'I'm surprised, I'm shocked and I'm so grateful:' Victoria's Eve Joseph wins $65K Griffin Poetry Prize

'I'm surprised, I'm shocked and I'm so grateful:' Victoria's Eve Joseph wins $65K Griffin Poetry Prize

Victoria-based poet Eve Joseph is the Canadian winner of the 2019 Griffin Poetry Prize for her collection Quarrels. The $65,000 prize is one of the richest awards in the world for a book of poetry.

Quarrels, a slim volume of prose poems, collects a series of vivid scenes evoking both the ordinary and the fantastic. Characters drift in and out of the book without explanation or apology, but always leaving their mark.

The second of three sections in the book offers a group of ekphrastic poems borne of photographs by Diane Arbus.

Quarrels is a poetry collection by Eve Joseph. (Anvil Press)

"Holy something," Joseph said upon receiving the award. "I'm surprised, I'm shocked and I'm so grateful."

Joseph thanked her publisher, Anvil Press, in her emotional speech. "Small publishers in this country keep poetry alive. I don't think we would have poetry if not for small publishers. I raise my hands to you."

She finished by thanking the founder of the Griffin Poetry Prize, Scott Griffin. "Thank you for falling in love with poetry, so that we and others can fall in love with it too."

The other Canadian finalists were Toronto poet Dionne Brand for The Blue Clerk and Waterloo, Ont.-based poet Sarah Tolmie for The Art of Dying.

You can listen to Eve Joseph read from her winning collection below:

This week on q, we're featuring some of the poets on the Canadian shortlist for the 2019 Griffin Poetry Prize. Today's poet is Eve Joseph, who's nominated for her poetry collection Quarrels. 2:06

The international winner was South Korean-American poet Don Mee Choi for Autobiography of Death, translated by Kim Hyesoon. Choi and Hyesoon will share the $65,000 prize.

The other international finalists were British Jamaican poet Raymond Antrobus for The Perseverance, American poet Daniel Borzutzky Lake Michigan and Albanian writer Ani Gjika for Negative Space, translated by Luljeta Lleshanaku.

The winners were chosen by jurors Kim Maltman, Ulrikka Gernes and Srikanth Reddy from 510 books of poetry from 32 countries.

The 2019 lifetime recipient was Montreal poet Nicole Brossard. The $20,000 prize is presented annually to a poet from anywhere in the world in celebration of their body of work.

Brossard has published over 30 books — poetry, essays and fiction — since 1965 and is an officer of the Order of Canada.

Her books in English include the poetry collections Nicole Brossard: Selections, translated by Jennifer Moxley in 2010, Notebook of Roses and Civilization, translated by Robert Majzels and Erin Mouré in 2006 and shortlisted for the Griffin Poetry Prize, and Installations, translated by Robert Majzels and Erin Mouré in 1989.

She has twice won the Governor General's Literary Award for poetry in French: in 1974 for Mécanique jongleuse suivi de Masculin grammaticale and in 1984 for Double Impression. 

The Griffin Prize has been awarded annually since 2001.

Last year's Canadian winner was Billy-Ray Belcourt for his debut poetry collection, This Wound is a World.

Other past Canadian winners include Anne Carson, Roo Borson, Dionne Brand and Jordan Abel.