Billy-Ray Belcourt wins $65K Griffin Poetry Prize for This Wound is a World

The $65,000 prize is one of the richest awards in the world for a book of poetry.
Scott Griffin (centre) with the Canadian Griffin Poetry Prize winner Billy-Ray Belcourt (left) and the international winner, Susan How (right). (Griffin Poetry Prize, Tom Sandler)

Billy-Ray Belcourt is the Canadian winner of the Griffin Poetry Prize for his debut collection This Wound is a World. The $65,000 prize is one of the richest awards in the world for a book of poetry. This Wound is a World merges the personal with the academic, envisioning a "decolonial kind of heaven that is searchable, findable."

Belcourt was very emotional as he accepted the prize.

"This book was written to not be a book. It was written between the ages of 19 and 21, to allow me to figure out how to be in the world, a world that I cannot want, a world that many of us who are Indigenous cannot want. But it was written also to bring about the world that we do want, collectively," he said on stage during the gala event in Toronto.

This Wound is a World also won the 2018 Indigenous Voices Award for most significant work of poetry in English and is a finalist for the Gerald Lampert Memorial Award and the Raymond Souster Award.

The other Canadian finalists were I have to live. by Aisha Sasha John and Same Diff by Donato Mancini.

The international winner was American poet Susan Howe for her collection Debths.

The other international finalists were Heaven is All Goodbyes by Tongo Eisen-Martin, 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 2018 lifetime recipient was Ana Blandiana, one of Romania's most acclaimed poets. Blandiana has published 14 books of poetry, two short story collections, seven books of essays and one novel. Her work has been translated into 26 languages and collected in 47 books of poetry and prose to date.

Blandiana is known for her outspoken poems and views on social and political issues, particularly her opposition stance to Nicolae Ceaușescu's communist regime in her home country during the 1970s and 1980s. Over the years, her works have become symbols of an ethical consciousness that refuse to be silenced by a totalitarian government.

The Griffin Prize has been awarded annually since 2001. Past Canadian winners include Anne Carson, Roo Borson, Dionne Brand and Jordan Abel. 

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