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Canadians Doyali Islam, Chantal Gibson and Kaie Kellough shortlisted for $65K Griffin Poetry Prize

Poets Chantal Gibson, Doyali Islam and Kaie Kellough are the Canadian finalists for the 2020 Griffin Poetry Prize.

The award annually gives out two $65,000 prizes — one to a book of Canadian poetry and one to an international book of poetry — making it one of the world’s richest prizes of its kind.

The Canadian shortlist is comprised of Gibson’s How She Read, Islam’s Heft and Kellough’s Magnetic Equator.

In light of concerns over COVID-19, the Griffin Trust for Excellence in Poetry announced in March that it had cancelled the 2020 shortlist readings scheduled for June 8 and the awards evening dinner on June 9. 

The international and Canadian winners will be announced online on May 19, 2020.

The two winners will each be awarded $65,000. The other finalists will each be awarded $10,000.

There are four books on the international shortlist.

Colorado-based poet Abigail Chabitnoy is a finalist for How to Dress a Fish, California poet Sharon Olds is on the shortlist for Arias, Beirut poet Etel Adnan is on the shortlist for Time, which was translated from French by New York-based writer Sarah Riggs, and American-Mexican poet Natalie Scenters-Zapico is a finalist for Lima :: Limón.

This year’s jury is made up of Irish poet and playwright Paula Meehan, Jamaican poet and essayist Kei Miller and American poet Hoa Nguyen.

The 2020 jurors read a total of 572 books, submitted by 208 publishers from 14 countries.

The 2019 Griffin Poetry Prize winners were Eve Joseph for Quarrels and South Korean poet Kim Hyesoon​​ for Autobiography of Death, which was translated by Don Mee Choi.

Other past Canadian winners include Anne Carson, Roo Borson, Dionne Brand, Billy-Ray Belcourt and Jordan Abel. 

Keep reading to learn more about the 2020 Canadian finalists.

Chantal Gibson is the author of How She Read. (Caitlin Press, Chantal Gibson)

Gibson’s How She Read is a collection of genre-blurring poems about the representation of black women in Canada. The Vancouver-based Gibson has East Coast roots and she brings a holistic, decolonized approach to challenging imperialist ideas by way of a close look at Canadian literature, history, art, media and pop culture.

Gibson is an artist, poet and educator who currently teaches at Simon Fraser University. CBC Books named Gibson a black Canadian writer to watch in 2019How She Read is her first poetry collection.

This is the second poetry collection by Toronto-based poet Doyali Islam. (Arden Wray/Penguin Random House Canada)

The poems in Islam’s Heft look at the nature of illness, pain and sexuality. The poetry collection casts its lens on normal female sexual experience and the notion of home in light of chronic pain and suspected autoimmune illness on a personal level.

Islam is an award-winning poet and author based in Toronto. Heft is her second collection of poems.

Doyali Islam talks to Shelagh Rogers about her book of poetry, Heft. 13:16

Kaie Kellough is a Montreal writer, performer and ‘general word-sound systemizer.’ (Kaie Kellough, Penguin Random House Canada)

Kellough plays with geography and self-determination in Magnetic Equator, his third poetry collection. Drifting between South and North America, Kellough digs into the ancestral belonging, exploring the Canadian Prairie, Georgetown, the Amazon rainforest and the Atlantic Ocean. It looks at the nature of language and dialect in the works of Caribbean and Canadian writers, seeking origin, identity and understanding.

Kellough is a writer based in Montreal. His novel Accordéon was a finalist for the Amazon.ca First Novel Award in 2017.

Montreal poet Kaie Kellough takes us on a tour of his chosen home. Filmmaker: Craig Desson 7:03

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