Announcing

The Griffin Poetry Prize 2016 Shortlist

TORONTO – April 12, 2016 – Scott Griffin, founder of The Griffin Trust For Excellence In Poetry is pleased to announce the International and Canadian shortlist for this year’s prize. Judges Alice Oswald (UK), Tracy K. Smith (USA) and Adam Sol (Canada) each read 633 books of poetry, from 43 countries, including 25 translations.

The seven finalists—four International and three Canadian—will be invited to read in Toronto at Koerner Hall at The Royal Conservatory in the TELUS Centre for Performance and Learning, 273 Bloor Street West, Toronto, on Wednesday, June 1st at 7.30 p.m. The seven finalists will each be awarded $10,000 for their participation in the Shortlist Readings.

The winners, to be announced at the Griffin Poetry Prize Awards on Thursday, June 2nd, will each be awarded $65,000.

Download the 2016 Griffin Poetry Prize shortlist press release, book and publisher details, poet biographies and judges' citations.

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International Shortlist

bookThe Quotations of Bone

poetNorman Dubie

publisherCopper Canyon Press

Biography

Norman Dubie is a Regents professor at Arizona State University. A practitioner of Tibetan Buddhism whose work has been translated into thirty languages, Dubie has been the poetry editor for The Iowa Review and the director of the graduate poetry workshop at the University of Iowa. Regularly published in The New Yorker and other magazines, Dubie is a highly regarded and widely anthologized poet. He has won the Bess Hokin Award of the Modern Poetry Association and fellowships from The Ingram Merrill Foundation, The John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts. He lives in Tempe, Arizona.

Judges' Citation

"The poems in Dubie's newest collection are deeply oneiric, governed by vigorous leaping energy that brings the intimate into contact with history, and blurs the distinction between what is real because it once happened, and what is real because of the emphatic manner in which it has been felt. Longtime admirers of Dubie will certainly recognize the familiar mind and spirit able to punch through the surface of experience and into deep psychic quandary with a single revelatory gesture ("Did you ever want to give someone // All your money?)-but that tendency is greatly amplified here. One feels the unconscious mind working ceaselessly, even playfully, alongside memory, imparting the poems as if with a strange and consoling living spirit. This makes for a heightened sense of mystery and mortality in poems of private experience. And when such an impulse is aligned with public history-the division of Germany, say, or the acceleration of the planet's ecological crisis-it is outright haunting. Dubie's uncontested mastery of the lyric poem has, in this collection, broken into strange and revelatory territory."

Summary

In his twenty ninth collection of poems, Norman Dubie offers a rich, colour-soaked vision of the world. Strangeness becomes a parable for compassion, each poem leading the reader to an uncommon way of understanding human capacities. In the futuristic sphere of The Quotations of Bone, the mind wanders meditatively into an imaginative and uncontainable history.

Note: Summaries are taken from promotional materials supplied by the publisher, unless otherwise noted.

More about Norman Dubie

The following are links to other Web sites with information about poet Norman Dubie. (Note: All links to external Web sites open in a new browser window.)

"vigorous leaping energy that brings the intimate into contact with history"

Telegram

Baudelaire's draft of pepper trees and large deer asleep in snow - a cosmic raft burning above the night hill.

A card trick with a district mistress, the purposeful syphilis, ancient orbs of flowers fold - sentimental,

resting on wet newspaper but not with winter rains - not Paris.

Chère, Great Danes

eating your black shoe.

From The Quotations of Bone by Norman Dubie
Copyright © 2015 by Norman Dubie

bookConflict Resolution for Holy Beings

poetJoy Harjo

publisherW.W. Norton & Company

Biography

Joy Harjo is an internationally known performer and writer of the Mvskoke/Creek Nation, the author of ten books of poetry and, most recently, a memoir, Crazy Brave. A critically acclaimed poet, her many honours include a Guggenheim Fellowship, the Josephine Miles Poetry Award, the William Carlos Williams Award, and the American Indian Distinguished Achievement in the Arts Award. She lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Judges' Citation

