2005-2008 Coverage

The following are highlights of media coverage of the Griffin Poetry Prize and its principals from 2005 to 2008.

Note: Some of the links included here require publication subscriptions or registrations.

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December 12, 2008
Online Exclusive: Interview with Christian Bok
by Zachariah Wells

Shortly after the news of this year’s poetry GG controversy broke, I got an email from Owen Percy, a PhD candidate at the University of Calgary. Percy’s research focuses on, in his own words, “literary awards in Canada, cultural prestige, and the history of the GGs in English poetry.” He very kindly sent me an electronic copy of his interview with Christian Bök on this very subject. I think it’s a very important document in light of recent events. The interview was published in Open Letter magazine last summer, but was not available online. Percy, Bök and Open Letter have graciously allowed me to reproduce the interview here on CLM.

The full citation for the interview is as follows: Bök, Christian. “The Politics of Poetics: Christian Bök on Success, Recognition, Jury Duty, and the Governor General’s Awards.” Interviewed by Owen Percy. Open Letter 13.3 (Summer 2007): 113-131. Read the complete interview here.

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September 6, 2008
‘Hippest man on earth’
Poet Robin Blaser is esteemed internationally, yet hardly a household name at home

by Douglas Todd

Vancouver’s Robin Blaser joined some of the planet’s most renowned poets two months ago on stage at a gala literary event in Toronto, where he read some of his verse.

A newspaper writer described Blaser in the crowded auditorium as “an older man with pure white hair and the boyish, unlined face of a fallen angel.”

Then the writer inserted the ultimate compliment:

“He was the hippest guy in the room.”

Not bad for an 83-year-old.

The next day the “hippest guy in the room” went on to win the $50,000 Griffin Prize for Canadian poetry, based on his recent opus, The Holy Forest: Collected Poems of Robin Blaser.

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June 18, 2008
Listen to the prize-giving at the recent Griffin gala, as well as an interview with winning poet John Ashbery

This week’s podcast features recordings from the Griffin Poetry Prize event. Along with the awards presentations and acceptance speeches from the gala in Toronto in early June, there’s also a new interview with John Ashbery, who won the international poetry prize.

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June 11, 2008
Al Purdy – The Voice of Land
by Paul Vermeersch

On May 20, 2008, a statue of the poet Al Purdy was unveiled in Queen’s Park. Toronto poet Paul Vermeersch was in attendance for the dedication ceremony, and he takes this opportunity to reflect on Purdy’s life, death and legacy.

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June 11, 2008
Britain needs a major poetry prize for innovative writing like the Turner Prize
by Todd Swift

… as The Griffin in Canada evidences – it is possible to have a popular, rich prize that also recognises literary pioneering.

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June 6, 2008
Epic purse for scribes of verse
by Joe Fiorito

The point of the Griffin Prize is the poems; on the other hand, fifty grand is serious, bill-paying money, more than any ten poets might make in a year. And so I went to hear the nominated scribes declaim their work the other night; the reading is a preliminary event, part of the prize apparatus.

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June 6, 2008
B.C. poet Robin Blaser continues a stellar career by winning the 2008 Griffin Poetry Prize

Robin Blaser continues to reap rewards for an impressive career in poetry. This week he became the 2008 Canadian recipient of the Griffin Poetry Prize, the world’s most lucrative poetry award for a single book.

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June 5, 2008
Griffin Poetry Prize announced

The winners of this year’s Griffin Poetry Prize were announced at a colourful Caribbean-themed awards in Toronto on 4 June.

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June 5, 2008
Half century of sorrow makes verse anthology
Self-proclaimed ‘sad sack’ uses wit and sarcasm in verse to express emotion

by Lorianna De Giorgio

For 50 years, David McFadden has made a living out of being sad. The poet and former journalist has no qualms admitting he isn’t the happiest of people, explaining that the negative thinking overrides a positive outlook any day.

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June 5, 2008
Griffin Prize honours two octogenarian poets
by James Adams

Octogenarian poets triumphed at a ceremony bestowing the eighth annual Griffin Prize for poetry Wednesday night in Toronto. New York’s John Ashbery, 81, was the winner of the international section of the prestigious award for his book Notes from the Air: Selected Later Poems. Robin Blaser, 83, took the Canadian honour for his 500-page epic The Holy Forest: Collected Poems.

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June 5, 2008
Griffin rewards elder statesmen
Winning poets are both in their 80s

by Vit Wagner

It was a night for honouring octogenarian legends at the 2008 Griffin Poetry Prize Awards. Jointly, John Ashbery and Robin Blaser have spent more than a century publishing poetry. Each was rewarded for his efforts with a cheque for $50,000 at last night’s eighth gala presentation in Toronto’s Distillery District.

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June 4, 2008
Robin Blaser wins Griffin Prize
by Mark Medley

“Life is full of surprises, isn’t it?” said Blaser as he took the podium. “Vive la poesie. Long live poetry.”

