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article imageOp-Ed: Why the Griffin Poetry Prize is so important

By KJ Mullins     Jun 11, 2013 in Entertainment
Toronto - Since 2000 the Griffin Trust has been funding the Griffin Prize, a celebration of poetry and poets. This week Torontorians will be treated to the 2013 Griffin Poetry Prize Shortlist Readings and the announcement of the 2013 Griffin Poetry Prize Winners.
But the prize is more than a contest....
One of my first memories from school is reciting poetry once a month during kindergarten. Poetry is one of the first literary selections that we are taught. Throughout primary school we have poetry but for many the selections, the grading of poems and an aura of only the upper class enjoying poetry turns an early love of the muse into an attitude of "Poetry....I will pass."
Many forget that poetry is the lyrics that we sing, those messages in cards that we cherish, the words we say when the night is dark. We believe that our teenage angst filled words have little meaning, that the poet in our souls is dead. Many ignore words bound together by a thread of ink that speak to the most inner boundaries of our souls. We believe that words thrown together must sound one way, rhyming in sing-song fashion.
And then a poem comes along and knocks us out. The words may not sound like a song to sing but the meaning strokes our soul stopping us for a moment to examine, taste, live.
A businessman is working to bring that life to us all by celebrating those whose words make a difference. Scott Griffin is not what one thinks of when you think of poetry. He is a daredevil, a business maverick and an all around man's man. He also loves poetry and has loved it all of his life. He also knows that while he may have money to spend those who follow their inner muse often do so without a heavy wallet. On Wednesday when the Shortlisted poets for this year's Griffin Prize give readings of their work at The Royal Conservatory of Music they each will take home $10,000. On Thursday the seven will gather at Corus to hear who has won the 2013 Griffin Prizes, one for International poetry and one for Canadian poetry. The winner will take home $65,000.
With his prize Griffin is celebrating those whose words show today's philosophical views and declaring the poets worthy of praise. He and the jurors of the prize are bringing attention to masters of the word.
This year the Canadian poets are David McFadden (What's the Score), James Pollock (Sailing to Babylon) and Ian Williams (Personals). The International Shortlist include Ghassan Zaqtan (Like a Straw Bird It Follows Me), Jennifer Maiden (Liquid Nitrogen), Alan Shapiro (Night of the Republic) and Brenda Shaughnessy (Our Andromeda).
These poets are all must reads. Williams poem Rings brings the sadness of infertility to life. McFadden's Dylan Is Helping Me tells of a love that goes beyond the grave. A father relearning the world through his young son's eyes is key to Pollock's Quarry Park. Shapiro's dance of words make the every day locations of our life such as a park bench turn magical. In Maiden's Liquid Nitrogen we tour the world. The heart-wrenching story of Cal shows us the pain of Shaughnessy's delivery. Palestine's stories are unveiled in Zaqtan's art.
The Griffin Prize reminds us that poetry can be amazing and should be celebrated. Take a chance. Pick up a book of poetry and remember how to dream with words.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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