"Joy Harjo has been a crucial figure in American letters for decades, and her latest collection, Conflict Resolution for Holy Beings, presents her at the height of her powers. Intermingling Mvskoke storytelling, rock-and-roll lyrics, cityscapes and personal address, Harjo's poems are at once sweeping in their concerns and intimate in their tone and approach. Harjo's is a poetics that is not afraid to speak directly when the moment warrants, nor to refer to traditions – literary traditions, folk traditions, musical traditions – with effortless erudition. Conflict Resolution for Holy Beings is a book of transitions and transformations, inhabiting liminal spaces like hotel rooms and deteriorating natural landscapes. The poems urge engagement, but they also encourage a wider perspective, because for Harjo even 'the edge between life and death is thinner than a dried animal bladder.' In the midst of profound change both personal and global, these poems offer guidance and empathy, ceremony and admonishment, wisdom, comfort and song."

Summary

Joy Harjo’s long-anticipated new collection, Conflict Resolution for Holy Beings continues the work we have come to know her for - poems that connect personal experience, nature, the political, the feminist, Native American history and myth, the subconscious. Harjo sees poets as "the workers for justice, / the dancers of ceremony, the singers of heartache, / the visionaries, all makers and carriers of fresh / meaning." For Harjo, life, work, and poem cannot really be separated; these poems speak out of the wisdom of all the years of Harjo's life and poetry, and they speak into the work Harjo sees to be done in the world. These poems are observations and instructions.

Note: Summaries are taken from promotional materials supplied by the publisher, unless otherwise noted.

More about Joy Harjo

The following are links to other Web sites with information about poet Joy Harjo. (Note: All links to external Web sites open in a new browser window.)

"In the midst of profound change both personal and global, these poems offer guidance and empathy, ceremony and admonishment, wisdom, comfort and song."

Charlie and the Baby

Charlie was in Venice, wheeling his granddaughter in a     stroller Down the boardwalk, through noisy spring crowds. He was the happiest he'd ever been. He was with the baby, The sun, and the ocean who busied herself carrying time And breaking it against sand.

In the sky over Charlie and the baby were flights coming in    from Hawaii, China and other lands. They circled like reachable stars. Men fished from the pier; mothers unfolded picnics, As children played hide-and-seek. In the blue breathed immense light beings. From their eyes, we were lost and small.

Charlie called and asked me how I was doing -

I probably recited the usual, you know: I am living a life That takes me almost everywhere. Jet lag. Band practice.    The kids. Poems.

From Conflict Resolution for Holy Beings by Joy Harjo
Copyright © 2015 by Joy Harjo

book40 Sonnets

poetDon Paterson

publisherFaber and Faber

Biography

Don Paterson was born in Dundee in 1963. His previous poetry collections include Nil Nil, God's Gift to Women, Landing Light and Rain. He has also published two books of aphorisms, as well as translations of Antonio Machado and Rainer Maria Rilke. His poetry has won many awards, including the Whitbread Poetry Prize, the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize and all three Forward Prizes; he is currently the only poet to have won the T.S. Eliot Prize twice. He was awarded the Queen's Gold Medal for Poetry in 2009. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, the English Association and the Royal Society of Edinburgh, and is currently Professor of Poetry at the University of St. Andrews. Since 1997 he has been poetry editor at Picador Macmillan, and he also works as a jazz musician and composer. He lives in Edinburgh.

Judges' Citation

"About half the poems in Don Paterson's latest book are strict sonnets and half are wild or disobedient sonnets (four beats to a line, one word to a line, one word to a whole poem or sometimes just plain prose) but these variants of one form work together to make a fascinating and sustained piece of music, like a fugue. The poems use their patterns to think through questions about consciousness. They are smart and exact but at the same time surprisingly emotional. Since 1993 Paterson has been eroding his style from the light loose poems of Nil Nil towards the spare almost mathematical brilliance of this book. He can write now with resonant clarity about anything: his dog, his children, the air, Dundee Council, Tony Blair, the soul. The melody of the sonnet form gives all these subjects an unstrained seriousness. 40 Sonnets is a wonderful offering, patiently made."