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June 4, 2008
An athlete in the extreme sport of poetry
A Calgarian nominated for a French book? Because Erin Moure is ‘attracted to the impossibility of translating poetry’

by James Adams

Early last year, with poet/novelist/playwright Robert Majzels, [Erin Moure] embarked on a French-to-English translation of Cahier de roses et de civilisation, a 2003 book by Nicole Brossard, one of Quebec’s most important and most, well, difficile poets. It took her and Majzels almost three months to complete the project, published last fall by Toronto’s Coach House Books as Notebook of Roses and Civilization.

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June 3, 2008
Who said daredevils can’t be poets?
by Mark Medley

No one becomes a poet for the money. It’s the act of writing, not the fleeting possibility of reward, that drives them on. Not that rewards are necessarily a bad thing, as the nominees for the Griffin Poetry Prize would surely attest. With $100,000 at stake, it is among the world’s most lucrative poetry prizes. The prize rewards the two best books of poetry published in English during the previous year, including translations.

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June 3, 2008
Poets performing prose is the real prize
by Vit Wagner

The Griffin Poetry Prize holds a big payday for a couple of fortunate versifiers. But the previous night’s reading – an evening-long recital that has also become a highlight of the annual event – promises a huge payoff for everyone else.

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June 1, 2008
Upbeat in the midst of sadness
David McFadden’s Griffin-nominated poetry a mirror of his life

by Donna Bailey Nurse

Instead of writing a conventional profile of David W. McFadden, I could link together a handful of exuberant poems from his latest collection, shortlisted for this year’s $50,000 Griffin Poetry Prize, to be announced this Wednesday … Death – feelings of grief, loss and regret – represent a surprising underlying theme in this vigorous, ebullient collection, hence its melancholic title: Why Are You So Sad?

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May 31, 2008
Man of verse finds spotlight a curse
Poet McFadden was unnerved to be on Griffin Prize shortlist

by Vit Wagner

It seems a curious coincidence Toronto poet David W. McFadden, a voracious reader since childhood, has lately been gorging on the prose fiction of Samuel Beckett. Beckett, in addition to being one of the 20th century’s greatest literary giants, famously shunned all displays of public recognition, even to the point of hiding out in Tunisia in 1969 when he could have been in Stockholm accepting the Nobel Prize for Literature. It’s unlikely McFadden will perform a similar disappearing act should he happen to be the Canadian winner of the $50,000 Griffin Poetry Prize on Wednesday – even if he does admit to being entirely unnerved by finding his name on the shortlist when it was announced last month.

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May 23, 2008
Al Purdy: an uncommon poet memorialized

In a writing career that spanned more than 50 years, Al Purdy came to be known as the nation’s “unofficial poet laureate.” This week a statue of Purdy was unveiled in Toronto’s Queen’s Park. The statue was commissioned from sculptors Edwin and Veronica Dam de Nogales, and organized by the City of Toronto, the Friends of the Poet Laureate and the Toronto Legacy Project. The statue, Voice of the Land, is located prominently in the park north of the Ontario legislature.

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May 21, 2008
‘People’s poet’ Al Purdy’s statue unveiled
Canadian Press

Eurithe Purdy sat at the feet of her late husband, renowned poet Al Purdy, on Tuesday as a statue of him was unveiled at Queen’s Park. “His pose to me looks so natural, as if he could almost walk away from where he’s reclining,” she said. The three-metre-tall black bronze statue has Purdy perched atop two rocks and staring south onto the grounds of the park, site of the Ontario legislature. The poet died in 2000 at age 81.

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May 20, 2008
Al Purdy statue unveiled

A sculpture of Al Purdy, often referred to as Canada’s greatest poet, is finally ready and will be unveiled Tuesday at Queen’s Park in Toronto, just steps from the Ontario Legislature.

Purdy, who died in 2000 at the age of 82, was a member of the Order of Canada and a two-time winner of the Governor General’s Award for his collections of poetry.

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May 20, 2008
Beyond remembering

Editorial – There is so much public statuary in London that it can be a struggle for the British to find suitable subjects for new ones. How else to explain the statue of Paddington Bear? Or the monument to horses, dogs, and pigeons that served alongside British and Allied troops in war? The war animal monument’s affecting message: “They had no choice.” Scott Griffin’s message to Canadians is that they have a choice. They can immortalize people other than politicians and proconsuls.

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May 17, 2008
Seeing our city through the eyes of a poet
by Gary Barwin

David W. McFadden’s book, Why Are You So Sad?, was recently nominated for one of the most prestigious literary prizes in Canada, the Griffin Poetry Prize, and I for one, am delighted. It’s been a long time since his work has been given such recognition. As a writer and as a Hamiltonian, he has been an inspiration to me. I’m pleased to think that as new readers encounter his work, they will discover our city and see in it something of the depth and wonder that McFadden has seen.

May 10, 2008
Griffin-nominated poet has Hamilton roots
by Doug Foley

You can take David McFadden out of Hamilton, but you can’t take Hamilton out of him. The city-born poet’s most recent book, Why Are You So Sad? Selected Poems of David W. McFadden, is filled with references to his old hometown. And it has landed him on the Canadian shortlist for the Griffin Poetry Prize 2008.

