Canisia Lubrin, Joseph Dandurand and Yusuf Saadi shortlisted for $65K Griffin Poetry Prize

Poets Canisia Lubrin, Joseph Dandurand and Yusuf Saadi are the Canadian finalists for the 2021 Griffin Poetry Prize.
Canisia Lubrin, Joseph Dandurand and Yusuf Saadi are the Canadian finalists for the $65,000 Griffin Poetry Prize. (Anna Keenan, Submitted by Griffin Poetry Prize)

Poets Canisia Lubrin, Joseph Dandurand and Yusuf Saadi are the Canadian finalists for the 2021 Griffin Poetry Prize.

The award annually 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.

Lubrin is nominated for The Dyzgraphxst.

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.

Lubrin is a writer, editor and teacher. She was born in St. Lucia and now lives in Ontario. Her debut poetry collection Voodoo Hypothesis was longlisted for the Gerald Lambert Award, the Pat Lowther Award and was a finalist for the Raymond Souster Award.

She was recently named a recipient of the 2021 Windham-Campbell Prize.

"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.

Rising Canadian literary star Canisia Lubrin talks about her new poetry collection The Dyzgraphxst. 11:09

Dandurand is nominated for The East Side of It All.

Dandurand used to be a drug user who lived in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside. He got out and began to heal by reconnecting with his family, the natural world and with his Kwantlen culture and storytelling. The East Side of It All is a collection of poems that shares this journey.

Dandurand is a poet from the Kwantlen First Nation. His other collections include The RumourI Will Be Corrupted and SH:LAM (The Doctor). He was the Vancouver Public Library's 2019 Indigenous storyteller in residence.

"Joseph Dandurand is a poet-storyteller. Portraying Vancouver's Downtown Eastside's prostitutes, heroin addicts, alcoholics and abused, his autobiographical poems could easily drown in the brutality and tragedy they capture — but instead they heal. These are deeply moving spiritual invocations, extricated from poisoned air by a fallen angel," the jury said in a statement.

Saadi is nominated for Pluviophile.

Pluviophile is a mix of longer sonnets and shorter meditations, all which explore humanity's relationship with divinity and how we value our bodies, our language and how we connect with each other and the greater world.

Saadi is a poet from Montreal. Pluviophile is his first collection. He won the Malahat Review's 2016 Far Horizons Award for Poetry for the poem The Place Words Go to Die, which is in Pluviophile. CBC Books named Saadi a writer to watch in 2020.

"'There are whispers in the letters,' writes Yusuf Saadi in poems that search everywhere for mystery, for magic, for beauty. And beauty speaks back, renews itself (and us) in these pages," the jury said in a statement. "Pluviophile is a beautiful, refreshing debut."

Four titles are nominated for the international prize.

American poet Victoria Chang is nominated for Obit, Belarusian poet Valzhyna Mort for Music for the Dead and Resurrected, 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.

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

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

The international and Canadian winners will be announced online on June 23, 2021. 

The two winners will each be awarded $65,000. The other finalists will each be awarded $10,000.

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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