Summary

40 Sonnets, Don Paterson's first collection since the Forward Prize-winning Rain, is a rich and accomplished work from one of the foremost poets writing in English today. While some take a traditional form, and some are highly experimental, all these poems show the rare intelligence and lyric gift that has been the hallmark of his work since his first book, Nil Nil, in 1993. Addressed to friends and strangers, the living and the dead, to children, poets, musicians and dogs - as well to as the author himself - these poems display an ambition in their scope and tonal range matched by the breadth of their concerns.

Note: Summaries are taken from promotional materials supplied by the publisher, unless otherwise noted.

More about Don Paterson

The following are links to other Web sites with information about poet Don Paterson. (Note: All links to external Web sites open in a new browser window.)

"The poems use their patterns to think through questions about consciousness."

A Calling

vellet abesse quidem, sed adest - OVID, Metamorphoses, III

A winter train; a gale; a poacher's moon. The black glass. Do I honestly still blame the wrong turn in the changing rooms I took when I was six, and stood too long to look? The roar Miss Venner loosed at me: 'The nerve!' I was ablaze. And it was worth the shame, or so I thought, though it was far too soon to tell the dream from what I'd paid for it. Then soon too late. Two sides of the same door. Was it her bow's recoil or its release that lashed the world so out of shape? Tonight I stare right through the face that I deserve as all my ghost-dogs thrash along the shore, the dark sea at their back like the police.

From 40 Sonnets by Don Paterson
Copyright © 2015 by Don Paterson

bookHeaven

poetRowan Ricardo Phillips

publisherFarrar, Straus and Giroux

Biography

Rowan Ricardo Phillips is the author of Heaven (2015) and The Ground(2012). He is the recipient of a Whiting Writers' Award, the PEN/Joyce Osterweil Award, the GLCA New Writers Award for Poetry, and a Guggenheim Fellowship. He lives in New York City.

Judges' Citation

"Rowan Ricardo Phillips' second collection of poems pushes off from his debut, The Ground, by looking out and off toward the many Heavens we find in our midst: the heaven of the natural world, large and silent and sublime; the heaven of ecstatic language and lyric possibility; the heavens of memory and of love; the flawed, finite, deeply familiar heaven of 21st Century. In poems of exquisite craft, rich allusion and nimble intelligence, Phillips creates a gathering ground for glimmers of Homer and Shakespeare, Frost and Stevens. But he casts a wide net, also making surprising use of sources as unlikely as the Wu Tang Clan and Mel Gibson, and as chastening as the recent preponderance of shootings that have left unarmed blacks dead and their assailants deemed 'Not Guilty.' This is a book that manages to make something indelible of what we've wrought and lost, and of what we are still desperate to decipher - the truth we’ll only know from learning to 'squint in its direction and poke.'"

Summary

"Who the hell's heaven is this?" Rowan Ricardo Phillips offers many answers, and none at all, in Heaven. Swerving elegantly from humour to heartache, from the beatitudes of Malibu to the beats of the Wu-Tang Clan, from knowledge to ignorance to awe, Phillips turns his gaze upward and outward to face the beyond. Meditating on feverish boyhood, on the Kingdom of Heaven as an excuse for mayhem, on a dead rooster by the side of the road in Ohio, on "Alpenglow ripening the mountain peaks / Into rose-pink pyramids steeped in clouds," his language remains eternally intoxicating, full of play, pathos and surprise.

Note: Summaries are taken from promotional materials supplied by the publisher, unless otherwise noted.

More about Rowan Ricardo Phillips

The following are links to other Web sites with information about poet Rowan Ricardo Phillips. (Note: All links to external Web sites open in a new browser window.)

"This is a book that manages to make something indelible of what we've wrought and lost, and of what we are still desperate to decipher ..."

from Boys

We'd cut school like knives through butter, the three Of us - Peter, Stephen and I - to play Just about all the music we knew, Which meant that from nine in the morning till Steve's parents, the ever-patient Murtaughs, Would get home from work, I played guitar, Peter played bass, and Steve (who'd end Up becoming a guitarist by trade When we went separate ways, to separate Schools, in separate states), Steve at this point Played the drums. We dreamed of power trios And powered our way through song after song, Including ones Steve and I wrote - like "Hey, Regina" and the lamentably Titled "String Her Up." Sometimes we tried out Some Yes, a long "Hey Joe," the stereo phaser Was my signature sound, and I'd bend in And out of notes, imply arpeggios Only to solo over them, tapped, frowned Through anything in a major key, felt My way home on Steve's map of snares, Pete's rope. We'd play an entire Zeppelin album, Usually the first or second, then stray By chance into the longer, later songs Like bees that float down and drown in a pool.

