Kaie Kellough wins 2020 Griffin Poetry Prize for poetry collection Magnetic Equator

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.
Magnetic Equator is Kaie Kellough's third poetry collection. (McClelland & Stewart, Melissa-Anne Cobbler)

Kaie Kellough's Magnetic Equator is the Canadian winner of the 2020 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.

The international winner is Time by Lebanese poet Etel Adnan, translated from French to English by American Sarah Riggs.

Adnan and Riggs will share the $65,000 prize, with 60 per cent going to Riggs as the prize is for the English translation of the book.

Kellough is a novelist, poet and sound performer from Montreal. His latest book is the short fiction collection Dominoes at the Crossroads, published in 2020. 

Jurors Paula Meehan, Kei Miller and Hoa Nguyen praised Kellough's collection of "voicings that cascade and collect."

Kaie Kellough is an award-winning Canadian poet and novelist. As of this week, he's also one of the winners of the 2020 Griffin Poetry Prize. Kellough joined Tom Power over Zoom from his home in Montreal to talk about his winning collection of poetry, Magnetic Equator, and what it means to write about a home you've been separated from. 8:08

"Speaking to Caribbean and hemispheric migrations, the poems in Magnetic Equator recall trouble, hybridity, steep falls, continuance and elaboration," said the jurors in a press release.

"Singing of exile and scattering, the text negotiates survival and revolt as it moves with the surety and complexity of improvisation and collaboration. Sonic, visual, and intertextual, Kaie Kellough traces source and accumulation: 'our crossings of past, we depart / opposite, along the sentence that encircles the world.'"

Adnan is also the author of the award-winning collection Sea and Fog. She was awarded France's l'Ordre de Chevalier des Arts et Lettres in 2014.

Riggs has published five poetry collections, including Autobiography of Envelopes and Pomme & Granite, and translated or co-translated six others. She lives in New York.

Jurors explained that they were "pulled quickly" through Time.

"'I say that I'm not afraid/of dying because I haven't/ yet had the experience/ of death' writes Etel Adnan in the opening poem to Time. What is astonishing here is how she manages to give weariness its own relentless energy," said the jurors in a press release.

"If Adnan is correct and 'writing comes from a dialogue/ with time' then this is a conversation the world should be leaning into, listening to a writer who has earned every right to be listened to."

The other finalists were Canadians Doyali Islam for Heft and Chantal Gibson for How She Read, Colorado-based poet Abigail Chabitnoy for How to Dress a Fish, California poet Sharon Olds for Arias and American-Mexican poet Natalie Scenters-Zapico for Lima :: Limón. Each of the finalists will receive $10,000.

This year's announcement was held online, in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.


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