John Ashbery’s Notes From the Air: Selected Later Poems and Robin Blaser’s The Holy Forest: Collected Poems of Robin Blaser Win the 2008 Griffin Poetry Prize

TORONTO – June 4, 2008John Ashbery’s Notes From the Air: Selected Later Poems and Robin Blaser’s The Holy Forest: Collected Poems of Robin Blaser are the International and Canadian winners of the eighth annual Griffin Poetry Prize. The C$100,000 Griffin Poetry Prize, the richest poetry prize in the world for a single volume of poetry, is divided between the two winners. The prize is for first edition books of poetry published in 2007, and submitted from anywhere in the world.

International Winner Canadian Winner
Notes from the Air: Selected Later Poems
John Ashbery
HarperCollins Publishers/Ecco
The Holy Forest: Collected Poems of Robin Blaser
Robin Blaser
University of California Press

The awards ceremony was held in The Fermenting Cellar of The Stone Distillery and hosted by Scott Griffin, founder of the prize. Poet Paul Farley, shortlisted for the 2007 Griffin Poetry Prize, was the featured speaker. Judges George Bowering and James Lasdun announced the International and Canadian winners of the 2008 Griffin Poetry Prize.

More than 400 guests celebrated the awards, among them, poets, publishers, and many literary and cultural luminaries, including Canada’s former Governor General, the Right Honourable Adrienne Clarkson, authors Michael Ondaatje and Anne Michaels, and international poets Carolyn Forché, Robert Hass and Robin Robertson.

Scott Griffin proudly presents the 2008 Griffin Poetry Prize winners, John Ashbery and Robin Blaser

The Fermenting Cellar was transformed into a tropical paradise for the evening, with the bright colours and sounds of the Caribbean islands permeating the historic site. Set against vast jungle greenery and colourful parrot centrepieces, guests enjoyed such varied delicacies as sweet potato and calamari fritters, Mojo chicken, grilled tiger shrimp, provimi veal, and eggplant roulade, capped off by a wide array of sumptuous desserts.

The judges for the 2008 prize are the distinguished poets George Bowering (Vancouver, British Columbia), James Lasdun (Woodstock, New York) and Pura López Colomé (Cuernavaca, Mexico). They read an unprecedented 509 books of poetry, including 19 translations, received from 31 countries around the globe. In addition, they selected poems from the shortlist to compile The Griffin Poetry Prize Anthology: A Selection of the 2008 Shortlist, edited by George Bowering and published by House of Anansi Press.

Royalties generated from the anthologies, published annually, are donated to UNESCO’s World Poetry Day. As in past years, copies of the submitted poetry books are being donated to Corrections Canada.

The shortlisted poets and translators – with acclaimed Argentinian/Canadian playwright, director and actor Guillermo Verdecchia standing in for translator Clayton Eshleman (Cesar Vallejo’s The Complete Poetry) – read excerpts from their books at a sold-out event for more than 800 people at the MacMillan Theatre on June 3, 2008. That night the legendary Korean poet Ko Un was honoured with the third Griffin Trust For Excellence In Poetry’s Lifetime Recognition Award. Trustee Robert Hass paid tribute to Ko Un and presented him with his award.

The 2008 Griffin Poetry Prize shortlist is comprised of collections by three Canadian poets – Robin Blaser’s The Holy Forest: Collected Poems of Robin Blaser, published by the University of California Press; Notebook of Roses and Civilization, translated from the French by Robert Majzels and Erín Moure, written by Nicole Brossard and published by Coach House Books and David McFadden’s Why Are You So Sad? Selected Poems of David W. McFadden, published by Insomniac Press/4 A.M. Books; and four international poets – John Ashbery’s Notes from the Air: Selected Later Poems, published by HarperCollins Publishers/Ecco Books; Elaine Equi’s Ripple Effect: New and Selected Poems, published by Coffee House Press; The Complete Poetry: A Bilingual Edition, translated from the Spanish by Clayton Eshleman, written by César Vallejo and published by the University of California Press and David Harsent’s Selected Poems: 1969-2005, published by Faber and Faber.

The judges are selected on an annual basis by the Griffin Poetry Prize Trustees, Margaret Atwood, Carolyn Forché, Robert Hass, Michael Ondaatje, Robin Robertson and David Young.

The Griffin Trust was created in 2000 to serve and encourage excellence in poetry written in or translated into English anywhere in the world.

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For further information, contact:


Elana Rabinovitch
Griffin Trust Press Relations


June Dickenson
Griffin Trust Publicity

General Inquiries

Ruth Smith
Griffin Trust Manager

Shortlist summary, poet bios and citations

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Purchase 2008 Griffin Prize Anthology and shortlist books online

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Photo credit: Event photo by Tom Sandler

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