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April 26, 2008
Timely, or time-tested?
When it comes to literary prizes, Fraser Sutherland says, jurors often maintain a high-wire balancing act between the familiar and the new

by Fraser Sutherland

To judge by their ages, most of the writers on the shortlists for this year’s Griffin Poetry Prize look a tad geriatric. One is even deceased. César Vallejo, whose Complete Poetry is translated by 73-year-old Clayton Eshleman, died in 1938. John Ashbery (Notes from the Air: Selected Later Poems) and Robin Blaser (The Holy Forest: Collected Poems of Robin Blaser) are in their 80s. The youngest, Erin Moure, co-translator of Nicole Brossard’s Notebook of Roses and Civilization, is, at 53, a mere juvenile. Of course, the age of poets shouldn’t matter, since poetry is supposed to be timeless …

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April 17, 2008
Three Canadian poets are in the running for the lucrative Griffin Poetry Prize

This week’s podcast features the three home-grown poets nominated for one of the world’s most well-heeled literary awards. There are two categories in the Griffin Poetry Prize: one for a Canadian poet and the other for an international writer. Both winners will be announced on June 4 and will receive $50,000. The podcast has archival interviews with the three Canadian nominees: Robin Blaser, David McFadden and Nicole Brossard.

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April 9, 2008
That’s 500 pages of quatrains and couplets, stanzas and sonnets
by Adam McDowell

There’s nothing short about some of titles on the Griffin Poetry Prize short list, announced yesterday. Three Canadian books will vie for the $50,000 domestic purse: Robin Blaser’s 500-page collection The Holy Forest, David McFadden’s 328-page Why Are You So Sad? and Notebook of Roses and Civilization, a mere 76-pager by Nicole Brossard (with translators Robert Majzels and Erin Moure).

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April 9, 2008
Brossard, McFadden, Blaser vie for Griffin Poetry Prize
Canwest News Service

Montreal feminist postmodernist Nicole Brossard and Pulitzer Prize winner John Ashbery are among the writers shortlisted for the $100,000 Griffin Poetry Prize, one of the most lucrative poetry prizes in the world. The annual prize awards $50,000 to each of two winners, one Canadian and one international.

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April 8, 2008
Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal poets vie for Griffin Prize

Vancouver poet Robin Blaser, Toronto’s David McFadden and Montreal’s Nicole Brossard and her translators have been nominated for the Griffin Poetry Prize. The Griffin Prize, which awards $50,000 to each of two winners, is offered annually to a Canadian and an international poet writing in English. The international nominees are New York-based poets John Ashbery and Elaine Equi, Peruvian poet Cesar Vallejo and his translator and David Harsent of the U.K.

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April 8, 2008
Griffin shortlists announced
by Stuart Woods

Two small-press titles and another from a U.S. academic press are vying for the $50,000 Griffin Poetry Prize in the Canadian category. Award founder and sponsor Scott Griffin, alongside trustee David Young, announced the Canadian and international shortlists at a press conference in Toronto on Tuesday morning.

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April 8, 2008
When Poetry Meets Politics
What a new Pulitzer Prize winner tells us about age and public writing

by Nathan Heller

Time and Materials, Robert Hass’ fifth collection of poems, is a book about hitting the cold water of late middle age, but the story it tells is not so much of decline as of reinvention. Hass is in the front lines of a baby-boom generation coming to terms with its past. He was born in San Francisco a few months before the Pearl Harbor bombing and came of age in a cultural landscape overshadowed by Beats, hippies, and the Vietnam War. He got interested in Eastern thought, got subpoenaed as an SDS adviser in Buffalo, returned to California in time for the first tech boom, and eventually taught at Berkeley. The zeitgeist stuck with him like an Al Capp rain cloud even through his 50s: In 1995, Hass – whose poetry features proud regionalism and plainspoken eloquence, not to mention a strong tropism toward sex – became poet laureate during the Clinton administration.

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February 16, 2008
Monumental journey
Why it took Scott Griffin seven years to raise a statue of poet Al Purdy

by Tenille Bonoguore

It’s not the kind of company Al Purdy would normally keep: a king, a queen, a dusting of premiers, resplendent in rigid formality. This man cut the toes off his too-small shoes and wore them to meet the Governor-General. He wrote poems about drinking and throwing up. His greatest works celebrated the base realities of life. So you have to wonder what Al Purdy would make of the fact that, on May 20, his larger-than-life bronze countenance will be installed at Queen’s Park to become the nation’s first full-sized statue of a Canadian poet.


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September 5, 2007
Former poet laureate George Bowering joins Griffin Prize jury

George Bowering, Canada’s first poet laureate, has been selected to judge one of the country’s most distinguished poetry honours.

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July 25, 2007
LIT T.O. – July 25 – July 30

The 2007 Griffin Poetry Prize Anthology edited by Karen Solie, Anansi. Because we attended the sold-out reading prior to the Awards Gala, we’ve heard some of these poems before, and it’s interesting to see them on the page. We’re mostly familiar with the poets featured on the Canadian shortlist, but are really enjoying getting to know Priscila Uppal’s work better.

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June 8, 2007
A winning poet

Don McKay has been one of Victoria’s most celebrated poets for years. His extraordinary work draws heavily on nature for inspiration. It’s at once quiet and profound and – we mean this in the best possible way – accessible, exploring our place in the world.

