Ken Babstock and David Harsent win Griffin Poetry Prize

Toronto-based Ken Babstock and British poet David Harsent have been named the 2012 winners of the Griffin Poetry Prize, with each winning $65,000

Career honour presented to Seamus Heaney on eve of annual Griffin Poetry gala

Britain's David Harsent is one of the 2012 Griffin Poetry Pirze winners. He was recognized for Night, published by Faber and Faber. (Canadian Press)

Toronto-based Ken Babstock and British poet David Harsent have been named the 2012 winners of the Griffin Poetry Prize.

Both poets received $65,000 in prize money.

Billed as the world's richest award for a single poetry collection, the Griffin was handed out Thursday at a gala attended by literary luminaries including Margaret Atwood, Michael Ondaatje and Nobel Prize winner Seamus Heaney.

Toronto's Ken Babstock was the Canadian Griffin prize winner this year. His win was for Methodist Hatchet, published by House of Anansi Press. (Canadian Pres)

First awarded in 2001, the award honours one Canadian and one international poet.

Babstock, who was born in Newfoundland and raised in the Ottawa Valley, won for Methodist Hatchet, while Harsent won for Night.

The judges for the 2012 prize were Heather McHugh, David O’Meara and Fiona Sampson.

The Canadian contenders were:

  • Toronto-based Ken Babstock for Methodist Hatchet.
  • Phil Hall, of Perth, Ont., for Killdeer (which in November won the Governor General's Literary Award for poetry).
  • Calgary-born poet Jan Zwicky, now based in British Columbia, for Forge.

The international finalists were:

  • British poet Sean O'Brien for November.
  • British poet David Harsent for Night.
  • U.S. poet Yusef Komunyakaa for The Chameleon Couch.
  • Polish poet Tadeusz Rozewicz and translator Joanna Trzeciak for Sobbing Superpower: Selected Poems of Tadeusz Rozewicz.

Each finalist also receives $10,000 for participating in Wednesday evening's readings.

Past winners have included Dionne BrandAnne Carson, Christian Bok, Paul Muldoon, and Karen Solie.

Irish Nobel laureate Seamus Heaney was honoured by the Griffin Trust Wednesday evening for his lifetime devoted to poetry, the recognition coming a night before the announcement of the 2012 poetry prize winners.

Griffin trustee Robin Robertson offered a tribute to Heaney — winner of the 1995 Nobel Prize for literature and a Griffin finalist in 2011 —  and presented him with the group's Lifetime Recognition Award in Toronto. The presentation took place as part of a public reading by this year's Griffin nominees.

His acceptance "brings great honour and prestige to the Griffin Poetry awards," prize founder Scott Griffin said in a statement.

With files from The Canadian Press