About Us

By funding the Griffin Poetry Prize – the world’s largest prize for a first edition single collection of poetry written in English ­ The Griffin Trust For Excellence In Poetry aims to spark the public’s imagination and raise awareness of the crucial role poetry plays in our cultural life.

The Griffin Trust was founded in April 2000 by Chairman Scott Griffin, along with Trustees Margaret Atwood, Robert Hass, Michael Ondaatje, Robin Robertson and David Young. In 2004 Carolyn Forché was named a Trustee and joined the list of internationally-acclaimed writers who sit on the board of the Griffin Trust. In 2014, Karen Solie, Colm Tóibín and Mark Doty were named Trustees, and Margaret Atwood and Robert Hass assumed the role of Trustees Emeritus.

“Poetry is something more philosophical and more worthy of serious attention than history.”
– Aristotle

The Griffin Trust’s support for poetry focuses on the annual Griffin Poetry Prize, which awards two literary prizes of $65,000 each and an additional $10,000 to each shortlisted poet who reads at the annual Griffin Poetry Prize Shortlist Readings in Toronto. A Canadian prize is given to a living poet resident in Canada; an international prize is given to a living poet from any country in the world. Both prizes may include works in translation. Judges are selected annually by the trustees and the prizes are awarded in the spring of each year.

The Griffin Poetry Prize is promoted through an evening of readings by the shortlisted poets, and by the marketing and advertising organized through the media, publishers and bookstores. Eligible collections of poetry are those published between January 1 and December 31 of any given year. Submissions are accepted from publishers only.

“Poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world.”
– Percy Bysshe Shelley

Full details of application procedures for the prize are available here.



The Griffin Trust was founded in April 2000 by Chairman Scott Griffin, along with Trustees Margaret Atwood, Robert Hass, Michael Ondaatje, Robin Robertson and David Young. In 2004 Carolyn Forché was named a Trustee and joined the list of internationally-acclaimed writers who sit on the board of the Griffin Trust. In 2014, Karen Solie and Colm Tóibín were named Trustees and Margaret Atwood and Robert Hass moved into the role of Trustees Emeritus.


SCOTT GRIFFIN is Chairman, Director and controlling shareholder of House of Anansi Press Inc., a Canadian intermediate literary publishing company, publishing fiction, non-fiction and poetry; Founder, Chairman and Director of The Scott Griffin Foundation; and Founder of Poetry In Voice/Les voix de la poésie, a national, bilingual poetry recitation contest combining the dynamic aspects of slam poetry, spoken word and theatre with the study of great literature in the high school classroom. In 2006, he published a memoir entitled My Heart is Africa about his two-year aviation adventure throughout that continent. His interests include sailing, skiing, flying, English literature and travel to remote places. He was born in Hamilton, Ontario.

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MARK DOTY is the author of eight books of poems, including Fire to Fire: New and Selected Poems, which won the National Book Award for Poetry in 2008; School of the Arts, Source and My Alexandria. He has also published five volumes of nonfiction prose, among them Dog Years, which was named a New York Times bestseller in 2007; Still Life with Oysters and Lemon, Heaven’s Coast and Firebird. The Art of Description, a handbook for writers, appeared in 2011. He is the first American poet to have won the T.S. Eliot Prize in the U.K. and his work has been honoured by the National Book Critics Circle Award, the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, a Whiting Writers Award, two Lambda Literary Awards and the PEN/Martha Albrand Award for First Nonfiction. He has received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Lila Wallace-Reader’s Digest Fund. A new book of poems, Deep Lane, will be published in April 2015. He is at work on What is the Grass, a prose meditation on Walt Whitman’s life and poetry. He teaches at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey and lives in New York City.

