Books

Canisia Lubrin is the Canadian winner of $65K Griffin Poetry Prize for The Dyzgraphxst

Belarusian poet Valzhyna Mort won the international award.

Belarusian poet Valzhyna Mort won the international award

The Dyzgraphxst is a poetry book by Canisia Lubrin. (Samuel Engelking, McClelland & Stewart)

Canisia Lubrin is the Canadian winner of the 2021 Griffin Poetry Prize for her poetry collection The Dyzgraphxst.

The annual award gives out two $65,000 prizes — one to a book of Canadian poetry and one to an international book of poetry — making it one of the world's richest prizes of its kind.

The Dyzgraphxst is set against the backdrop of contemporary capitalist fascism, nationalism and the climate disaster, where Jejune, the central figure, grapples with understanding their existence and identity.

"The Dyzgraphxst is Canisia Lubrin's spectacular feat of architecture called a poem. Built with 'I' — a single mark on the page, a voice, a blade, 'a life-force soaring back' — and assembled over seven acts addressing language, grammar, sentence, line, stage and world, the poet forms, invents, surprises and sharpens life. Generous, generating and an abundance of rigour. A wide and widening ocean of feeling are the blueprints of this book," the jury said in a statement.

Lubrin is a writer, editor and teacher. She was born in St. Lucia and now lives in Ontario.

The Dyzgraphxst  also won the 2021 OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature and Lubrin was named a recipient of the 2021 Windham-Campbell Prize.

Dream 17: Canisia Lubrin reads from her Griffin Poetry Prize-shortlisted book The Dyzgraphxst

7 months ago
1:33
"Let them say I have seen the long days. I have seen them rising from the huts as smoke, I have seen them, as forests turned brown & flat for remembering themselves." 1:33

The other Canadian finalists were Joseph Dandurand for The East Side of It All and Yusuf Saadi for Pluviophile.

Belarusian poet Valzhyna Mort won the international award for Music for the Dead and Resurrected.

In Music for the Dead and Resurrected, Mort writes about memory as something that can reopen a wound or act as an inoculation. 

Valzhyna Mort is a poet and translator born in Minsk, Belarus. She is the author of three poetry collections, Factory of Tears, Collected Body and, mostly recently, Music for the Dead and Resurrected. (Tanya Kapitonava/Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

"'Here, history comes to an end / like a movie / with rolling credits of headstones,' writes Valzhyna Mort, though the history doesn't end, but takes deep and memorable residence in the music of these poems. The collection offers many different kinds of poetry: from elegies to protest poems to moments of lyric intimacy. But in all of them there's an unmistakable emotion embodied in craft, one that continues to echo in our minds long after we finish the book. And this is perhaps the reason why Mort's striking pages about Belarus are ultimately poems about all of us: they set our remembering and our grief to inimitable music," the jury said about Music for the Dead and Resurrected in a statement.

The other international finalists were American poet Victoria Chang for Obit, Indian American poet Srikanth Reddy for Underworld Lit and American poet Tracy K. Smith and Chinese poetry translator Changtai Bi for their translation of My Name Will Grow Wide Like a Tree by Yi Lei.

For nearly 27 years, citizens of Belarus have lived under the thumb of Alexander Lukashenko, who is considered Europe’s last dictator. In her poetry collection Music for the Dead and Resurrected, Belarusian poet Valzhyna Mort explores collective memory, a history of both horror and joy, and how to memorialize those buried in mass graves. 53:59

All the remaining Canadian and international finalists will each receive $10,000.

More than 680 books were submitted for consideration, from 231 publishers from around the world.

The 2021 jury was comprised of Canadian poet Souvankham Thammavongsa, Ukrainian poet Ilya Kaminsky and Slovenian poet Aleš Šteger.

Montreal poet Kaie Kellough won last year's Canadian prize for his collection Magnetic Equator.

Last year's international winner was Time by Lebanese poet Etel Adnan, translated from French to English by American Sarah Riggs.

Other past Canadian winners include Anne Carson, Roo Borson, Dionne Brand, Billy-Ray Belcourt and Jordan Abel. 

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