Congratulations to Nightwood authors Joseph Dandurand and Yusuf Saadi. Both authors have been shortlisted for the Griffin Poetry Prize—the world’s largest international prize for a first edition single collection of poetry written in or translated into English.
The East Side of It All follows the experiences of life as a drug user and single-room occupant in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, and of the ongoing process of healing through reconnection with family, the natural world and traditional Indigenous (Kwantlen) storytelling.
Joseph Dandurand is a member of Kwantlen First Nation located on the Fraser River about twenty minutes east of Vancouver, BC. He resides there with his three children. Dandurand is the director of the Kwantlen Cultural Centre and the author of four other books of poetry, including SH:LAM (The Doctor) (Mawenzi Press, 2019) and I Will Be Corrupted (Guernica Editions, 2020), and the bestselling children's book The Sasquatch, the Fire and the Cedar Baskets (Nightwood Editions, 2020). The East Side of It All is also a finalist for the 2020 Dorothy Livesay Poetry Prize.
In their citation, the Griffin Poetry Prize judges call Dandurand “…a poet-storyteller…. His crystalline clear and remarkably multilayered poems are written in an unforgettable voice of someone who is telling a story in order to survive and to go on. A story of a man who has become a sasquatch, through writing.”
Pluviophile , Saadi’s debut collection, veers through various poetic visions and traditions in search of the sacred within and beyond language. Its poems continually revitalize form, imagery and sonancy to reconsider the ways we value language, beauty and body. The collection houses sonnets and other shorter poems between larger, more meditative runes.
Yusuf Saadi won the Malahat Review’s 2016 Far Horizons Poetry Award and the 2016 Vallum Chapbook Award. His writing has appeared in Brick, Malahat Review, Vallum, Grain, CV2, Prairie Fire, PRISM international, This and untethered. He is also an executive editor at Sewer Lid magazine. Pluviophile was a finalist for the Quebec Writers’ Federation Concordia University First Book Prize and is currently longlisted for the Gerald Lampert Memorial Award for best first book of poetry. Saadi holds an MA in English from the University of Victoria and lives in Montreal, QC.
The judges’ citation describes Saadi’s poems as searching “…everywhere for mystery, for magic, for beauty. And beauty speaks back, renews itself (and us) in these pages. Where other poets find moon, Saadi sees ‘moon's kneecup,’ where others see mere daffodils, Saadi asks: ‘Do daffodils dissolve in your / unpractised inner eye?’ This is the poet who is unafraid of play: ‘Outside of Kantian space and time, do you miss dancing / in dusty basements where sex was once phenomenal?’ This, too, is the poet unafraid of the daily grind, of ‘writing poetry at night / with the rust of our lives’. Pluviophile is a beautiful, refreshing debut.”
The Griffin Poetry Prize was founded in 2000 and aims to spark the public’s imagination and raise awareness of the crucial role poetry plays in our cultural life. One prize is given to a living poet/translator resident in Canada; another international prize is given to a living poet/translator from any country in the world. $65,000 is awarded to each winner and $10,000 is awarded to the shortlisted poets. Canisia Lubrin, author of The Dyzgraphxst (McClelland & Stewart) is also on the Canadian shortlist with Dandurand and Saadi. The poets on the international shortlist are Victoria Chang for Obit (Copper Canyon Press); Valzhyna Mort for Music for the Dead and Resurrected (Farrar, Straus and Giroux); Srikanth Reddy for Underworld Lit (Wave Books); and poets Tracy K. Smith and Changtai Bi and translator Yi Lei for My Name Will Grow Wide Like a Tree (Graywolf Press). The winners will be announced on June 23, 2021.