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June 8, 2007
B.C. poet wins Canadian Griffin Poetry Prize
Three-times-nominated Don McKay scoops the $50,000 award for his book Strike/Slip

by Rebecca Wigod

Twice a bridesmaid, and now the bride. After being nominated three times for the Canadian half of the Griffin Poetry Prize, Don McKay has won the attention-getting $50,000 purse. The B.C. poet, author of Strike/Slip, a book inspired by the landscape along a fault line on southern Vancouver Island, collected the award at a midweek ceremony in Toronto.

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June 7, 2007
Books: Griffin Poetry Prize report
by Damian Rogers

On June 4, at the seventh annual Griffin Poetry Prize Gala, poets Don McKay and Charles Wright each won the coveted $50,000 purse award for the Canadian and International categories, respectively. And while this brought an end to the sporting competition that is the awkward but necessary framework for shining such a bright light on the often neglected po-biz circus, the lingering effects of so much pixie dust will be felt for some time. The Griffin Prize has in its short lifespan already become an institution, and a remarkably vital one at that, working to etch Toronto’s name that much more deeply into the global literary map.

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June 7, 2007
McKay wins $50,000 poetry prize
Ontario-raised poet wins largest Canadian poetry award for his 11th collection, Strike/Slip

by Vit Wagner

If there was a sentimental favourite to win the Canadian award at the 2007 Griffin Poetry Prize – and the $50,000 cheque that went with it – it was Don McKay.

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June 7, 2007
The Griffin Groove
by Brian D. Johnson

Hats off to Scott Griffin for hosting what has routinely become the best awards night of the year – the Griffin Poetry Prize gala. Last night’s 7th annual edition of awards was not the only game in town. There were so many cultural goings-on in Toronto last night that the literati didn’t know which way to turn … But the best party was at the Stone Distillery, where Scott and Krystyne Griffin were honouring the art of poetry with their impeccable hospitality.

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June 7, 2007
Celebrated Canadian poet Don McKay wins $50,000 Griffin Prize

A veteran Canadian author who has twice won the Governor General’s award for poetry was one of two recipients of the prestigious Griffin Poetry Prize, awarded Wednesday at a lavish ceremony in Toronto. Canadian Don McKay won for Strike/Slip, his 11th book of poetry, which was lauded by judges as a book of “patience, courage, and quiet eloquence.”

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June 6, 2007
LIT T.O. – June 6 to June 11

Last night, six of seven poets nominated for The 2007 Griffins – and one actor – read to a sold-out house at the Macmillan Theatre. Imagine: 800+ people clapping ecstatically for poetry, and a standing ovation for lifetime achievement winner Tomas Tranströmer (people wept). Nominee Ken Babstock, who has been the subject of a few interviews this week, told the audience, “If I’m going to be asked one more time by the media if poetry is dead, I’m gonna go postal.”

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June 6, 2007
Like music to our ears
by Vit Wagner

Whatever pleasure comes from hearing writers read their own work increases exponentially when the writers in question are poets, the best of whose recitations can sound like songs with secret, hidden notes. The musical accompaniment might be missing, but tempo, rhythm and sometimes even melody can be detected when the authors, who are in a privileged position to know how the line is meant to scan, are also the performers.

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June 6, 2007
No more rock, this poet’s on a roll
Former guitarist Ken Babstock published his first book of poetry in 1999. Now, his third is up for the richest poetry prize in Canada

by James Adams

What’s popularity any way? … A newspaper can feature an article about a handbag every single Saturday. But does poetry want that? … People in the culture are reading poetry, always have and always will. I just don’t know if it has to have the same face as Paris Hilton. – Ken Babstock

Ken Babstock admits he has done his “fair share of griping about awards’ short lists,” especially when his name hasn’t appeared on one honour roll or another … In the past few months, however, Babstock has had little cause for caterwauling …

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June 4, 2007
McKay hopes award boosts poetry’s rep
Poet, nominated for $50,000 Griffin Prize, says it isn’t the money that matters to him

by Vit Wagner

If poet Don McKay is thinking about what it would be like to cash the $50,000 cheque that comes with winning the Griffin Poetry Prize, the two-time runner-up isn’t letting on. “I try not to focus on that aspect of it too much because the money is not the heart of it,” he says on the line from Banff Centre, where he has spent the spring coaching young writers.

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May 31, 2007
Why Poetry?
by Scott Griffin

The other day I was asked why I like poetry, as if liking poetry was some strange aberration that required explanation. “Probably for the same reason that some people like music,” I replied. The question though, spoke volumes about how far poetry had slipped from the mainstream of our cultural lives, which is somewhat bewildering to me.

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May 19, 2007
The quick and the read
by George Fetherling

There’s always much criticism of book prizes because they can sometimes corrupt (or even silence) the winners while scorching the losers, and turning the act of writing into a gladiatorial combat. Because of the genre it represents, the Griffin Poetry Prize is probably an exception. For the most part, even highly sophisticated novel readers feel squeamishly uninformed about contemporary poetry. The Griffin has helped a great deal by becoming a bridge between poets and the all-too-often poem-shy audience.

