Friday, June 03, 2005


Well, big announcement: Roo Borson & Charles Simic have won that most American of Canadian poetry prizes (only because of the money involved), the $100,000 Griffin Prize, the world's richest award for a single volume of poetry.

I can't help but smile as I read this:

The Griffin prize, established in 2000 by entrepreneur Scott Griffin, was presented Thursday evening at a Toronto gala attended by more than 300 poetry fans, including Governor General Adrienne Clarkson and author Margaret Atwood, who is on the Griffin Prize board of trustees.

"It's been huge," Atwood said of the increasing international recognition of the award. "It's now a known award in poetry circles all over."

Griffin funds both the lucrative prize and the swanky party and says the cost is justified because it gives him the opportunity to shine the spotlight on poets and their work.

"There are a lot of literary prizes and unless you make a big statement, you just get lost," he said.

Well, well, what a surprise. Money hath been known to, my liege, it speaketh most eloquently. So come on, Tupelo, Crab Orchard, Glimmer Train, Gulf Coast, Speakeasy, Stanford, Blue Lynx, Blue Heron, Iowa, Ralph Gustafson, Ruth Lilly, Spoon River, Byron's Quill etc. etc. etc. etc., SHOW US THE MONEY!

On my own award-giving front (no money involved here, sorry), I decided to move Cris Lott (Cosmopoetica) back to my list of faves. Seems he posts sporadically rather than infrequently, with a flurry of posts then silence for weeks as he focuses on poetry instead. (Sometimes I think I should do that -- if he's true to his words, who can blame him?) In his writing -- in his humble esteem for clarity, simplicity and emotional expression in poetry over the verbose puzzle -- he provides a valuable counterpoint to Josh Corey and Ron Silliman, whom he frequently contests and critiques.


Brian Campbell said...

Commenting on my own blog again -- of course, I think it's GREAT that some entrepreneur would want to shine a light on poetry in this way, and Simic & Borson are deserving winners. Money =ing prestige, I wonder how much such a prize will expand poetry's audience?
(So there you've got it: me in a less sardonic mood...)

A. J. Patrick Liszkiewicz said...

Have you ever noticed how many people judge the validity of "work" by the income it generates for the individual?

"Oh, you're a writer? [insert small talk here, then:] How much money do you make?"

I don't know whether or not prizes like this one will help expand poetry's audience. But I would argue that such prizes help validate and justify poetry as a profession, to many people.

No judgments here, either; I'm just making an observation. What do you think, Brian?

Brian Campbell said...

You're probably right about how these prizes validate and justify the poetry "profession" in the public mind. Shelley over a century ago wrote a Defence of Poetry, the first expression of the modern poet’s mania for self-justification. Perhaps if he had approached his rich friend Byron and created an especially lucrative prize, that would have made for a better "Defence".

As for North America and it's "If you're so smart, why aren't you rich?" syndrome… Our founding fathers (mothers, too) were all too willing to bring their kitsch and leave their culture behind, all in the name of pragmatism; this is our legacy. So I am all too familiar with the conversations of which you speak. Perhaps you’ve read my unloved poets post of a few months back…

As one gets older (now I find myself adopting an avuncular tone I myself find annoying, so please pardon me), one finds oneself becoming less acutely conscious of the world's judgement vis a vis these choices. I have my work, have made my choices; poetry I do because I simply have to, as an existential imperative to do best at what I do best, as I said a few posts back. There are great friends to be made and great moments to be had in sharing one’s high times in this art, and clearly $$$ you can’t take with you. While I strive to do the best I can and (however sporadically) “make a name for myself” in this field, it’s also clear that today’s poetry “career path” is largely bogus.

A. J. Patrick Liszkiewicz said...

Honestly: well said, my friend.

And I enjoyed the old post, too.