Oloruntoba wins Griffin Prize
June 15th, 2022
Tolu Oloruntoba of Surrey has won Canada’s richest prize for poetry, the Griffin Poetry Prize worth $65,000, for The Junta of Happenstance (Anstruther Books/Palimpsest Press, 2021). His debut collection, this book of verses also earned Oloruntoba the prestigious 2021 Governor General’s Award for Poetry.
The 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) who will each be awarded $10,000.
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 of 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.” 9781989287729