Writers’ Trust Poetry Prize more than doubles to $60K with Scott Griffin contribution

By Nicole Thompson

TORONTO – Scott Griffin is shaking up the Canadian poetry landscape for the second time in a year, lending his name to the Writers’ Trust poetry prize and more than doubling its purse.

The move, which turns the Latner Writers’ Trust Poetry Prize into the Latner Griffin Writers’ Trust Poetry Prize and bumps its value from $25,000 to $60,000, comes months after the philanthropist did away with the Canada-only category of the Griffin Poetry Prize.

Griffin said upping the Writers’ Trust’s purse fills a gap in his efforts to boost poetry’s profile. His trust awards a $10,000 prize to an “unknown, up-and-coming” poet, he said, while the newly increased Writers’ Trust prize is dedicated to recognizing mid-career poets.

“We have a significant Canadian prize with the Latner Griffin. And then we have the international prize, which is for all countries, including Canada,” Griffin said in a phone interview ahead of Wednesday’s announcement.

The Griffin Poetry Prize, administered by the Griffin Trust for Excellence in Poetry, used to have a Canada-only category and an international-only category – worth $65,000 apiece. They were combined last September into a single $130,000 award.

At the time, Griffin dismissed concerns that the elimination of a dedicated Canadian award could hurt the chances of homegrown poets to gain recognition.

He said he hoped to show that after giving Canadian poets “a leg up” with their dedicated category for more than 20 years, that they would be able to compete on the world stage.

Indeed, the Griffin Prize’s first global long list contains 10 works, including two translations. Of the twelve people named, three are Canadian.

The short list is due to be announced in two weeks, and Griffin said he doesn’t yet know whether the jurors have picked any Canadians.

He said he envisions that prize going to a “mature poet who’s well-known.”

A combination of well-established and up-and-coming poets were previously awarded the Griffin. The Canadian prize helped launch the careers of such rising stars as Billy-Ray Belcourt, Liz Howard and Tolu Oloruntoba, all of whom were recognized for their first collections.

Now, Griffin said, he hopes to support mid-career Canadian poets by contributing to the Writers’ Trust’s Latner Griffin.

“We filled the missing link, as it were, of poets at all stages of their career,” Griffin said.

Griffin and the Latner Family Foundation signed on to sponsor the prize for at least five years, the Writers’ Trust said.

“I’m confident that this new partnership will grow the prize and create an even more dynamic presence on the Canadian poetry scene,” said Steven Latner, a director of the foundation.

The prize will be handed out to a Canadian poet in mid-career who has published at least three collections of poetry.

The Writers’ Trust said the award will be presented alongside seven other prizes at the annual Writers’ Trust Awards, which typically take place in November.