Anne Simpson is the perfect illustration of how this works. She is a Nova Scotian whose first book, Light Falls Through You, took one national and one regional prize. But, to say the least, her reputation and her readership increased dramatically when Loop, her second collection, received the Griffin …

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May 3, 2007
Poetry profits
Free-market poets’ economy of words

by Robert Priest

When poets talk about economy they’re usually referring to the economy of language. But this year, as another Poetry Month passes, there is growing concern about Canadian poetry’s financial future. A quick glace at the headlines might at first be reassuring: the Governor General’s Award has gone up to $25,000 from $15,000, the Griffin Prize has risen from $40,000 to $50,000, and poet laureate positions keep popping up like mushrooms in small towns and cities across the land. Behind the scenes, though, the Harper government has left the mass of Canadian poets a net pay decrease.

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April 28, 2007
‘The hair on the back of your neck stands up’
With poetry in the spotlight this month, local writers reflect on the genre’s rewards

by Lisan Jutras

Will it be third time lucky for Don McKay?

When we celebrate National Poetry Month each April, we’re tipping our hats not only to the art form, but to the poets themselves, who perform the thankless task of writing what few read and fewer still understand. It takes a very particular kind of masochism to engage in this pursuit, which brings the practitioner neither glory nor income and is derided even, occasionally, by poets themselves.

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April 7, 2007
Third time lucky for B.C. poet at the Griffin Awards?
by Chantal Eustace

If Victoria poet Don McKay were, say, to win a certain award that he’s nominated for – hypothetically speaking, of course – he’d buy himself the most precious thing a poet could ask for: time.

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April 5, 2007
Lines of beauty
The lowdown on this year’s Griffin Poetry Prize nominees
by Barbara Carey

Poetry and big bucks don’t commonly go together like a fizzy cocktail and a swizzle stick – which is why the announcement of finalists for the Griffin Poetry Prize creates an annual stir.

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April 4, 2007
Griffins Take Flight

Past Griffin Award recipient Christian Bök once stated, “The Griffin is the poetry award that can drastically change a poet’s life.” Christian isn’t exaggerating: the $100,000 prize, shared by two winners, is one of the largest poetry awards in the world. In a 2000 speech, Scott Griffin, founder of The Griffin Trust for Excellence in Poetry, explained, “the poetry prize had to be of sufficient size to make a statement that declared that poets and poetry are just as important as novelists and their works.”

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April 4, 2007
Griffin Prize: Lyricists duke it out over two $50,000 prizes
Thanks to benefactor’s thrift, poetry won’t get short shrift
by Vanessa Farquharson

From an unprecedented 483 submissions, the shortlist for this year’s Griffin Poetry Prize was finally narrowed down to seven writers, six of whom happen to be men. “In previous years we’ve had more women, so I think it’s just the way the dice roll,” said Scott Griffin, founder of the prize, which is now in its seventh year and one of the world’s most lucrative. A total of $100,000 is awarded to two winners, one Canadian and one international, who split the money evenly.

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April 4, 2007
McKay gets third nod
by James Adams

Will it be third time lucky for Don McKay?

The veteran Canadian poet was shortlisted for the third time yesterday in the Canadian division of the annual Griffin Poetry Prize, worth $50,000. McKay, 65, has won two Governor-General’s Awards for English-language poetry, in 1991 and 2000 – but he has come up short-handed on the previous occasions that he has vied for Griffin honours, in 2001 and 2005. He will know if he’s victorious when the winner is announced on June 6 at a gala dinner in Toronto.

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April 3, 2007
Canadian Don McKay shortlisted for Griffin Poetry Prize

Canadian poetry veteran Don McKay and Frederick Seidel, one of the founding editors of iconic literary magazine The Paris Review, are among the seven shortlisted poets vying for the 2007 Griffin Poetry Prize.

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April 3, 2007
Griffin shortlist unveiled
by Vit Wagner

Don McKay, a two-time nominee for the Griffin Poetry Prize, was again named today to the Canadian shortlist for the lucrative literary award.

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April 3, 2007
Babstock, Uppal, McKay vie for Griffin
by Leigh Anne Williams

Ken Babstock’s Airstream Land Yacht, Priscila Uppal’s Ontological Necessities, and Don McKay’s Strike/Slip are the nominees for this year’s Griffin Poetry Prize in the $50,000 Canadian category. The Griffin unveiled its Canadian and international shortlists in Toronto today. None of the nominated poets were in attendance, but a celebratory hoot came from the House of Anansi Press contingent when Babstock’s name was announced.

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April 3, 2007
Seven vie for poetry’s big prize
by Tenille Bonoguore

What do you get when three Canadians, three Americans and a Brit walk into a bar?

The shortlist for the $100,000 Griffin Poetry Prize, Canada’s highest-paying literary prize for arguably the least popular of the literary arts.

And it could be third time lucky for B.C. poet Don McKay, who joins Toronto-based poets, Ken Babstock and Priscila Uppal, on the shortlist for the $50,000 national prize.


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November 20, 2006
Poets aplenty, but who’s reading the verse?
In a market where ‘skyrocketing’ sales mean five books sold a week, do poetry prizes make any difference at all? Apparently, they do

by James Adams

Proclamations of the death of poetry have grown more insistent and numerous over the last 25 years, but this hasn’t stopped a lot of people – too many, some would argue – from continuing to write it and, occasionally, see it published.

