lives in Halifax with her husband and their three little boys.

“Tonja Gunvaldsen Klaassen’s poems seduce and trouble the readers. Syllable by syllable, synapse by synapse, the poems develop by association, laying down intricate tracks of sense and sound; they follow the archaic poetic logic of ‘jumping mind,’ of trance states and dreams. These poems fuse a rich imagery of bodily experience – birthing, illness, insomnia, sex – into a dense, insistent music. The reader learns to listen again, returning to the child’s earliest pleasures, to rhyme and singing sound.” – Hilary Clark, author of More Light and The Dwelling of Weather





Winner, Atlantic Poetry Prize 2010, ‘Lean-To’.


Winner of the 1996 Saskatchewan Book Award for Poetry; ‘Clay Birds’.


Shortlisted for the 1996 Gerald Lampert Award; ‘Clay Birds’.

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