Monday, May 31, 2010

Some poet's about to get PAID

If you're tuned in to the word on the street, you'll no doubt be aware that the speculation is heating up about this year's Griffin Poetry Prize, one of Canada's biggest literary derbies. The Griff-Po-Pri, as we say in the business (no, not really, I just made that up), was started ten years ago by Canuck businessman and philanthropist Scott Griffin. The award goes to one Canadian and one international poet who write in English (ha ha ha, in your FACE, Quebec). The prize is currently up to CA$75,000, which is roughly $71,707 American--or, to put it another way, more money than any professional poet will ever see in his entire life--and is frequently called the "most generous" poetry prize in the world*, which isn't that hard when you to stop to consider its closest competitor, the Bridport Prize, is only worth about US$6000.** Even writers shortlisted for the Griffin--that is, the people who didn't even win--still walk away with about US$10,000. So yeah. A big deal for people who write very skinny books.

For a heartfelt analysis of the finalists, you should check out Paul Vermeersch's article in the Globe and Mail, and there's an interesting analysis here at poetry blog Table Music.

About two months ago the Griff-Po-Pri people announced the prize's shortlist. The finalists will read their work at The Royal Conservatory in Toronto on Wednesday, June 2, 2010, and then the Griffin people will announce the winners of the poetry lotto. That's only two days away, and the betting and bookmaking is heating up. Wait, you mean you didn't know many bookies give odds and take bets on the winners of literary prizes? Yeah, it's a thing. People like to gamble. Some people have already started crunching the numbers for you. I'd say the current odds-on favorite for the Griffin International Prize is Scottish poet John Glenday.

Me? I prefer underdogs. The current longshot I think is Irish poet and author of The Sun-fish Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin--I say longshot because a) she's a woman, and b) she's not American, both of which put her behind the eight-ball historically. So yeah, I'm putting all my money on Chuilleanáin for the win. Go Sun fish!

Who's your bet?

(*Well, not counting the Nobel Prize in Literature, of course.)
(**Oh wait, there's also the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry, which is worth about US$10,000.)

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