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.

Notes on the Poem

Regularly as glorious as the poems we celebrate here every week from the Griffin Poetry Prize shortlisted and winning poetry collections are the ways in which the Griffin Poetry Prize judges pay tribute to those works. Many of the judges' citations, including several we've singled out here (most recently the citation for Jan Zwicky's 2012 shortlisted Forge), are virtually poetic pieces unto themselves. Taking that craft and sense of celebration to a whole other level is Ian Williams' preface to the 2018 Griffin Poetry Prize anthology. Along with fellow judges Sarah Howe and Ben Lerner, Ian Williams read (and read and read) and pondered and agonized and deliberated to help produce the 2018 Griffin Poetry Prize shortlist, from which 2018 winning collections Debths by Susan Howe and This Wound is a World by Billy-Ray Belcourt were eventually selected. As important as the selection of the winners is the chance to explore the works of the entire shortlist, facilitated in part by the compilation of representative and enticing excerpts from all of those works in the annual anthology. One of the judges each year is the editor of the anthology, and in 2018 that was Williams' role. Judging (!) by the preface, Williams took to this part of his duties with particular relish and inspiration. Unlike the individual citations for each work, the preface can take the opportunity to scrutinize themes or threads throughout the entire shortlist. With downright exuberance, Williams has managed to single out and meld the seven shortlisted works together in interesting ways - often launching into his signature adventures on the page with typography and page layout - all while sharing the dazzling, daunting, humbling and unforgettable experience of being a literary prize judge. The section of the preface we've focused on for Poem of the Week is just one of several imaginative approaches Williams takes. If your copy of the anthology is not immediately at hand, take a look here to enjoy the full preface. It's undeniably a great launching pad into the rest of the anthology, impetus to seek out the individual works ... and hey, maybe even inspiration to jump at the invitation, should you be so blessed to receive on, to be a literary award judge yourself.


(The answers, by the way, are: 1d, 2f, 3a, 4b, 5c, 6g, 7e)

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