Griffin Poetry Prize goes to Blaser and Ashbery

Prestigious Griffin Poetry Prize goes to Blaser and Ashbery

[from: The Canadian Press]

TORONTO — Robin Blaser, poet and professor emeritus from Simon Fraser University, was handed the prestigious Griffin Prize for Canadian poetry on Wednesday night.
Blaser was joined by John Ashbery, who took home the international Griffin poetry prize.
“This is truly a great honour and one I didn’t expect,” said the 83-year-old Blaser, who added that poetry remains “primary” in his life.
“Poetry is the deepest language we’ve got … I encourage you all to get busy and start writing,” said the author of “The Holy Forest: Collected Poems of Robin Blaser” (University of California Press).
Ashbery, who won for “Notes From the Air: Selected Later Poems” (HarperCollins Publishers/Ecco), told a packed dining room in the historic Distillery District, “I’ve never experienced anything like this before.”
“Poetry doesn’t usually get much attention but we poets have come to expect that,” said Ashbery, who spent his youth on the southern shore of Lake Ontario, listening to CBC radio.
The English-language award hands out $50,000 to the best book of Canadian poetry and $50,000 to the best book of international poetry published last year.
While the $50,000 prize wouldn’t be a major financial boost for J.K Rowling or Stephen King, the annual Griffin Prize is considered big bucks in the world of modern poetry.
“It’s one of the most fabulous events of the year,” said former Governor General Adrienne Clarkson, who arrived at the glitzy awards ceremony with her writer-husband John Ralston Saul.
As literary celebrities and publishing heavyweights snacked on scallops and sipped red wine, it’s clear that in its eighth year, the Griffin Awards has truly become an international celebration.
“Nobody in the world has an event like this, where poets of the world are recognized and everybody celebrates them,” said Clarkson.
This year’s judges – George Bowering, James Lasdun and Pura Lopez Colome – read more than 500 books of poetry from 31 countries.
“It’s nice to see poetry celebrated more than by politicians and from the press,” said author Michael Ondaatje, a founding trustee of the awards.
“It’s a great thing,” he said, adding that having “master” poets such as Blaser, considered one of North America’s most outstanding postwar poets, at the awards bolsters the event’s international importance.
Blaser was up against Montreal writer Robert Majzels and Calgary-born poet Erin Moure, who made the list for their English translation of “Notebook of Roses and Civilization” (Coach House Books).
Rounding out the Canadian short list was Toronto author David McFadden for “Why Are You So Sad? Selected Poems of David W. McFadden” (Insomniac Press/4 a.m. Books).
The book, from noted Montreal poet and novelist Nicole Brossard, also earned Majzels and Moure nominations for the Governor General’s Literary Award for translation last year.
“Our big aim now is to try and get it internationally well-known,” said the affable Scott Griffin, who spent much of the evening greeting guests and shaking hands.
“We’ve gone to 23 different languages from more than 30 different countries – that’s a big step from where we were a few years ago,” he added.
“At first, a lot of people said translations couldn’t compete with the originals, but translation is really the wrong word, it should be re-creation.”
While many of the attendees chatted freely with a phalanx of reporters and their camera crews, McFadden seemed a little less comfortable with all the attention.
“I should get a glass of wine,” he said, adding he’d just completed a television interview which didn’t go so well.
Apart from Ashbery’s work, three other books were on the international shortlist: Elaine Equi’s “Ripple Effect: New and Selected Poems” (Coffee House Press); “The Complete Poetry: A Bilingual Edition,” by Clayton Eshleman, translated from the Spanish, written by Cesar Vallejo (University of California Press); and “Selected Poems 1969-2005” from David Harsent (Faber and Faber).

(Visited 46 times, 1 visits today)

You may also like...

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *