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Susan Musgrave, Ocean Vuong nominated for revamped Griffin Poetry Prize

Canadian mainstays and international darlings are among the wordsmiths longlisted for the newly revamped Griffin Poetry Prize.
Ocean Vuong is longlisted for the newly revamped Griffin Poetry Prize. Vuong reads a part of his book 'Night Sky with Exit Wounds' during a cultural event, in Milan, Italy, Tuesday, July 4, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Luca Bruno

Canadian mainstays and international darlings are among the wordsmiths longlisted for the newly revamped Griffin Poetry Prize.

Benefactor Scott Griffin announced last year that the long-standing award would consolidate its Canadian and international categories — which each carried a $65,000 purse — into one global long list, whose winner will receive $130,000.

Among the Canadian contenders are California-born, British Columbia-based writer Susan Musgrave, for her first book of poetry in 11 years, "Exculpatory Lilies," and Manolis Aligizakis, who translated Tasos Livaditis' "Poems, Volume II" from the original Greek.

If a translated book is to win, the translator will receive 60 per cent of the prize, while the original poet will get 40 per cent.

Among the international nominees is American Robyn Creswell, who is being recognized for his translation of Egyptian-Canadian poet Iman Mersal's "The Threshold," which was originally written in Arabic.

Other big-name nominees include Vietnamese-American phenom Ocean Vuong, for his book "Time Is a Mother," and Somali-British poet Warsan Shire for "Bless the Daughter Raised by a Voice in Her Head."

In its new iteration, the Griffin bills itself as the world's largest poetry prize, with its namesake founder saying he hopes to celebrate works that transcend international borders.

Upon announcing the change in September, Griffin dismissed concerns that the elimination of a dedicated Canadian award could hurt the chances of homegrown poets to gain recognition.

He said he hopes to show that after giving Canadian poets "a leg up" with their dedicated category for more than 20 years, they are able to compete on the world stage.

This first global long list contains 10 works, including two translations. Of the twelve people named, three are Canadian.

The other international nominees are: "The Jaguar," by Sarah Holland-Batt, who is from Australia; "The Study of Human Life" by the Joshua Bennett; "The Hurting Kind" by Ada Limón, "Balladz," by Sharon Olds; and "Best Barbarian," by Roger Reeves, all of whom are American.

This year's judges are Macedonian Nikola Madzirov, Canadian Gregory Scofield, and American Natasha Trethewey.

The organization says they each read 602 books of poetry, including 54 translations from 20 languages.

The long list will be culled down to five nominees, which will be announced April 19, ahead of the awards ceremony on June 7.

In addition to the $130,000 prize to the winner, each shortlisted poet will receive $10,000. The Canadian First Book Prize winner will also receive $10,000, while a Lifetime Recognition Award recipient will win $25,000.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 15, 2023.

Nicole Thompson, The Canadian Press

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