David Helwig was born in Toronto in April 1938 and was raised in Niagara-on-the-Lake. He received his BA from the University of Toronto in 1960 and earned his Masters at the University of Liverpool in 1962.
During the mid-1960s, Helwig became established in the Canadian literary scene by co-founding Quarry Magazine with Tom Marshall and Michael Ondaatje. Based in Kingston, Ontario, he became an English professor at Queens University and taught courses at Collins Bay Penitentiary. Using prose interviews with an inmate of the penitentiary, Helwig published a book about his experiences titled A Book About Billie (Oberon Press, 1972).
Between 1974 and 1976, Helwig worked as the literary manager of CBC’s television drama department, and continued to work freelance at CBC in the following decades.
Helwig is the author of 17 books of poetry, 25 books of fiction, and several other books which include translations, collected essays, and his memoir. Among his novels are a collection set in Kingston, Ontario, known as “The Kingston Novels”: The Glass Knight (1976), Jennifer (1979), It’s Always Summer (1982), and A Sound Like Laughter (1983). His autobiography, The Names of Things: A Memoir was published in 2006. His poetry collections have received numerous awards, including the CBC poetry award for Catchpenny Poems (1983), and the Atlantic Poetry Award for The Year One (2004).
In 1996, Helwig relocated to Prince Edward Island. He was appointed the province’s Poet Laureate in 2008 and received the Order of Canada in 2009. He is also a recipient of the Matt Cohen Award from the Writers’ Trust of Canada for lifetime contribution to Canadian literature.
As an essayist, Helwig published regularly in the Globe and Mail’s Facts & Arguments section (1990-1992) and the monthly PEI magazine, The Buzz (2005-2015).
His partner, Judy Gaudet, is an accomplished poet. His daughter, Maggie Helwig, is an Anglican priest, author, and social advocate in Toronto.