canadian ~ twenty-first century literature since 1999


by Nathaniel G. Moore

On April 5, 2006, The Griffin Trust for Excellence in Poetry announced the short-lists for this year’s prize. The prize is awarded annually for the two best books of poetry, including translations, published in English in the previous year. The winners will each receive C$50,000. The prize is the world’s most lucrative prize to accept books from poetry from any country in the world.

An extraordinary 441 eligible books from 15 countries around the globe, translated from 20 different languages, were submitted for 2006. The seven finalists – three Canadian and four International – will be invited to read in Toronto at the MacMillan Theatre on Wednesday, May 31, 2006.

Tickets are available at

The winners will be announced on Thursday, June 1, 2006 at the sixth Griffin Poetry Prize awards evening.

TDR files this report with commentary from the publishers of the Canadian titles nominated.


The Canadian Short-list

  • Little Theatres by Erin Moure (House of Anansi Press)
  • An Oak Hunch by Phil Hall (Brick Books)
  • Nerve Squall by Sylvia Legris (Coach House Books)

The International Short-list

  • Born to Slow Horses by Kamau Brathwaite (Wesleyan University Press)
  • Ashes for Breakfast: Selected Poems by Durs Grunbein, translated from German by Michael Hofmann (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
  • Company of Moths by Michael Palmer (New Directions)
  • The War Works Hard by Dunya Mikhail, translated from Arabic by Elizabeth Winslow (New Directions)


The Canadian publishers speak about their books

Anansi says although there hasn’t been a huge leap in sales since the nomination, the press did just reprint and fill the backorders for Little Theatres, and expect some reorders. Little Theatres was also short-listed for the Governor General Awards for poetry.

Anansi’s nominee Erin Moure says she is thrilled to have the book be nominated for an award in English. "To have Little Theatres, with its poems in Galician, finalist for an award in English, is a great honour to Galician and to its literature, to its language, which has much to offer the world. I am glad glad glad if others can be enriched by its rhythms and desires... and the honour humbles me so much."

Stan Dragland, who edited Phil Hall’s book for Brick said of An Oak Hunch, "I was amazed at the exciting associational leaps in Phil's poems and the precision with which he built them. I could immediately feel the deep seriousness of the book, it's beating heart. It was demanding and rewarding at once, a triumph of stretch and involvement. It's a real pleasure for me to find that the members of the Griffin jury had a similar reaction."

Kitty Lewis, general manager at Brick was also pleased, "It is great that Phil Hall is getting some attention.  An Oak Hunch is his ninth book - and we have published six of them. Phil and Brick Books have had a connection for 20 years now."

And like Coach House and Anansi respectively, orders have started coming in. Says Lewis, "Phil's book came out in the fall so there are still books in the stores. But we have been filling orders and our sales manager tells me to expect more orders soon.

Like Coach House, this is Brick’s third Griffin nomination in four years - Margaret Avison won in 2003; Karen Solie was nominated in 2002. 

Coach House says Indigo has placed a big order for Nerve Squall since the short-list announcement on April 5, and independent bookstores have been placing orders as well.

Wilcox says though Coach House didn’t anticipate the nomination, they are thrilled that Nerve Squall was recognized. "We’re very excited to have Nerve Squall as a contender. It's an amazing prize -- very generous, and with fantastic publicity. And it's a great list for Sylvia to be on -- I know she’s honoured to share the list with Erin Moure and Phil Hall, and we're so pleased to be in the company of Anansi and Brick."

Nerve Squall is the third nomination for Coach House, (Christian Bok’s infamous Eunoia was short-listed -- and won -- in 2002, and in 2004 Di Brandt’s Now You Care made the short-list.

Wilcox says when she say the manuscript for Nerve Squall she was immediately intrigued. "It's a brave book, very sophisticated and erudite but at the same time willing to be playful and funny -- that's a rare quality, and tough to pull off well. But Nerve Squall succeeded. It's a great read, and it might change what you ask of poetry."







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