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July 25, 2006
CBC Radio’s And Sometimes Y
The Edge of Language

Christian Bök, author of Eunoia, the experimental poetry book that won the Griffin Poetry Prize, joins host Russell Smith to explore the topic “What is language for, and how does it work?”

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July 15, 2006
Experiments in language
Work by Griffin Prize winners Sylvia Legris and Kamau Brathwaite yield stellar results

by Harold Heft

Literary awards can be a mixed blessing: Designed to reward excellence, they also create inflated expectations. We often hear readers say that they are “pleasantly surprised” by an obscure book and “generally disappointed” by major award winners.

In Canada, no literary award is more generous or, arguably, more prestigious than the Griffin Poetry Prize. Created in 2000 by Scott Griffin, an auto parts manufacturer, the award has the admirable ambition “to raise public awareness of the crucial role poetry must play in society’s cultural life.” Each year, the Griffin Prize provides $50,000 (a fortune in the poetry milieu) to one Canadian winner and one international winner, and this international focus has succeeded in putting Canada on the world’s literary map.

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June 27, 2006
A Poet’s Winning Season
Sylvia Legris’s break-out book won the Griffin, and her life may never be the same

by Patricia Robertson

At the beginning of this month, Sylvia Legris’s quiet poet’s life was dramatically altered when she won the coveted 2006 Griffin Poetry Prize. Three times is apparently a charm, since it was her third book of poetry, Nerve Squall (Coach House Books, 2005), that garnered top honours.

Recently Legris and I shared a discreet upstairs booth at Grandma Lee’s Bakery in downtown Saskatoon. It’s her favourite haunt, she says, because it’s low-key and serves great Rice Krispy squares, but she’s a bit on edge. Since the Griffin gala on June 1, Legris has hit the poetry jackpot, been inundated with attention and been run over by a scathing critic.

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June 22, 2006
Looking outside of Canadian poetry
Phil Hall on inspiration, language and the restraints of nationalism

by Derek Beaulieu

In Dawson City, Griffin-Prize nominee Phil Hall has found a community willing to challenge itself culturally, and like that small, northern city, Hall has continuously looked outside his own community for inspiration, seeking to combine the traditionally “poetic” with non-poetic subject matter.

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June 19, 2006
They Are Poets, Hear Them Roar
A ritzy prize and initiatives like ‘Poetry Out Loud’ are turning poets into rock stars

by Anne Kingston

At the end of the long red carpet strewn with rose petals, Scott and Krystyne Griffin greet their guests. Four hundred people are gathering in Toronto this evening in early June for the naming of the 2006 Griffin Prize winners. This is Canada’s richest literary award – $50,000 to a Canadian poet, $50,000 to an international poet. The short list of three Canadian and four international poets has been winnowed from 444 books submitted from 20 countries.

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June 7, 2006
Kamau Brathwaite Wins Griffin Prize
by Colin Rickards
Pride Contributing Writer

Barbados-born poet Kamau Brathwaite won the International section of the prestigious Griffin Poetry Prize for his volume Born to Slow Horses at a gala event in the Distillery District last Thursday. He beat three other International poets – from Germany, the U.S. and Iraq – to win the world’s most valuable poetry prize. Saskatoon poet Sylvia Legris emerged victorious in a field of three to win the Canadian section.

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June 3, 2006
Prestigious Canadian poetry prizes awarded

Canadian Sylvia Legris and Barbadian Kamau Brathwaite were awarded the prestigious Griffin Poetry Prize at a ceremony attended by writers and publishers from around the world.

The awards, worth $45,332 (US) each to a Canadian and an international winner, are among the richest poetry prizes in the world. They were presented during an Asian-themed gala dinner Thursday night.

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June 2, 2006
Saskatoon poet wins Griffin Prize
by James Adams

A three-member international jury awarded Sylvia Legris the $50,000 Canadian part of the Griffin Poetry Prize at a ceremony last night in Toronto’s Distillery Historic District.

The Saskatoon poet took the cash for a collection titled Nerve Squall, her third book of poetry and one of three books short-listed for the prize. Winning the $50,000 international prize was Barbadian poet Kamau Brathwaite for his book, Born to Slow Horses.

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June 2, 2006
Prize earns a poem as two Griffins given
by Judy Stoffman

Wearing an African tunic and a knitted cap, Kamau Brathwaite recited one of his hypnotic poems as he accepted the $50,000 Griffin Prize last night at a sumptuous dinner at the Stone Distillery … Brathwaite was honoured for his book Born to Slow Horses, published by Wesleyan University Press. Canadian winner was Sylvia Legris of Saskatoon, who also took home $50,000.

The double Griffin Prize, founded six years ago by the auto parts entrepreneur, is the world’s most generous poetry award.

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June 2, 2006
Legris takes home Griffin

Sylvia Legris’ Nerve Squall (Coach House Books) took home the award for Canadian poetry at the Griffin Poetry Prize ceremony in Toronto last night. The collection, Legris’ third, was as widely acclaimed upon its publication, and it is also up for the Pat Lowther Memorial Award, to be handed out in Ottawa on June 10. It was not only Legris’ first Griffin win, but her first nomination as well.

