London – 2004

In October, 2004, a breathtaking array of poets brought together by the Griffin Trust and the Canadian High Commission provided a unique line-up for Poetry International, the largest poetry festival in the United Kingdom taking place in London at the Royal Festival Hall that fall. The Canadian poetry contingent included Margaret Atwood, Robert Bringhurst, Anne Carson, August Kleinzahler and Anne Simpson.

Read the full text of the announcement of this event here.

Anne Carson, Robert Bringhurst, Margaret Atwood and 2004 Griffin Poetry Prize winners Anne Simpson and August Kleinzahler read at Poetry International 2004, London, England, on October 28, 2004. Robert Bringhurst and August Kleinzahler also conducted workshops as part of the Poetry International series of events.

Anne Simpson captured her Poetry International 2004 experience in some interesting blog entries.

tls-logo2To mark the occasion, The Times Literary Supplement published new poems by Robert Bringhurst, Margaret Atwood, Anne Simpson and August Kleinzahler in their October 22nd, 2004 issue. The Griffin Trust thanks the poets and the TLS for their kind permission to reproduce those poems here.

Margaret Atwood
Griffin Trustee

At Brute Point
by Margaret Atwood

The old people descend the hill in slow motion.
It’s a windy hill,
a hill of treacheries and pebbles,
and twisted ankles.

One has a stick, one not.
Their clothing is bizarre,
though wash-and-wear.

Foot over foot they go,
Down the eroded slope,
flapping like sails.
They want to get down to the ocean,
and they accomplish this.

(Could it be that we are the old people
Surely not.
Not with such hats.)

We may have been here before;
at least it looks familiar,
but we are drawn to hills like these,
remote, bleak, old history,
nothing but stones.

Down by the tidal pool
there are two plastic bottles
a few small molluscs.

One person pees in a corner
out of the sun,
the other not.

At this point, once, there might have been sex
with the waves rampaging in
as if in films.
But we stay fully clothed,
talk about rocks:
How did it get this way, the mix
of igneous and sandstone?
There’s mica too, that glitter.

It’s not sad. It’s bright
and clear.
See how sprightly we climb back up,
One claw and then the other.

Robert Bringhurst
Griffin Poetry Prize 2001 Canadian Shortlist

Giotto’s Bones
by Robert Bringhurst

They were underneath the Duomo -just
below the stone floor, precisely where
Vasari said the marker used to be -and no one
meant to set them free -and yet they lie here
naked in fluorescent light, for anyone to see …

heavy with mercury, lead and selenium:
the twisted, mismatched bones
of the man who could make plaster dust
and water, egg yolk, charcoal and red ochre
hunker down and sing the blues

touching his brush -a vulture’s quill
tipped with a cluster of boiled weasel hair –
to his lips, lifting his hunched right shoulder
a little bit higher, bringing his clenched left foot
a little bit closer, making a taut and perfect

gesture with a splotched, disfigured hand.

August Kleinzahler
Griffin Poetry Prize 2004 International Winner

by August Kleinzahler

Black filthy rain it’s raining
like a grudge is out
but the neon mermaid over the fish place
looks best that way, in the rain.

Downstairs, Sol, of Sol’s Paradise Club,
mixes a fizz drink for a mummy blonde.
Thanks, Sol.
The resident ‘monster on alto,’
recently back from a large success in Regina,
roars through the bebop warhorse Steeplechase,
played in the manner of Jackie McLean,
say, around 1957.

Everything sounded good in ’57.

At the foot of the block is the inlet
and beyond the inlet the mountain
and beyond the mountain almost nothing,
nothing until the North Pole:
Far Mountain, Ootsa Lake,
lichen-colored eternities
sprinkled with bear scat,
the abandoned dam project,
an unspeakable comfort station along the gravel highway,

It is March.
Tomorrow morning, drivers,
commuting to work along the North Shore,
will observe a dusting of snow
on the branches of cherry trees lining the road,
the same trees now in bud
and making ready to blossom.
Were it not for the Safeway and car dealerships
one or two might think of Ukiyo-e
and the great Hiroshige, or perhaps Hokusai.

But tonight, tonight in the harbor below,
freighters queue

1  2      34    5
waiting to dock.
A sailor aboard the lead ship, a Dane,
sniffs the saltchuck and lights himself a smoke.
He gazes out to the shimmering downtown spit.
He likes how tobacco and sea air mix in his nose.

Anne Simpson
Griffin Poetry Prize 2004 Canadian Winner

Orpheus Afterwards
by Anne Simpson

He lies on the grass. One hippogriff
of cloud becomes another: expanding,
contracting. It’s all unreal, the same
sky and river, the scent of living
things. The last of the ice floes passes
on the water, shears in two
pieces against the bridge. He studies
his hands, bitten fingernails. Every
time he turns, he feels the stamping hooves,

the great herd, A man can get used
to anything, grow accustomed to
a change of seasons, each snap
of the moon. Even when he’s stretched
out on this slope he hears a steady
thrumming. It’s a long way off,
but he lies still, pretending. Once
he put candles in each window
of her body: a thousand wavering
lights. Back then he knew about fire.

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