Billy-Ray Belcourt, Aisha Sasha John & Donato Mancini make Griffin Poetry Prize shortlist

The three Canadian writers are finalists for the $65,000 prize, which is one of the world's largest prizes for a book of poetry.
Here's the Canadian shortlist for the 2018 Griffin Poetry Prize (from left): Billy-Ray Belcourt for This Wound is a World, Aisha Sasha John for I have to live. and Donato Mancini for Same Diff. (Frontenac House/Yuula Benivolski/Talonbooks)

The Griffin Poetry Prize, which annually awards two grand prizes of $65,000 each, has revealed the seven books of poetry that make up their two shortlists.

The three books that comprise the Canadian shortlist for the 2018 prize are: This Wound is a World by Billy-Ray Belcourt, I have to liveby Aisha Sasha John and Same Diff by Donato Mancini.

The four books on the international shortlist for the 2018 prize are: Heaven is All Goodbyes by Tongo Eisen-Martin, Debths by Susan Howe, Whereas by Layli Long Soldier and Hard Child by Natalie Shapero.

The jury, composed of Canadian poet Ian Williams, British poet Sarah Howe and American poet Ben Lerner, read 542 books of poetry from 33 countries.

The Griffin Poetry Prize is one of the richest awards in the world for a book of poetry. The winners will be announced on June 7, 2018 at an awards gala in Toronto.

Keep reading to learn about each of the Canadian finalists.

This Wound is a World by Billy-Ray Belcourt

Billy-Ray Belcourt is the author of the poetry collection This Wound Is A World. (Frontenac House)

This Wound is a World is Belcourt's debut book. A Rhodes Scholar from Driftpile Cree Nation, Belcourt champions colonial resistance through Indigeneity and queerness in a work that is both emotional and academic.

"Blending the resources of love song and elegy, prayer and manifesto, Billy-Ray Belcourt's This Wound is a World shows us poetry at its most intimate and politically necessary," said the jury in a press release.

"Belcourt pursues original forms with which to chart the constellations of queerness and Indigeneity, rebellion and survival, desire and embodiedness these poems so fearlessly explore. Between its bold treatment of sexuality and wary anatomy of despair, This Wound is a World peels back the layers of feeling and experience to offer, finally, the glimmerings of hope — which only sometimes looks like escape."

I have to live. by Aisha Sasha John

Aisha Sasha John is a poet, artist, musician and dancer. (Yuula Benivolski/McClelland & Stewart)

I have to live. is the third book by Toronto-based dancer and poet Aisha Sasha John. Quiet, yet powerful, declarative and urgent, this collection explores the tension between our inner selves and physical bodies.

"Aisha Sasha John's I have to live. shows what poetry can become when stripped of prettiness and polite convention —when in survival mode," said the jury in a press release.

"Spontaneous, its subjects unposed, its language unrehearsed, each poem has the effect of being taken with a Polaroid camera. John writes poems that are resistant to overwrought aesthetics, poems that have popular appeal yet are uninhibited by audience, poems whose casual demeanour belie their fight against casualty. They wind their way into us like a chorus."

Same Diff by Donato Mancini

Donato Mancini of Vancouver is the author of Same Diff. (Talonbooks)

Donato Mancini is a poet and literary critic from Vancouver. His book Same Diff maintains a record of slow and subtle changes in language and how they amplify over time according to political, social and economic whims.

"Mancini's primary methods are curatorial (he assembles), orchestral (he coordinates), mechanical (he repeats), and archaeological (he excavates language rather than the world for his materials). He fractures words to let out their yolk," said the jury in a press release.

"Same Diff is a monument to Mancini's accomplishments: he uses the words of others without appropriation; he negotiates self-effacement, humility and invisibility; he offers a way to recover a self, not through self-assertion, but by attending to the voices and needs of others."

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