Kamau Brathwaite’s Born to Slow Horses and Sylvia Legris’ Nerve Squall Win the 2006 Griffin Poetry Prize

TORONTO – June 1, 2006 – Kamau Brathwaite and Sylvia Legris are the International and Canadian winners of the 6th annual Griffin Poetry Prize. The C$100,000 Griffin Poetry Prize, the richest prize in the world for a single volume of poetry, is divided between the two winners. The prize is for first edition books of poetry, including translations, published in English in 2005, and submitted from anywhere in the world.

International Winner Canadian Winner
Born to Slow Horses
Kamau Brathwaite
Wesleyan University Press
Nerve Squall
Sylvia Legris
Coach House Books

The awards event was hosted by Scott Griffin, founder of the prize. Simon Armitage, renowned poet, author and playwright assumed the role of Master of Ceremonies. Judges Lisa Robertson and Eliot Weinberger announced the International and Canadian winners for 2006.

Scott Griffin proudly presents the 2006 Griffin Poetry Prize winners, Kamau Brathwaite and Sylvia Legris
Scott Griffin proudly presents the 2006 Griffin Poetry Prize winners, Kamau Brathwaite and Sylvia Legris

More than 400 guests celebrated the awards, including former Governor-General, the Right Honourable Adrienne Clarkson, acclaimed Canadian actors Albert Schultz and Sarah Polley, Senator Jerry Grafstein and his wife Carol, among others. In addition, poets, publishers and other literary luminaries attended the celebration.

The evening’s theme was Shangri-La and featured a silk route marketplace replete with banners of fuschia, purple and gold. Hundreds of pigmy orchids and butterflies in a dizzying array of colours adorned the room. The event, which took place at The Stone Distillery in Toronto, offered up a menu of decidedly Asian fusion cuisine. Appetizers included mango and Thai basil sushi rolls, deep-fried plantain, sweet corn tamales, crab cakes on a bed of remoulade, and a sweet potato and jicama salad. The main course featured seared strip loin of beef with a mini risotto wild rice pancake and for dessert, a chocolate fountain with assorted sweets.

The judges for the 2006 prize are the distinguished poets Lavinia Greenlaw (United Kingdom), Lisa Robertson (Canada) and Eliot Weinberger (United States of America). They accomplished an unprecedented feat, reading an extraordinary 441 eligible works of poetry from 15 countries around the globe, translated from 20 different languages. In addition, they selected poems from the shortlist to compile The Griffin Poetry Prize Anthology: A Selection of the 2006 Shortlist, edited by Lisa Robertson and published by House of Anansi Press. Royalties generated from the anthologies, published annually, are donated to UNESCO’s World Poetry Day. As in past years, copies of the submitted poetry books are being donated to Corrections Canada.

All shortlisted poets read excerpts from their books at a sold-out event for more than 800 people at the MacMillan Theatre on May 31. That night the legendary poet Robin Blaser (Vancouver) was honoured with The Griffin Trust for Excellence in Poetry’s first ever Lifetime Recognition Award. Trustee Robert Hass paid tribute to Robin Blaser and Scott Griffin presented him with his award.

The 2006 Griffin Poetry Prize shortlist is comprised of books by three Canadian poets – Phil Hall’s An Oak Hunch, published by Brick Books; Sylvia Legris’ Nerve Squall, published by Coach House Books; and Erin Moure’s Little theatres, published by House of Anansi Press; and four international poets – Kamau Brathwaite’s Born to Slow Horses, published by Wesleyan University Press; Durs Grünbein’s Ashes for Breakfast: Selected Poems, translated from the German by Michael Hofmann, published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux; Michael Palmer’s Company of Moths, published by New Directions; and Dunya Mikhail’s The War Works Hard by, translated from the Arabic by Elizabeth Winslow, published by New Directions.

The judges are selected on an annual basis by the Griffin Poetry Prize Trustees, Margaret Atwood, Carolyn Forché, Robert Hass, Michael Ondaatje, Robin Robertson and David Young.

The Griffin Trust was created to serve and encourage excellence in poetry written in English anywhere in the world.

– 30 –

For further information, contact:


Elana Rabinovitch
Griffin Trust Press Relations
E-mail: press@griffinpoetryprize.com


June Dickenson
Griffin Trust Publicity
E-mail: publicity@griffinpoetryprize.com

General Inquiries

Ruth Smith
Griffin Trust Manager
E-mail: info@griffinpoetryprize.com

Shortlist summary, poet bios and citations

Download press release | Download photos

Purchase 2006 Griffin Prize Anthology and shortlist books online

Return to the News Release index.

Photo credit: Event photo by Tom Sandler

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *