It has been said that all poetry is experimental, but J. Roger Léveillé made poetry pioneering too. He created and established Franco-Manitoban literature as a form, as something worthy of study in universities throughout the world. Perhaps no other person has exported Franco-Manitoba culture to such a degree. His creative, inspiring and reverberating voice will forever enrich the cultural environments of Canada and Europe. For this, the University of Manitoba awards him an Honorary Doctor of Letters.
Born into an artistic family in Winnipeg, he developed a passion for literature at a young age. He pursued classical studies at Collège de Saint-Boniface where he was actively involved in various cultural activities, particularly as director of the film society and as writer and later editor of the student newspaper, Frontières. In 1965, he took part in the first exhibition of Franco-Manitoban artists at the St. Boniface Public Library. After obtaining his Bachelor of Arts from the University of Manitoba, he moved to Montreal where he pursued graduate studies for one semester. He later received his Master of Arts from the University of Manitoba in 1968 and published his first poetic narrative, Tombeau, that same year. In 1973, he abandoned his doctoral thesis at the University of Manitoba to devote himself to writing. After briefly working as a French-language instructor, he went into journalism in 1981 while continuing to publish works such as L’incomparable and the collective works Le livre des marges and Œuvre de la première mort.
In 1984, he established the collection Rouge at Les Éditions du Blé with the aim of promoting local young poets. He also started preparation work for the Anthologie de la poésie franco-manitobaine, which was published in 1990. In 1994, he received the Prix littéraire du Manitoba français for his work Causer l’amour and, in 1997, the Prix du Consulat général de France à Toronto for his entire body of work. That same year, he developed the Foyer des Écrivains, the francophone component of the Winnipeg International Writers Festival, of which he was a board member for many years. In 1999, he was invited by the Government of Canada to the Salon du livre de Paris and was later inducted into the Temple de la renommée de la culture du Manitoba français.
In 2003, he received the Prix Champlain as well as the Prix Rue-Deschambault for his novel Le soleil du lac qui se couche. He received the Manitoba Writing and Publishing Lifetime Achievement Award in 2006 and most recently, he was named recipient of the Manitoba Arts Council’s 2012 Manitoba Arts Award of Distinction.
J. Roger Léveillé has been writing for over forty years, publishing nearly thirty works. The University of Manitoba and Université de Saint-Boniface pay tribute to him today by conferring on him an Honorary Doctor of Letters in recognition of his remarkable contribution to the promotion of literature and the arts both nationally and internationally.
J. Roger Léveillé