Ashbery Adds to Long List of Honors, Wins Griffin Poetry Prize

by Staff

On Wednesday, John Ashbery and Robin Blaser were named the winners of the eighth annual Griffin Poetry Prize, awarded to both a Canadian and an international author or translator for a book of poetry published in English during the previous year. Ashbery, who lives in Hudson, New York, received the international prize for his second collection of selected works, Notes from the Air: Selected Later Poems (Ecco), and Blaser, who lives in Kitsilano, British Columbia, won the Canadian award for The Holy Forest: Collected Poems of Robin Blaser (University of California Press). The winning authors, who will share a prize of $100,000 Canadian (approximately $98,064), were chosen by George Bowering, James Lasdun, and Pura López Colomé.

Blaser has published more than a dozen books of poetry and eleven volumes of essays, including The Fire: Collected Essays of Robin Blaser (University of California Press, 2006). The Griffin Trust for Excellence in Poetry also honored Blaser in 2006 with a Lifetime Recognition Award.

Ashbery has written more than twenty poetry collections, including A Worldly Country (Ecco, 2007). The Griffin Poetry Prize adds to Ashbery’s list of numerous honors—the National Book Award, the National Book Critics Circle Award, and the Pulitzer Prize among them.

The Canadian finalists were Robert Majzels and Erín Moure (for a collaborative translation), and David W. McFadden. Elaine Equi, Clayton Eshleman, and David Harsent were the finalists for the international prize.

The winners were honored at a ceremony in Toronto attended by over four hundred guests, including Griffin Poetry Prize trustees Carolyn Forché, Robert Hass, Michael Ondaatje, and Robin Robertson, as well as the former Governor General of Canada, Adrienne Clarkson.

The Griffin Trust and the Poetry Prize were established in 2000 in an effort “to serve and encourage excellence in poetry written in or translated into English anywhere in the world.”

In other awards news, Rose Tremain recently won the 2008 Orange Prize for Fiction, which carries a prize of £30,000 (approximately $58,635), for her novel The Road Home (Chatto & Windus). The Orange Broadband Award for New Writers went to debut novelist Joanna Kavenna for Inglorious (Faber and Faber). She received £10,000 (approximately $19,545). The winners were announced on Wednesday during a ceremony at London’s Royal Festival Hall.

The Orange Prize judges were Lisa Allardice, Phillipa Gregory, Kirsty Lang, and Bel Mooney. Clare Allan, Shami Chakrabarti, and Suzi Feay judged the Award for New Writers.

Both awards, sponsored by the U.K. communications company Orange Broadband, are given annually to celebrate books of fiction by women writers published in the United Kingdom during the previous year. The Orange Prize, established in 1996, is given solely for a novel. The Award for New Writers has honored first short story collections, novels, and novellas since 2005.