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CAROLYN FORCHÉ is the author of four books of poetry: Gathering The Tribes, which received the Yale Younger Poets Award, The Country Between Us, chosen as the Lamont Selection of the Academy of American Poets, The Angel of History, which won the Los Angeles Times Book Award, and Blue Hour, which was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. She has translated Flowers from the Volcano and Sorrow by Claribel Alegria, The Selected Poems of Robert Desnos (with William Kulik), and Mahmoud Darwish’s Unfortunately, It Was Paradise (with Munir Akash). She compiled and edited Against Forgetting: Twentieth Century Poetry of Witness. She has received three fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship, a Lannan Foundation Fellowship, and in 1998, was given the Edita and Ira Morris Hiroshima Foundation Award for Peace and Culture in Stockholm for her work on behalf of human rights and the preservation of memory and culture. In 2006, she won the Robert Creeley Award, named after the renowned poet and former Griffin Poetry Prize judge who died in March 2005. She teaches at Skidmore College and lives in Maryland with her husband, photographer Harry Mattison, and their son, Sean-Christophe.

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Novelist and poet MICHAEL ONDAATJE‘s most recent novel is The Cat’s Table. His Booker Prize-winning novel The English Patient was also made into an Oscar-winning film and his book The Conversations: Walter Murch and the Art of Editing Film, was honoured with a 2003 American Cinema Editors Award. His novel Divisadero won the Governor General’s Literary Award (2007); his novel In the Skin of a Lion was named the winner of Canada Reads (2002), has been translated into 10 languages and was the first winner of Ontario’s Trillium Book Award; his novel Anil’s Ghost won the Governor-General’s Literary Award (2000), France’s Prix Medici, the Kiriyama Pacific Rim Book Prize, the Irish Times International Fiction Prize and was named co-winner of the Giller Prize. Coming Through Slaughter, his first novel, won the Books in Canada First Novel Award (1976); his ever-popular fictionalized family history, Running in the Family, was published in 1982. Ondaatje began his writing career as a poet with The Dainty Monsters (1969). He has since published nine other books of poetry, including The Collected Works of Billy the Kid, which won the Governor General’s Literary Award (1970); The Cinnamon Peeler and Handwriting. His stage version of The Collected Works of Billy the Kid was performed in Canada, the US and Britain. Ondaatje was born in Sri Lanka, and moved to Canada in 1962. He lives in Toronto.

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KAREN SOLIE was born in Moose Jaw, and grew up in southwest Saskatchewan. She is the author of three collections of poetry: Short Haul Engine (2001), Modern and Normal (2005) and Pigeon (2009), which in 2010 was awarded the Pat Lowther Award, the Trillium Poetry Prize, and the Griffin Poetry Prize. The Living Option (2013), a volume of selected and new poems published in the U.K. received a Poetry Book Society Recommendation. House of Anansi Press will publish a new collection of poems in 2015. Solie has worked for creative writing programs at York University, the University of Toronto, University of Guelph, and University of British Columbia, and served as Writer In Residence for the University of Alberta and University of New Brunswick. In 2011 she was the inaugural International Writer in Residence for the University of St. Andrews in St. Andrews, Scotland. Her work has been published in anthologies and journals across Canada, in the U.S., U.K., Europe and Australia. Her work has been translated into French, German, Korean and Dutch. She is an Associate Director for the Banff Centre’s Writing Studio program and lives in Toronto.

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COLM TOIBIN was born in Enniscorthy, Co Wexford in 1955 and educated at University College Dublin. He is the author of five novels: The South, (1990) winner of The Irish Times Literature Prize in 1991; The Heather Blazing, winner of the Encore Award for the best second novel in 1992; The Story of the Night (1997); The Blackwater Lightship (1999), shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize; and The Master (2004), shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize and winner of the Los Angeles Times Novel of the Year and the Prix du Meilleur Livre Etranger in France; and The Testament of Mary (2012), longlisted for the Man Booker Prize in 2013. Tóibín’s books have been translated into 25 languages.

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DAVID YOUNG is the author of the plays Glenn, Inexpressible Island, Clout, Love is Strange and Fire that have been widely produced in Canada, the United States and Europe. In a former life, he was president of the Coach House Press for ten years. David has also published two novels and written extensively for film and television. Young recently completed a screenplay about an armored car heist and is currently adapting Alistair MacLeod’s novel No Great Mischief for the stage, to be produced next season in Toronto. In addition, he wrote a six-hour mini-series about medical relief work in the middle of the civil war in south Sudan, which was shot in South Africa. He lives in Toronto.