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June 1, 2006
Brathwaite, Legris win Griffin Poetry Prizes
by Brett Popplewell

Canadian Sylvia Legris and Barbadian Kamau Brathwaite were awarded the prestigious Griffin Poetry Prizes Thursday at a glitzy Toronto ceremony. The awards, worth $50,000 to a Canadian and an international recipient, are among the richest poetry prizes in the world. They were presented during a gala dinner in the city’s historic distillery district.

A nervous Legris, who said she took the train from Saskatchewan to attend the colourful awards ceremony, thanked the jury and other poets for the honour.

“It’s remarkable just being in your company and meeting all of you,” she said. “This is terrifying, but it’s such an honour.”

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June 1, 2006
A Berkeley Renaissance man
Who’s Robin Blaser? If you are interested in poetry – not just in Canada but in North America – you should know this Griffin honoree, writes Canada’s first poet laureate, George Bowering

For four decades, Robin Blaser has been one of the most influential poets in the North American world, but he does not possess a household name. Most professors of Canadian literature do not teach his work and probably have not read it either.

Yet he is a member of the Order of Canada. He collaborated with the eminent British composer Sir Harrison Birtwistle on the opera The Last Supper, which was commissioned by the Staatsoper of Berlin and Glyndebourne Opera in 2000. His book of collected poems, The Holy Forest, was edited by Stan Persky and Michael Ondaatje, introduced by Robert Creeley, and published by Coach House Press in 1993. It is 400 pages long, and it is not light reading.

But last night at Toronto’s MacMillan Theatre, Blaser was presented with a special Life Time Recognition Award given by the trustees of the Griffin Trust for Excellence in Poetry.

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May 27, 2006
Catching a Rhyming Star
by Kenneth Sherman

Baudelaire said that he could imagine a person going without food for two days, but not without poetry.

And yet, many go without. Poetry’s partisans contend that the public is simply unaware. Offer people poetry and they will take to it. There are encouraging signs. American poet Billy Collins, a writer of accessible and intelligently entertaining poetry, reportedly earns a living from royalties and readings. Camille Paglia’s Break, Blow, Burn, a lucid explication of 43 traditional and modern poems, has been a brisk seller since its publication last year.

In Canada, the Griffin Poetry Prize has done much to advance the cause. Named for Scott Griffin, their generous patron, the annual awards go to the two best books of poetry, including translations, published in English in the previous year. One book is chosen from a Canadian, the other from an international shortlist. The inclusion of translations has enlivened the proceedings with such foreign-language heavyweights as Yehuda Amichai (Hebrew) and Paul Celan (German). Regrettably, since the Griffin’s inception in 2001, no translated Québécois poet has been nominated for the Canadian award. This is not the fault of the adjudicators. The volumes of French Canadian poetry translated into English in the past five years can be counted on one hand. (I hope someone from the Canada Council is reading this.)

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May 1, 2006
The Griffin Poetry Prize 2006 Shortlists
by Nathaniel G. Moore

The Danforth Review summarizes the Griffin Poetry Prize 2006 shortlists, along with reactions from the Canadian publishers whose volumes were nominated.

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April 7, 2006
Prize Fighters
Sizing up the Griffin Poetry Prize finalists

by Barbara Carey

Cash and cachet go together when it comes to literary awards, so it’s no surprise that the Griffin Poetry Prize, which announced the 2006 finalists April 5, is a big deal. The annual prize splits $100,000 between a Canadian winner and an international one, making it the richest haul for a single volume of poetry in the world. It’s also hotly contested: this year’s judges read 441 books, from 15 countries (including translations from 20 languages), in just three months. (On top of their honorarium, they deserve a medal for valour.)

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April 6, 2006
Diverse poets vie for Griffin
by Judy Stoffman

A book of poems originally written in Arabic by a refugee from Saddam’s Iraq is in the running for the world’s richest poetry prize. Elizabeth Winslow’s English translation of The War Works Hard, by Dunya Mikhail, is one of four books on the international short list of the Griffin poetry prize, announced yesterday

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April 6, 2006
Lucrative awards put poetry in motion
Griffin prize lists nominees for two $50,000 purses

Although many writers and editors will argue that poetry doesn’t sell, Michael Ondaatje, Margaret Atwood and the rest of the trustees behind Canada’s Griffin Poetry Prize are out to challenge this belief. And there’s no better time to get the ball rolling than in April, which is poetry month.

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April 5, 2006
Moure, Hall, Legris up for 2006 Griffin

From a record number of submissions, the jury for the Griffin Poetry Prize has narrowed this year’s competition for the Canadian prize to three books by mid-career poets. On the international side, the four-title shortlist spans the globe, including books by authors from the U.S., Germany, Barbados, and Iraq.


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August 2, 2005
In Addition to His Pugnacity and Charm, He Can Write Poetry
by Timothy Williams

On a gray and rainy day recently, the poet August Kleinzahler was eating a hot dog and greasy fries at a hot dog shop in Fort Lee, N.J., called Hiram’s, a gruff, no-frills place that Mr. Kleinzahler says is about as close to the literary establishment across the river in Manhattan as he cares to be.

