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BC poet shortlisted for Griffin prize

April 13th, 2022

Shortlisted writers for Canada’s richest poetry prize, the Griffin Poetry Prize include B.C.’s Tolu Oloruntoba for his debut collection, The Junta of Happenstance (Anstruther Books/Palimpsest Press, 2021), which recently was awarded the 2021 Governor General’s Award for Poetry.

The other two shortlisted Canadian poets are David Bradford for Dream of No One But Myself (Brick Books) and Liz Howard for Letters in a Bruised Cosmos (McClelland & Stewart).

A separate Griffin prize is awarded to an international-based poet.

Judges Adam Dickinson (Canada), Valzhyna Mort (Belarus/US), and Claudia Rankine (Jamaica/US) each read 639 books of poetry, including 57 translations from 24 languages, submitted by 236 publishers from 16 different countries.

Oloruntoba previously authored the chapbook Manubrium, shortlisted for the 2020 bpNichol Chapbook Award. His poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Harvard Divinity Bulletin, PRISM International, Columbia Journal, Obsidian, and Canadian Literature, and has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. His short fiction has appeared in translation in Dansk PEN Magazine.

He practiced medicine before his current work, managing projects for B.C. health authorities. After a somewhat itinerant life in Nigeria and the United States, he emigrated to Metro Vancouver, where he lives with his family in the territories of the Semiahmoo, Katzie, and Kwantlen First Nations.

Judges’ Citation: “The Junta of Happenstance, Tolu Oloruntoba’s dazzling debut collection, collides the language of revolution with the landscapes of the body. These poems go beyond the desire to ward off death. They emerge out of a life intimate with death’s randomness. Like the vicissitudes of war, Oloruntoba’s poems make peace with accident and fate. They bring breath to survival. ‘If the timeline ahead is/ infinitely longer than the/ knives behind, perhaps/ as we set to mending/ we can heal more/ than we ever undid./ But we, too,/ would like a piece of the plunder.’ These exquisite poems leave an imprint both violent and terrifyingly beautiful.”

The two winners (the Griffin prize for a Canadian-based poet and the Griffin prize for international-based poet), will be announced on Wednesday, June 15, and each will be awarded $65,000. The other finalists — 3 International and 2 Canadian — will be awarded $10,000.



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