Dionne Brand among Griffin poetry finalists
Dionne Brand has been nominated for the Griffin Poetry Prize for her narrative poem Ossuaries, the second nomination in as many days for the Toronto poet.
On Tuesday, the Griffin Trust announced three finalists for the $65,000 Griffin Prize in Canadian poetry and four — including Nobel laureate Seamus Heaney — for the international prize (also worth $65,000).
The Griffin is Canada's richest poetry prize and the world's largest prize for a single poetry collection in English.
The other Canadians in the running:
- Suzanne Buffam, a Canadian currently teaching in Chicago, for The Irrationalist.
- John Steffler of Corner Brook, N.L., for Lookout.
In Ossuaries, a novel-length narrative poem, Brand tells the story of an activist named Yasmine who lives in exile and gets caught up in events such as a violent bank robbery.
"The sensation of hurtling and, at the same time, being caught is uncanny. Brand's innovation on Ossuaries calls forth an entirely new sort of reading," the jury said in its citation.
Brand won the Governor General's Award for her 1997 poetry collection Land to Light On and was named Toronto's poet laureate in 2009. On Monday, she was shortlisted for the Pat Lowther Memorial Award, also for Ossuaries.
The Griffin Trust named finalists from Ireland, the U.S. and Libya for its international prize.
"There is an active urge in the rhythms of these poems to capture the living breath of things; sometimes the breath is hushed, and other times wise and resigned in its way of holding rhythms in and then releasing them," the jury said.
Libyan-American writer Khaled Mattawa, now a professor at the University of Michigan, is nominated for his translation of 20th century Syrian poet Adonis, who is credited with helping to bring modern Arabic poetry into being.
Adonis: Selected Poems is the fifth work in translation by Mattawa, who earned a PEN award for literary translation and has published four books of his own poetry.
The other international nominees:
- Gjertrud Schnackenberg of the U.S. for Heavenly Questions.
- Philip Mosley of the U.S. for The Book of Snow, translated from the original French by François Jacqmin.
All seven finalists will read at Koerner Hall in Toronto on May 31, ahead of the announcement of the winner on June 1. Each finalist earns $10,000 for participating in the readings.