Scott Griffin has known and appreciated the importance of poetry from an early age, and that strongly informed the inception and continued growth of the Griffin Trust For Excellence In Poetry.
In addition to the Griffin Poetry Prize, the Griffin Trust initiates and supports projects and ventures consistent with the mandate of the Prize to further promote appreciation of Canadian and international poetry.
Poetry In Voice / Les voix de la poésie
A national bilingual poetry recitation contest
In November, 2010, Scott Griffin, founder of The Griffin Trust for Excellence in Poetry, announced the launch 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. A total of $10,000 in awards and school stipends was awarded in 2011 in a pilot competition featuring 12 Ontario schools. The expectation is that the program will expand in 2012 to include all of Ontario and Quebec, and branch out to schools across the country in 2013.
Poetry In Voice 2015 finalist Ayo Akinfenwa recites at Griffin Poetry Prize awards ceremony
Al Purdy – A Permanent Tribute
One of Canada’s most beloved poets was honoured on May 20, 2008 with the unveiling of a statue in his likeness at an historic ceremony at Queen’s Park in Toronto. This is only the second full-length statue of a poet in Toronto (the other being of Robbie Burns), and one of very few in Canada. The event was presided over by Toronto’s Poet Laureate Pier Giorgio Di Cicco with Purdy’s widow, Eurithe Purdy, unveiling the monument to her late husband.
Mayor David Miller spoke to the crowd about the man who was often described as Canada’s national poet. “Al Purdy is one of Canada’s greatest poets,” said Toronto Mayor David Miller. “This statue, donated to the people of Toronto by the friends of the Poet Laureate and placed in a prominent location in Queen’s Park, is a fitting tribute to a person who enriched the lives of so many Canadians.”
In 2001, Scott Griffin, founder of the Griffin Poetry Prize and a member of the Friends of the Poet Laureate, suggested the statue to Dennis Lee, Toronto’s first Poet Laureate. Together with Lee, Margaret Atwood, Michael Ondaatje and professor Sam Solecki, Griffin commissioned husband and wife sculptors Edwin and Veronica Dam de Nogales to create the memorial artwork after a review of a number of contemporary sculptors.
Lee said of the poet, who died in 2000: “Al Purdy is one of the titans; if we have a national poet in English Canada, he’s it. The Purdy statue is a tremendous way to celebrate his place in our lives.”
Voice of the Land, the name given to the Purdy statue by the Dam de Nogales, is situated prominently in Queen’s Park north.
Griffin – who underwrote the project – along with Lee, Atwood, Ondaatje, and Solecki, partnered with the City of Toronto’s Culture Division to honour Al Purdy with the sculpture. Atwood summarized the importance of the project: “It’s wonderful that the Friends of the Poet Laureate has arranged for this arresting public statue of Al Purdy, one of Canada’s foremost poets. Cities such as Edinburgh, Scotland, are known for their honouring of their own cultural tradition, and it’s encouraging to see Toronto, as well as the province of Ontario beginning to do the same.”
Solecki, Purdy’s editor and close friend, added: “When a great Scottish poet died, one of his friends insisted that ‘Because of his death, this country should observe two minutes of pandemonium.’ Since pandemonium is un-Canadian and not protected by the Charter of Rights, we’re commemorating Al Purdy’s remarkable life with a statue in Queen’s Park.”
Griffin trustees and Griffin Poetry Prize nominated and winning poets have attended, read at and joined discussions and panels at notable literary festivals worldwide. Read more about the Griffin presence at the following events:
- Reykjavik International Literary Festival (2009)
- Dublin Writers Festival (2005)
- Poetry International, London (2004)
- Edinburgh International Book Festival (2002)
From its inception, the Griffin Trust For Excellence In Poetry has donated copies of poetry books submitted for the Griffin Poetry Prize to various organizations. Hundreds of submitted books have been donated to Correctional Service of Canada, resulting in a wide range of poetry collections making their way to prison libraries across Canada. Sets of shortlisted books have also been donated to the Scottish Poetry Library, the Poetry Library in London, England, the Library Hotel in New York, Slave Lake Public Library in Slave Lake, Alberta and Tecnológico de Monterrey of Mexico. Books have also gone to schools, colleges and other worthy organizations and causes around the world, as chosen by Griffin trustees and judges.