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Anne Carson becomes two-time Griffin winner

Griffin winners Anne Carson (left) and Brenda Hillman, with Scott Griffin

Griffin winners Anne Carson (left) and Brenda Hillman, with Scott Griffin

Anne Carson has been awarded the $65,000 Griffin Prize for Poetry for Red Doc>, a follow-up to her acclaimed poetry bestseller Autobiography of Red, making her the first two-time winner of the prestigious and lucrative award. In 2001, the Toronto-born poet was the winner of the inaugural Griffin for Men in the Off Hours.

“I’m feeling really, really surprised. Happy, but surprised,” Carson said after the ceremony in Toronto Thursday evening. “I think they were all worthy of winning.”

Carson was joined on the Canadian shortlist by Toronto poet and novelist Anne Michaels for Correspondences, a collaboration with artist Bernice Eisenstein, and Halifax poet Sue Goyette for her fourth collection, Oceans, published by Gaspereau Press.

Carson’s win is significant for her publisher, McClelland & Stewart, which also published Michaels’ collection.

“We’re very, very thrilled about Anne Carson,” says Ellen Seligman, publisher of M&S and a Random House of Canada vice-president. “The Griffin Prize is good for poetry, which is good for everybody – it’s good for M&S, and it’s good for everybody who publishes poetry. We were thrilled to have two shortlisted authors on the list.”

Earlier this year, M&S relaunched its poetry program and appointed a poetry board comprised of Ken Babstock, Dionne Brand, and Kevin Connolly.

Jury member and English poet Jo Shapcott presented Carson with the award, saying Red Doc> shows Carson’s “innovative talents, pushing possibilities of the writing form for all of us, and leading the way in finding the expression for aspects of human experience that few other writers have touched.”

Shapcott was part of a jury comprising American poet C.D. Wright, who won the international Griffin in 2009, and Robert Bringhurst, a finalist for the inaugural Canadian prize with Carson in 2001.

The winner of this year’s Griffin international prize – also worth $65,000 – is U.S. author Brenda Hillman for Seasonal Works with Letters on Fire (Wesleyan University Press). The other finalists for the international prize are Carl Phillips for Silverchest (Farrar, Straus and Giroux), and Colonies (Zephyr Press), written in Polish by Tomasz Różycki and translated by Mira Rosenthal.

Prior to the ceremony, Griffin trustee Margaret Atwood announced that she is stepping down from her role. She will be replaced by two new members: poet Karen Solie (winner of the Griffin in 2010) and Colm Tóibín. The board includes prize founder Scott Griffin, authors Carolyn Forché, Robert Hass, Michael Ondaatje, Robin Robertson, and David Young.