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G&A: The Contest Blog

Charged with picking finalists for the Griffin Poetry Prize, judges Saskia Hamilton, Dennis O'Driscoll, and Michael Redhill each read nearly five hundred books of poetry, including thirty-three translations, from thirty-two countries. Today the Griffin Trust for Excellence in Poetry, sponsor of the annual prize worth $100,000 Canadian (approximately $80,325), announced the results of all that reading: the Canadian and International shortlists.

The finalists in the International category are American poets C. D. Wright for Rising, Falling, Hovering (Copper Canyon Press) and Dean Young for Primitive Mentor (University of Pittsburgh Press), the late British poet Mick Imlah for The Lost Leader (Faber and Faber), and the Irish poet Derek Mahon for Life on Earth (Gallery Press).

The three Canadian finalists are Kevin Connolly for Revolver (House of Anansi Press), Jeramy Dodds for Crabwise to the Hounds (Coach House Books), and A. F. Moritz for The Sentinel (House of Anansi Press). 

The seven poets will be invited to read in Toronto at the MacMillan Theatre on June 2. The winners in each category will be announced on June 3. Each will receive $50,000 Canadian ($40,165).

It's worth noting that all but one of the publishers referenced above are independent presses. It's also worth noting that none of this year's finalists are being recognized for a collected, selected, or otherwise career-spanning book. Both of last year's winners had recently published such retrospectives: American poet John Ashbery for Notes From the Air: Selected Later Poems (Ecco) and Canadian poet Robin Blaser for The Holy Forest: Collected Poems of Robin Blaser (University of California Press).

Below are brief video profiles of Ashbery and Blaser, including clips of readings, produced by the Griffin Trust:

 

 

Five weeks after the deadline for the 2009 SLS Unified Literary Contest, the sponsoring organization, Summer Literary Seminars, has announced that final judges Ann Lauterbach and Lynne Tillman have chosen winners from a pool of around nine hundred submissions. Program administrator Mike Spry described the contest in a press release as "one of our largest and most representative to date."

The first-place winners, fiction writer Caron A. Levis (for her story "Permission Slip") and poet Elizabeth Senja (for three poems), will receive airfaire, housing, and tuition to attend the Summer Literary Seminars program in either Lithuania or Kenya. Levis's story and Senja's poems will be published in Fence as well as participating literary journals in Canada, Russia, Lithuania, Kenya, and Italy.

The second-place winners, fiction writer Rachel Cantor ("Confessions of a Cerebral Lover") and poet Ravi Shankar, will receive full tuition; the third-placers, fiction writer Lisa Gornick (The Barberini Princess") and poet Michael C. Peterson, will receive partial tuition.

The winners were supposed to have the choice of attending Summer Literary Seminars in Italy, but that program has been rescheduled for 2010 due to the economy. Some interesting fine print at the bottom of the announcement page of the SLS Web site speaks to this sort of unexpected change:

"Please note that SLS programs, including those offered as a prize for this contest, may be subject to change or cancellation at any point, and without prior warning. If a winner has selected to attend a program that is cancelled or changed, they may elect to attend a future program instead or to receive a cash prize of US$1,500, prize in full. Summer Literary Seminars also reserves the right to substitute a cash prize of $1,500 for any prize offered, and at their sole discretion.

"All SLS programs, as described in its publications, brochures and on the website, may be subject to change or cancellation, without prior warning, and neither the Summer Literary Seminars and its employees, affiliates, or agents shall be responsible or liable for any expenses or losses that may be sustained because of these changes or cancellations."

 

Alistair McLeod and Amy Hempel have been selected to receive the twenty-second annual PEN/Malamud Award, sponsored by the PEN/Faulkner Foundation. Given for a body of work that "demonstrates excellence in the art of short fiction," the five-thousand-dollar prize is split between a more established writer and "one at the beginning of a literary career."

While McLeod has undoubtedly established himself—the sixty-nine-year-old Canadian is the author of several acclaimed story collections, including Island: The Complete Stories (Norton, 2001), and the winner of the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, among other prizes—the description of Hempel as an author at the beginning of her career is, perhaps, arguable. Her first story collection, Reasons to Live, was published by Knopf twenty-four years ago. Previous early-career PEN/Malamud Award winners include Nathan Englander, Nell Freudenberger, and Adam Haslett, each of whom had published only one book when they won.

Still, Hempel's distinctive stories, which are collected in five books, including The Collected Stories of Amy Hempel (Scribner, 2006), certainly warrant the honor. "It is thrilling to receive an award named for Bernard Malamud," Hempel was quoted as saying in a press release, "whose stories are as relevant now as they were when he wrote them, tough and beautiful and uncompromising but not didactic."

Below is a video produced by United States Artists, the organization that sponsors the fifty-thousand-dollar USA Fellowships, one of which was given to Hempel in 2006.

Junot Díaz may be able to add the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award to the list of honors, including the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award, that he's garnered for his novel The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (Riverhead Books, 2007). Yesterday he was named one of eight finalists for the IMPAC Award, which is billed as the world's richest prize for a work of fiction published in English. It's worth a hundred thousand euros, or $132,000.