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Trustees Emeritus


MARGARET ATWOOD‘s books have been acclaimed internationally. In a rich and varied career she has authored more than 35 volumes of poetry, fiction and non-fiction and her work has been published in more than 40 languages. Atwood’s newest novels, The Year of the Flood (2009) and MaddAddam (2013) are follow-ups to her 2003 novel, Oryx and Crake, which was shortlisted for the coveted Booker and Orange Prizes, and longlisted for the IMPAC award. Other recent publications are Moral Disorder, a collection of interconnected short stories; The Door, a volume of poetry, and Payback: Debt and the Shadow Side of Wealth, which won the Canadian Booksellers Association Libris Award (2009) for Best Non-Fiction Book. Additional titles include the Booker Prize-winning The Blind Assassin; Alias Grace, which won the Giller Prize in Canada, and the Premio Mondello in Italy; The Robber Bride, Cat’s Eye, The Handmaid’s Tale, The Penelopiad and The Tent. A number of these titles have also been rendered in theatrical, operatic, and television film versions. In 2004, she co-invented the Long Pen™. Among many accolades, Atwood was awarded the Prince of Asturias Award for Letters (2008), the World Economic Forum’s Crystal Award (2010), and the Nelly Sachs Prize for Literature (2010). She is currently a Vice-President of International PEN. Born in Ottawa, Atwood grew up in northern Ontario, Quebec, and Toronto. She currently lives in Toronto with writer Graeme Gibson. Together, they are the Joint Honorary Presidents of the Rare Bird Society within Birdlife International.

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ROBERT HASS was US Poet Laureate from 1995-97, a position he used to battle American illiteracy and promote awareness about the environment. Awarded the MacArthur ‘Genius’ Fellowship, twice the National Book Critics Circle Award (in 1984 and 1997), and the Yale Series of Younger Poets in 1973, Robert Hass is a professor of English at UC Berkeley. His most recent volume of poetry, Time and Materials, was honoured with the 2008 Pulitzer Prize. He also published the Best American Poetry 2001 anthology and his books of poetry include Field Guide, Praise, Human Wishes, and Sun Under Wood, as well as a book of essays on poetry entitled Twentieth Century Pleasures. He has co-translated many of the works of Nobel Prize-winning Polish poet, Czeslaw Milosz, including A Treatise on Poetry, and he has edited Selected Poems: 1954-1986 by Tomas Tranströmer and The Essential Haiku: Versions of Basho, Buson, and Issa. Robert Hass’s deep commitment to environmental issues led him to found the River of Words international art and poetry contest.

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ROBIN ROBERTSON is from the north-east coast of Scotland. He has published five books of poetry and received a number of accolades, including the Petrarca Preis, the E.M. Forster Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters and all three Forward Prizes. He has also edited a collection of essays, Mortification: Writers’ Stories of Their Public Shame, translated two plays of Euripides, Medea and the Bacchae, and, in 2006, published The Deleted World, a selection of free English versions of poems by the Nobel laureate Tomas Tranströmer. Hirta Songs – his song cycle about St Kilda, written in collaboration with Alasdair Roberts – was released in 2013. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. His selected poems, Sailing the Forest, came out in 2014 from Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

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Photo credits:
Scott Griffin, by Don Dixon
Robert Hass, by Margaretta Mitchell
Robin Robertson, by Niall McDiarmid
David Young, courtesy of the Reykjavik International Literary Festival

5 thoughts on “About Us

  1. I used to write poetry for 20 years. No one in this country would help me. Now I work in visual arts and graphic design. Canadians don’t just don’t respect or appreciate each other.

  2. Hello…a friend of mine recently told me about this Griffin Trust For Excellence in Poetry…I read the Rules to the Poetry Prize and it states to enter, you must submit
    ‘four copies of each submitted title’; I just had my first ‘Poetry’ book titled ‘Feelings for Life’ published and would like to enter the contest…do I send you four books or just four copies of poems?…

  3. Sharon, thanks for your interest in the Griffin Poetry Prize. Per the rules, submissions must come from publishers, and we ask for four copies of each book.

  4. Please is there room for unpublished author’s? I have numerous poems that l wish to publish and wish to enter for competitions to this effect.
    Thanks for the anticipated information.

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