If you’ve followed the Griffin Poetry Prize Poem of the Week feature over the weeks, months and years (this is week 445 in our uninterrupted presentation of work from or associated with the prize’s shortlists), we often use as our starting point the observations of our judges about the collections from which these poems came. These citations are thoughtful, well-crafted tributes that are beautifully compositions unto themselves.
The citation for Jan Zwicky’s 2012 Griffin Poetry Prize shortlisted collection Forge is strolls with contemplation and wonder through the work.
This striking excerpt from the poem “Music and Silence: Seven Variations” …
“This is your perplexity:
was it a hand
that reached up, plucked the arrow
… isn’t that an exquisite “balancing act of great poise and beauty”? As the poem opens the collection, it makes clear that much attention will be paid and much influence will be garnered from music.
In “The Art of Fugue” (that musical influence, again), how much more directly, yet still compassionately, can one address death than this?
“The dead are dead:
parents, siblings, children, spouse.
Death comes upon us:
blindness, deafness, madness, or
the slow gag of neglect.
Put your arms around them:
they are what is given, as you knew.”
… and whether you view “them” as your loved ones or the causes of death, “putt[ing] your arms around them” shows Zwickly fearlessly wielding love.
Zwicky’s fascination with the “watery world” is indeed evident throughout the collection, but she is also reverent and, as noted before in this citation, balanced:
“The water’s neither cold nor warm.
Your mind has never been as clear.”
Once you’ve read this citation, you are eager to take the same journey through this work that the Griffin Poetry Prize judges did.
The following are other selected judges’ citations that present Griffin Poetry Prize winning and shortlisted works in gorgeously appreciative, often spirited fashion.
- Men in the Off Hours by Anne Carson
Griffin Poetry Prize 2001 – Canadian Winner
(Judges: Carolyn Forche, Dennis Lee, Paul Muldoon)
- Born to Slow Horses by Kamau Brathwaite
Griffin Poetry Prize 2006 – International Winner
(Judges: Lavinia Greenlaw, Lisa Robertson, Eliot Weinberger)
- Ocean by Sue Goyette
Griffin Poetry Prize 2014 – Canadian Shortlist
(Judges: Robert Bringhurst, Jo Shapcott, CD Wright)
- Conflict Resolution for Holy Beings by Joy Harjo
Griffin Poetry Prize 2016 – International Shortlist
(Judges: Alice Oswald, Tracy K Smith, Adam Sol)
- The Perseverance by Raymond Antrobus
Griffin Poetry Prize 2019 – International Shortlist
(Judges: Ulrikka Gernes, Kim Maltman, Srikanth Reddy)
You can find citations for all works associated with the Griffin Poetry Prize shortlists on the pages showcasing the works and poets.