Two women poets whose works "open the lock of language" and act as "X-rays of our delusions and mistaken perceptions" were honored last night as winners of the Griffin Poetry Prize. Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin of Ireland won the international prize for her collection The Sun-fish and Toronto poet Karen Solie took the Canadian prize for Pigeon (House of Anansi Press).
They each received sixty-five thousand dollars in addition to ten thousand dollars awarded for giving a reading the night prior to the ceremony, during which Adrienne Rich was celebrated with a Lifetime Recognition Award.
Their books were selected by judges Anne Carson, Kathleen Jamie, and Carl Phillips from a shortlist that included John Glenday (Grain), Louise Glück (A Village Life), Kate Hall (The Certainty Dream), the late P. K. Page (Coal and Roses), and Susan Wicks (translation of Valérie Rouzeau's Cold Spring in Winter). Each shortlisted writer received a prize of ten thousand dollars.
"Among the greatest of Solie’s talents, evident throughout the poems of Pigeon," the judges remarked in their citation for the poet, "is an ability to see at once into and through our daily struggle, often thwarted by our very selves, toward something like an honorable life."
"We are in a shifting realm, both real and otherworldly," the judges said of Chuilleanáin's book. "The effect of her impressionistic style is like watching a photograph as it develops."
In the video below, Chuilleanáin reads a poem from The Sun-fish, "The Witch in the Wardrobe," which the judges noted for its "startling imagery" of "a ‘fluent pantry’, where ‘the silk scarves came flying at her face like a car wash.'"