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Small presses dominate Griffin Poetry Prize’s Canadian shortlist

Jordan Abel

Jordan Abel

Three collections from independent presses comprise this year’s Griffin Poetry Prize shortlist for Canadian titles. Jordan Abel’s Injun (Talonbooks), Hoa Nguyen’s Violet Energy Ingots (Wave Books), and Sandra Ridley’s Silvija (BookThug) are up for the prestigious $65,000 award.

This year’s jury – Sue Goyette (Canada), Joan Naviyuk Kane (U.S.), and George Szirtes (U.K.) – read 617 books of poetry from 39 countries, including 23 works of translation.

In the international category, four titles have been shortlisted: Jane Mead’s World of Made and Unmade (Alice James Books/Publishers Group Canada); Abdellatif Laâbi’s In Praise of Defeat, translated by Donald Nicholson-Smith (Archipelago Books/PRHC); Alice Oswald’s Falling Awake (Jonathan Cape/W.W. Norton); and Denise Riley’s Say Something Back (Picador/Raincoast Books).

Abel, a Nisga’a writer and editor currently completing a PhD at Simon Fraser University, is nominated for his third collection, which examines issues of racism and colonialism by extracting the titular word from 10,000 pages of pulp western novels. In its citation, the jury says, “Abel’s visual poetics bring urgency to the materiality of text by restructuring history on the site of the page.”

Nguyen, who was born in Vietnam and now lives in Toronto, is the author of several collections, including Red Juice: Poems 1998-2008 and As Long as Trees Last. The jury calls Violet Energy Ingots “a fully mature work in that it is confident of both its voice and its readers’ alertness.”

Ridley is the Ottawa-based author of three previous collections, including Post-Apothecary and The Counting House, both of which were nominated for Archibald Lampman awards. The jury calls the poems in Silvija “potent and beguiling.”

Shortlist readings will take place on June 7 in Toronto, with winners announced at a ceremony on June 8.