But Mr. Kleinzahler, 55, noted both for poems that jarringly marry the high and the low and for keeping his distance from the New York illuminati, has found himself late in his career in a rather awkward spot: the cusp of respectability in the cliquish world of poetry.

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June 19, 2005
Review of Short Journey Upriver Toward Oishida, by Roo Borson
by J. Mark Smith

One of the finer things in Roo Borson’s Griffin Prize winning book is “Persimmons,” a prose narrative about the fruit of the trees she associates with her mother’s garden, with a Japanese man who was her mother’s gardener, with her own adolescence, and with her mother’s death … I quote these sentences as an exhibit to begin with, because Short Journey Upriver stands or falls as a collection of poetry on the twenty pages of much more challenging free verse that make up its first section, “Summer Grass.”

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June 3, 2005
Roo Borson wins Griffin Poetry Prize

Veteran poets Roo Borson and Charles Simic are the newest winners of the $100,000 Griffin Poetry Prize, the world’s richest prize for a single volume of poetry.

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June 3, 2005
Roo Borson wins Griffin Poetry Prize
by Guy Dixon

Roo Borson, the Toronto-based writer known for her contemplative works that search for identity along many splintered paths, was the winning Canadian poet in this year’s Griffin Poetry Prize, receiving $50,000 for her book Short Journey Up River Towards Oishida.

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June 3, 2005
Toronto, U.S. poets win Griffin honours
by Judy Stoffman

Charles Simic from New Hampshire won the international award and Toronto’s Roo Borson was the Canadian winner when the Griffin Prize for poetry was given out for the fifth time last night at a candlelit banquet in the Distillery. Founder Scott Griffin this year increased the value of the twin awards by $10,000 to $50,000 each, making them the most generous literary awards in English Canada, and for poetry anywhere. He also foots the bill to take the winners to several international literary festivals.

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June 2, 2005
Roo Borson wins Griffin Poetry Prize for Short Journey Upriver Toward Oishida
by Anne-Marie Tobin, Canadian Press

Roo Borson has won the $50,000 Griffin Poetry Prize awarded to a Canadian, while Charles Simic of New Hampshire collected an equivalent amount for the international portion of the prestigious award Thursday night. Cheques were handed out at a dinner bash in the historic distillery district attended by hundreds of guests, including Gov. Gen. Adrienne Clarkson, founder Scott Griffin and writer Margaret Atwood.

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May 26, 2005
Simply Simic
by Emily Schultz

Poet Charles Simic speaks with care. It’s not hesitation in his voice, but pacing, almost as if his sentences have line breaks already built into them. While this is enhanced by his Eastern European accent, lingering after 50-plus years in North America, speaking from his home in New Hampshire, it’s his thoughtfulness that stands out as Simic talks about what it means to live and write from the time of the Beats to the current day.

A previous winner of the Pulitzer Prize as well as many fellowships, Simic is now one of four finalists for the $50,000 international Griffin Poetry Prize. His book, Selected Poems: 1963­2003, was chosen from a pool of 433 entries submitted from 17 different countries. With the hope of fostering an international poetry community, Toronto’s Scott Griffin founded the Griffin Awards in 2000, backed by a foundation including poetry heavyweights Margaret Atwood and Michael Ondaatje.

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April 19, 2005
Beer and poetry – so Canadian
by Simon Houpt

A gaggle of Canadian poets will hoist books and beers in New York this week at three events to help publicize a landmark achievement: the first publication in recent memory of a Canadian poetry anthology in the United States … Griffin Poetry Prize founder Scott Griffin will be on hand to present 755 volumes of Canadian poetry to bolster the 45,000-title library at Poet’s House. The donation, organized by a staffer at the local consulate, came from more than 30 publishers including Coach House Press, House of Anansi, Key Porter, McClelland & Stewart, Broken Jaw, Porcupine’s Quill and Brick Books. Ekstasis Editions and Turnstone Press each donated more than 100 volumes.

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April 14, 2005

Poetry: a career with a future
by Pieta Woolley

The judges for one of the planet’s richest literary prizes agree: British Columbia makes great poets. All three of the Canadian poets on the shortlist for the 2005 Griffin Poetry Prize have a local connection.

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April 7, 2005
Short list revealed for Griffin Poetry Prize

“Poetry had tended to slip out of the mainstream of our cultural lives. Poets were not only at the back of the bus, I’m not even sure they were even on the bus,” founder Scott Griffin told CBC News at Wednesday evening’s announcement, which unveiled the short list as well as the new prize amount [$100,000], increased from the previous $80,000. When establishing the prize in 2000, with the help of trustees such as Margaret Atwood and Michael Ondaatje, the Toronto businessman wanted to promote, celebrate and encourage the writing of poetry worldwide.

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April 7, 2005
Three Canadians on shortlist for annual Griffin poetry prize
Canadian Press

Three Canadians are among seven poets to make the short list for this year’s Griffin Poetry Prize, it was announced Wednesday by the prize’s trustees. A record-breaking 433 books from 17 countries were submitted for the prize, awarded for the two best books of poetry, including translations, published in English the previous year. Each winning poet receives $50,000.

See also press coverage archives from 2000-2004.

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