From Heaven by Rowan Ricardo Phillips
Copyright © 2015 by Rowan Ricardo Phillips

Canadian Shortlist

book Frayed Opus for Strings & Wind Instruments

translators Per Brask
Patrick Friesen

poet Ulrikka S. Gernes

publisher Brick Books

Biographies

Per Brask is a Professor in the Department of Theatre and Film at the University of Winnipeg where he has taught since 1982. He has published poetry, short stories, drama, translations, interviews and essays in a wide variety of journals and books. This is his fifth volume of poetry co-translated with Patrick Friesen.

Patrick Friesen is a poet, essayist, playwright and translator living in Victoria, B.C. His most recent publications are jumping in the asylum (2011), a dark boat (2012) and a short history of crazy bone (2015). He has co-translated five volumes of poetry with Per Brask.

Ulrikka S. Gernes was born in 1965 in Sweden to Danish parents. At the age of twenty-two she moved to Copenhagen, Denmark, already a published and highly acclaimed poet. Her first collection, Natsvoermer, was published in Denmark in 1984, when she was eighteen years old. Since then she has published an additional ten collections, all of them received gratefully in the Danish press. She is also the author of two books for children, as well as many short stories, songs, and various contributions to literary anthologies, art catalogues, magazines, newspapers and Danish National radio.

Judges' Citation

"This collaboration between Danish poet, Ulrikka Gernes and Canadian writers, Brask and Friesen, is astonishingly successful, every line at home in its new language. The poems have not stopped being poems. In fact, now that they are speaking through three mouths (one female, two male) they seem to have gathered an extra layer of strangeness which suits their dream-like, mutable, almost anonymous voice: 'Since then I have been standing in the subway singing to passersby and nobody knows my name ...' The world of the poems is twilit, borderless, melancholy, associative, seeping; and these qualities are carried over from the imagery into the fluid, blended structures of the verse. Full of arresting detail and quiet everyday language, this is the second Gernes book to be translated by these writers and it is masterful."

Summary

Elegantly translated by Canadian collaborators Per Brask and Patrick Friesen, Frayed Opus for Strings & Wind Instruments is a new collection of poems from celebrated Danish poet, Ulrikka S. Gernes. These are lyrical, somewhat surreal poems that are nevertheless full of concrete, earthy details; they zoom in and out of places and states of mind, from a lit bicycle shed in the backyard to a root canal in November, from a typhoon in Hong Kong to instincts astray in various Copenhagen neighbourhoods.

Note: Summaries are taken from promotional materials supplied by the publisher, unless otherwise noted.

More about Per Brask, Patrick Friesen and Ulrikka S. Gernes

The following are links to other Web sites with information about translators Per Brask and Patrick Friesen and poet Ulrikka S. Gernes. (Note: All links to external Web sites open in a new browser window.)

"The world of the poems is twilit, borderless, melancholy, associative, seeping ..."

I Have to Find F.

I HAVE TO FIND F. I DON'T KNOW WHY AND I DON'T KNOW where, but if I find F I'll get the answer to an important question. I don't know the question, but at some point I'll be told. It's something to do with an envelope. And a parrot feather. I'm in London. I have a photo of an English row house, the kind of house there are a million of in London. I have no address. I only know that it's in London and that F is in the house in the photo. I must find that house. I have two large suitcases that are very heavy. In addition I have a rucksack on my back. It is too heavy. I can barely carry my luggage. I also have a dog. A small, black and white dog which is very lively. I have it on a leash but it constantly runs away from me. Its name is Ziggy. I call and call after it. It leaps and jumps and barks. It's impossible to control it. We walk through dark, narrow passages and alleys that dead-end and we have to walk back. It seems hopeless, but I mustn't give up. I yell and yell after the dog that constantly skips away from me. In my pocket I have the photo of the house, I have to stop continually, put the suitcases down, take the photo from my pocket and compare the house in the photo with the houses we pass. In this way seventeen years go by.

