Poetry News

The Griffin Poetry Prize Winners Are In!!

By Harriet Staff

Ghassan _Zaqtan

And they are (in the International Poetry category): Like a Straw Bird It Follows Me, and Other Poems, by Ghassan Zaqtan, and translated by Fady Joudah.

Judge Wang Ping writes:

What does poetry do? Nothing and everything, like air, water, soil, like birds, fish, trees, like love, spirit, our daily words … It lives with us, in and outside us, everywhere, all the time, and yet, we are too often oblivious of this gift. It’s a poet’s job to bring this gift out and back, this gift that makes us human again. And Mr. Zaqtan has done it. His poetry awakens the spirits buried deep in the garden, in our hearts, in the past, present and future. His singing reminds us why we live and how, in the midst of war, despair, global changes. His words turn dark into light, hatred into love, death into life. His magic leads us to the clearing where hope becomes possible, where healing begins across individuals, countries, races … and we are one with air, water, soil, birds, fish, trees … our daily words pregnant with beauty, and we begin to sing again till ‘ … the singer / and the song / are alike (Biography in Charcoal)’. This is Mr. Zaqtan’s only ‘profession’. It’s now also ours. About the translation: as a translator of poetry myself, I know the danger, frustration and the joy in the process of catching the fire from the original and delivering it through/into another language, another culture, another sentiment. Mr. Joudah delivered with such grace and power. My salute to Mr. Joudah, as translator to translator, as poet to poet, as doctor to doctor.

To hear Zaqtan in conversation with Joudah, you can listen to a recent Poetry Lectures podcast.

And in the Canadian Poetry column: What’s the Score?, by David McFadden, takes home the prize.

Of the What's the Score, Suzanne Buffam writes:

If the fool would persist in his folly, he would become wise,’ advised William Blake in his Proverbs of Hell. As if whispering through the ages into the ear of Canada’s deadpan court jester, Blake’s radical spirit slyly presides over David McFadden’s exuberant thirty-fifth publication, What’s The Score? With their arch yet affable tone, these ninety-nine irreverent and mock-earnest poems lay siege to the feelings of boredom, anxiety, and alienation that afflict a culture obsessed with wealth and prestige, leading us, again and again, down the road of excess to the palace of wisdom. ‘My poems go leaping from crag to crag,’ McFadden boasts in one poem, before quickly, and characteristically, scuttling this Romantic image of the egotistical sublime ‘like a stubble-faced crybaby, it’s probably / because I’ve been writing for so long, / forty years of poems to various friends.’ The easy, casual intimacy of these poems will befriend you on the first page. Their astonishing leaps and their genuine philosophical urgency will compel you to keep reading. ‘Stick around,’ invites this artful and knowing wise fool, ‘everyone should have a chorus / following his steps and reminding him / of his central role in some great dream.

Congrats to the winners!! To all the short-listed poets, go here.

Originally Published: June 14th, 2013