The other finalists are David Leavitt for The Indian Clerk, Jean Echenoz for Ravel (New Press), Mohsin Hamid for The Reluctant Fundamentalist (Harcourt), Travis Holland for The Archivist's Story (Dial), Roy Jacobsen for The Burnt-Out Town of Miracles (John Murray), Indra Sinha for Animal's People (Simon & Schuster), and Michael Thomas for Man Gone Down (Grove/Atlantic). 

The winner will be announced on June 11. Previous winners include Per Petterson for Out Stealing Horses (Graywolf, 2007) and Colm Toibin for The Master (Scribner, 2004).

In Chasing the Whale: A Profile of Junot Díaz, which appeared in the September/October 2007 issue of Poets & Writers Magazine, Frank Bures writes about the eleven-year gap between the publication of the Latino author's debut story collection, Drown (Riverhead Books, 1996), and that of The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. "The amount of despair it took me to finish that damn thing is so ironic," Díaz told Bures, "because that book is about anything but despair. In some ways, there is so much joy in that book, that it belies the difficulties of construction. That book almost killed me."

Below is a video of Díaz talking to Ramona Koval about the main character of the novel, Oscar Wao, at the Sydney Writers' Festival last May. Warning: It contains some strong language.

 

The deadline for the Stan and Tom Wick Poetry Prize, sponsored by the Wick Poetry Center at Kent State University in Ohio, is about a month away. Anyone who's serious about winning the first book award, which offers two thousand dollars and publication by Kent State University Press, might look to a recently published anthology of poems by past winners for inspiration and guidance. 

The Next of Us Is About to Be Born: The Wick Poetry Series Anthology in Celebration of the Twenty-fifth Anniversary of the Wick Poetry Center, edited by Maggie Anderson, was published earlier this month by Kent State University Press. It includes the work of fifty-five poets who have been published in the Wick Poetry Series. All books in the series are chosen through competitions—the largest being the Stan and Tom Wick prize. Past winners include Eve Alexandra (The Drowned Girl, selected by C. K. Williams in 2002), Ariana-Sophia M. Kartsonis (Intaglio, selected by Eleanor Wilner in 2005), and Djelloul Marbrook (Far From Algiers, selected by Toi Derricotte in 2007).

Would-be submitters who go looking in the new anthology for a secret to winning this year's prize may come away a little disappointed, though, because, as one might expect, it showcases a pretty eclectic group. "While the notes on contributors at the back of this book will tell you which competition the poets won and who selected the book, one thing is clear," Anderson writes in her editor's note. "Whatever their age or publication record at the time, all of these poets demonstrate the boldness, confidence, and originality that often characterizes the work of new writers."

The secret? Be bold, confident, and original.

The deadline for the prize, which carries a twenty-dollar entry fee, is May 1. Naomi Shihab Nye will judge.

 

The annual poetry contest sponsored by Omnidawn Publishing, the independent press founded in 2001 by Rusty Morrison and Ken Keegan, is now open for submissions; the deadline is June 30. Judge Ann Lauterbach will choose either a first or second full-length poetry collection for the two-thousand-dollar prize. The winning work will be published by Omnidawn in Fall 2010.

According the press's Web site, Morrison and Keegan started Omindawn "to create books that are most closely aligned with each author's vision, and to provide an interactive and rewarding publishing experience for poets and writers." In order to fulfill that mission (and, in the process, avoid the less-than-ideal relationship between publisher and poet that can result from other contests) they encourage authors to be an active participant in the production of the book. "As with other Omnidawn books, we will encourage the winning poet to participate in the design of the book, including choice of typefaces, cover artwork and design, with all stages subject to the approval of the winning poet," the editors wrote in an e-mail announcing the 2009 contest. "All costs, including production, distribution, and advertising will be fully paid by Omnidawn."

Last year's winning book, Michelle Taransky's Barn Burned, Then, chosen by Marjorie Welish, will be published in September.

The 2009 Omnidawn Poetry Contest carries a twenty-five-dollar entry fee. For complete guidelines, visit the press's Web site.

Man Group, the investment company and hedge fund that sponsors the annual Man Booker Prize, last week announced the finalists of its other high-profile award: the Man Booker International Prize. The biannual award, founded in 2004, is given to a writer of any nationality whose work is available in English. It's worth around eighty-five thousand dollars. The finalists are:

Peter Carey (Australia)
Evan S. Connell (USA)
Mahasweta Devi (India)
E. L. Doctorow (USA)
James Kelman (UK)
Mario Vargas Llosa (Peru)
Arnošt Lustig (Czechoslovakia)
Alice Munro (Canada)
V. S. Naipaul (Trinidad/India)
Joyce Carol Oates (USA)
Antonio Tabucchi (Italy)
Ngugi Wa Thiong'O (Kenya)
Dubravka Ugresic (Croatia)
Ludmila Ulitskaya (Russia)

The judges are Amit Chaudhuri, Andrey Kurkov, and Jane Smiley. The winner will be announced in May.

Previous winners of the prize are Ismail Kadare of Albania and Nigerian author Chinua Achebe. Below is a video poem by Kadare and Achebe's 2007 acceptance speech.

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