From Frayed Opus for Strings & Wind Instruments by Per Brask and Patrick Friesen translating from Danish by Ulrikka S. Gernes
Copyright © 2015 by Ulrikka S Gernes / English Translation Copyright © 2015 by Per Brask and Patrick Friesen

bookInfinite Citizen of the Shaking Tent

poetLiz Howard

publisherMcClelland & Stewart

Biography

Liz Howard was born and raised in northern Ontario. She received an Honours Bachelor of Science with High Distinction from the University of Toronto. Her poetry has appeared on Canadian literary journals such as The Capilano Review, The Puritan, and Matrix Magazine. Her chapbook Skullambient was shortlisted for the 2012 bpNichol Chapbook Award. She recently completed an MFA in Creative Writing through the University of Guelph and works as a research officer in cognitive psychology at the University of Toronto.

Judges' Citation

"With penetrating intelligence and playful musicality, Liz Howard's ambitious debut collection keeps us delightfully off-balance with its mix of lyricism and experiment, allusion and invention. In her efforts 'to dream a science that would name me,' Howard explores a dizzying array of texts and landscapes, from Dante to Erin Mouré, from logging camps to high school dances. But for a poet so attuned to the self as 'a fictive province,' we are all 'infinite citizens,' constructed of dredged materials and fraught histories. Howard is capable of thrilling leaps of language, repurposing Longfellow's Song of Hiawatha or imagining an oddly tender childhood memory of a 'boreal swing' made from the carcass of a moose. These poems are filled with energy and magic, suspended between competing inheritances, at home in their hyper-modern hybridity. Infinite Citizen of the Shaking Tent confronts its legacies with vivid imagery and crackling language, and introduces us to a bold, original poetic voice."

Summary

In Liz Howard's wild, scintillating debut, the mechanisms we use to make sense of our worlds - even our direct intimate experiences of it - come under constant scrutiny and a pressure that feels like love. What Howard can accomplish with language strikes us as electric, a kind of alchemy of perception and catastrophe, fidelity and apocalypse. The waters of northern Ontario shield country are the toxic origin and an image of potential. A subject, a woman, a consumer, a polluter; an erotic force, a confused brilliance, a very necessary form of urgency - are all loosely tethered together and made somehow to resonate with our own devotions and fears; made "to be small and dreaming parallel / to ceremony and decay."

Note: Summaries are taken from promotional materials supplied by the publisher, unless otherwise noted.

More about Liz Howard

The following are links to other Web sites with information about poet Liz Howard. (Note: All links to external Web sites open in a new browser window.)

"These poems are filled with energy and magic, suspended between competing inheritances, at home in their hyper-modern hybridity."

Every Human Heart is Human

Ministry of the shaking dress I could call this a streamlet a better coordinate, simply

lamprey in the trafficking style no matter any purple sky or blue vapour

tender pine became women working the real number is even higher

when I was out already cunting in the fields for that fallow had escaped me

in some marsh of insufficient housing laughing all the time Christ thought me a fossil

I, Minnehaha, a small LOL fiction antecedent to quarry a nation

I gave you this name then said Erase it

From Infinite Citizen of the Shaking Tent by Liz Howard
Copyright © 2015 by Liz Howard

bookTell: poems for a girlhood

poetSoraya Peerbaye

publisherPedlar Press

Biography

Soraya Peerbaye's first collection of poetry, Poems for the Advisory Committee on Antarctic Names, was nominated for the Gerald Lampert Award. Her poems have appeared in Red Silk: An Anthology of South Asian Women Poets (2004), edited by Priscila Uppal and Rishma Dunlop, as well as the literary journals Other Voices, Prairie Fire and The New Quarterly; she has also contributed to the chapbook anthology Translating Horses. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Guelph. Peerbaye lives in Toronto with her husband and daughter.

