from Return from London

Sarah Riggs, translated from the French by Etel Adnan

copyright ©2019 by Etel Adnan / English translation © 2019 by Sarah Riggs

light blinds the animals. they
await the night, she is more likely their
messiah than ours

I went out to see the sea from my terrace.
it looked at me. I understood that
I mustn’t launch myself into
its fierce waves

put out your lights before going to sleep.
the sun kissed you, leaving
burns on your face. it
returned to its solitude


Shane Book

copyright ©Shane Book 2014

I have a home in my son’s hand.
The pier is out, the quay closed at noon.
You can sob, so be it, as if dates, as
though you had an oven of dough
everyone wanted. Day, I’m a over it;
out rowing an O.K. used pear,
sailing your barcode, you shop with the pain
you’re out now, avowing.
Our row cake vice squeezing through
sewer hour, I sail mystery O
sewer! Made on that pall of rat veil
A forms a dream navy
in the unclear I don’t miss saying.

Preface to the Griffin Poetry Prize Anthology 2018

Ian Williams

copyright ©2018 House of Anansi Press Inc.

1. The poems you are about to read are
Match the poet and book in column A to the attribute in column B.
1. Billy-Ray Belcourt, This Wound is a World

2. Aisha Sasha John, I have to live.

3. Donato Mancini, Same Diff

4. Tongo Eisen-Martin, Heaven Is All Goodbyes

5. Susan Howe, Debths

6. Natalie Shapero, Hard Child

7. Layli Long Soldier, Whereas



a. At the intersection of visual design and musical orchestration.

b. Expansive, polyphonic, and socially engaged.

c. Unreadable. Should you read or should you look?

d. Embodied, decolonializing, cerebral, and heartfelt.

e. Politically and historically activated, accountable only to truth.

f. Instagrammable. Earwormy. Urgent.

g. The epitome of contemporary lyric beauty.


Charles Simic

copyright ©Charles Simic, 2004

I grew up bent over
a chessboard.

I loved the word endgame.

All my cousins looked worried.

It was a small house
near a Roman graveyard.
Planes and tanks
shook its windowpanes.

A retired professor of astronomy
taught me how to play.

That must have been in 1944.

In the set we were using,
the paint had almost chipped off
the black pieces.

The white King was missing
and had to be substituted for.

I’m told but do not believe
that that summer I witnessed
men hung from telephone poles.

I remember my mother
blindfolding me a lot.
She had a way of tucking my head
suddenly under her overcoat.

In chess, too, the professor told me,
the masters play blindfolded,
the great ones on several boards
at the same time.


Alice Oswald

copyright ©Alice Oswald 2016

This is the day the flies fall awake mid-sentence
and lie stunned on the windowsill shaking with speeches
only it isn’t speech it is trembling sections of puzzlement which
break off suddenly as if the questioner had been shot

this is one of those wordy days
when they drop from their winter quarters in the curtains and sizzle as they fall
feeling like old cigarette butts called back to life
blown from the surface of some charred world

and somehow their wings which are little more than flakes of dead skin
have carried them to this blackened disembodied question

what dirt shall we visit today?
what dirt shall we re-visit?

they lift their faces to the past and walk about a bit
trying out their broken thought-machines
coming back with their used-up words

there is such a horrible trapped buzzing wherever we fly
it’s going to be impossible to think clearly now until next winter
what should we
what dirt should we

Citation for Jan Zwicky’s Forge

the 2012 Griffin Poetry Prize judges

In Forge, Jan Zwicky performs a balancing act of great poise and beauty. An extended set of variations on the theme of listening, the collection pays repeated attention to music – and through it, to the natural world and human relationships. Love and death are topics almost too risky to address directly, especially with this kind of breathless, caught-up writing: the stakes could not be higher. Zwicky addresses them fearlessly, making them meaningful and felt, and borrowing the languages of mystery, even religion, to do so. The payoff is real and extraordinary. Gracefully sustained, her unashamedly lyric verse always feels earned by, and earthed in, lived experience: whether of grief or companionship, those great conditions, or, repeatedly, of a watery world. This is a book gauzy with images of condensation, meltwater, flood and mist. It also manages the rare trick of taking on music’s abstract forms. For all her precision, this poet brings us close to the music of abstraction that lies near the heart of true verse.


George Bowering

copyright ©2004 by George Bowering

I walkt to the back of the house in the
yard near the garage & saw him in a
white shirt playing ping pong with a patient
or friend or someone else who lived in the
house & there he was.
I sat at the table where we were reading
aloud together & heard him from behind where
he was crying aloud & wearing his pink
leather number on the west coast & I
must tell you he is a star.
Maybe Holofernes.
He tried to grow a mustache & took his
vacation in a classy hotel in bermuda where
he sat & drank bourbon with ice, a poet
taking his own kind of holiday, hooray.
Judy lookt as if she wanted to be him
or be with him or kill him.
I think that all the time he was listening
to the ice in the glass his ear was thinking
One time he placed a bottle of Pinch on the
coat hook on the back of the door in our
clothes closet & we opened & closed the door
for two months before we found the bottle
of Pinch & it should have fallen off many
times so we drank it & later I bought him
a bottle of Pinch in August because the night
before we had been drinking bourbon on his
credit card in the bar where he goes to
drink his own way, the poet.
There he was, on the tape, all over the
country, making personal appearances, Captain
Poetry, listening to the voice of the four
horsemen in the children’s fiery
chamber of verse.

Lima Limón :: Infancia

Natalie Scenters-Zapico

copyright ©2019 by Natalie Scenters-Zapico

I want to be the lemons in the bowl
on the cover of the magazine. I want
to be round, to be yellow, to be pulled

from branches. I want to be wax, to be
white with pith, to be bright, to be zested
in the corners of a table. I want you

to say my name like the word: lemon.
Say it like the word: limón. Undress me
in strands of rind. I want my saliva to be

citrus. I want to corrode my husband’s
wedding ring. I want to be a lemon
with my equator marked in black ink –
small dashes to show my shape: pitted & convex.

Verso 32.2

Dionne Brand

copyright ©2018 Dionne Brand

My ancestral line to John Locke. When he wrote “An Essay Concerning Human Understanding” in 1689 he had already been the Secretary of the Board of Trade and Plantations. No one disputes this. He had, too, investments in the Royal African Company, whose holdings along the Gambia included forts, factories, and military command of West Africa, etc., … etc., … No dispute here either. These statements – an essay on human understanding, and the board of trade and plantations – these identifiers can lie beside each other with no discomfort, apparently. But as I said, I am a soft-hearted person. I cannot get past this. I am just a lover with a lover’s weaknesses, with her manifest of heartaches.