Judges' Citation

"Harrowing and deeply empathetic, Tell: poems for a girlhood traces the events surrounding the 1997 murder of teenager Reena Virk by a group of high school classmates. Peerbaye bears brave witness to the unspeakable brutality of these events, drawing from testimonies of the convicted, the victim's autopsy report, and a history of the landscape itself. And yet, the power of this book derives only partly from the unbearable facts of violence, hatred, and alienation. The true miracle of Tell is not merely its choice to sing of such things, but its ability to sing in such a way as to urge the reader to embrace painful sympathies. Peerbaye's language becomes a vehicle not just for exploring what others in the world may be capable of, but also of drawing readers into excruciating proximity with our own adolescent longing, fear, shame and rage."

Summary

Reena Virk was a girl of South Asian descent who was murdered on November 14th, 1997, in Saanich, British Columbia. At least eight young people participated in the initial assault, while more looked on. Seven of her assailants were girls; five were white. Virk rose from that beating and walked north across a bridge toward home. Her drowned body was found in the Gorge Waterway. In Tell: poems for a girlhood, without a trace of sentimentality and with heart-wrenching courage, Soraya Peerbaye gathers evidence into an entire poetic vision of contemporary adolescent fury and angst.

Note: Summaries are taken from promotional materials supplied by the publisher, unless otherwise noted.

More about Soraya Peerbaye

The following are links to other Web sites with information about poet Soraya Peerbaye. (Note: All links to external Web sites open in a new browser window.)

"Peerbaye bears brave witness to the unspeakable brutality of these events, drawing from testimonies of the convicted, the victim's autopsy report, and a history of the landscape itself."

A good mother

I remember

standing at the gates of the school, in rain, hesitant.

Often I'd be like this, late, lost,

thinking how I'd like to be the kind of girl

to run away; let the creek lead me along its crooked, inky Arabic, accented

with tin cans, bottle caps, broken spokes. To trespass,

to be queen and fighter kite, one of those girls

behind the school, smoking, blowing clouds of white bees; dressed

savagely, against beauty. Frayed jeans, slashed shirts, shoplifted lipstick.

To sleep with a boy, even if it wasn't the sweet, sparrow-eyed one -

Was this before or after the hospital? This moment, wishing. To not

be so careful

Like a good mother, rain buttoned the air between sky and me.

From Tell: poems for a girlhood by Soraya Peerbaye
Copyright © Soraya Peerbaye 2015

Each year, The Griffin Trust For Excellence In Poetry presents an anthology of poems selected from the shortlisted books, published by House of Anansi Press. Royalties from The Griffin Poetry Prize Anthology are donated to UNESCO’s World Poetry Day.

Tickets for the Shortlist Readings to be held on Wednesday, June 1st, at Koerner Hall at The Royal Conservatory in the TELUS Centre for Performance and Learning, 273 Bloor Street West, Toronto are available at http://performance.rcmusic.ca/event/2016-griffin-poetry-prize-shortlist-readings or by calling (416) 408-0208.

NOTE: The publishers mentioned in our release are those who submitted the books.

Note to Booksellers: Griffin Poetry Prize book stickers are supplied free of charge by The Griffin Trust. Please contact info@griffinpoetryprize.com to place an order. Winner book stickers will be available after June 2nd.

Media Inquiries:

Melissa Shirley
Tel: (647) 389-9510
Email: publicity@griffinpoetryprize.com

General Inquiries:

Ruth Smith, Executive Director
Tel: (905) 618-0420
Email: info@griffinpoetryprize.com

Links

Shortlisted Publishers’ Web sites:
Brick Books: www.brickbooks.ca
Copper Canyon Press: www.coppercanyonpress.org
Farrar, Straus and Giroux: www.fsgbooks.com
Faber and Faber: www.faber.co.uk
McClelland & Stewart: www.penguinrandomhouse.ca/imprints/mcclelland-stewart
W.W. Norton & Company: www.wwnorton.com
Pedlar Press: www.pedlarpress.com

Downloadable photographs of the 2016 shortlisted poets:
http://www.griffinpoetryprize.com/news-and-events/media-resources/

Download the 2016 Griffin Poetry Prize shortlist press release, book and publisher details, poet biographies and judges' citations.
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Get your tickets for the 2016 Griffin Poetry Prize readings at Koerner Hall. Call (416) 408-0208 or

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